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Canvas Solaris: Penumbra Diffuse

I have no idea how Canvas Solaris' new album Penumbra Diffuse will sit with the band's fans of the earlier album and EP, as the band has embraced a quite different songwriting approach this time. No worries though, this is still the same band who released Spatial/Design and Sublimation, and the uber-technical riffs and intricate arrangements are still certainly widely available on this disc. However, Penumbra Diffuse has a more expansive sound, with the addition of a good dose of keyboards and dense guitar harmonies. Not all the songs are as heavy as they get here, the band has toned down their single-minded, heavy-for-the-sake-of-being-heavy attitude. The songs are infused with creative energy and a plethora of atmospheric passages laced with engaging synth sequences.

Driven by guitarists Nathan Sapp and Ben Simpkins (who also handles the bass), and amazing drummer Hunter Ginn, the songs on Penumbra Diffuse are a lot more atmospheric and midtempo. Contrary to their previous efforts, the band is unafraid to write and perform all acoustic tracks or pieces completely captured by Tangerine Dream-like synthesizers. "Panormaic Long-Range Vertigo" is a short cut that opens the album with the classic Canvas Solaris type of fretwork we've come to expect from them. As the song proceeds though, Micro Moog synthesizers and Ginn's unusual combination of conga and djembe rhythms turn the piece into a rather slowed-down number that segues into the lengthy "Horizontal Radiant". Over 11 minutes, the song is essentially formulated by semi-electronic keyboard samples that statitacally throb through the whole piece. Placed on these sampled sounds are gentle 12- and 6-string acoustic guitars that are occasionally replaced with hammering electric rhythms before they calm down and give way to tribal conga and shaker sounds. The guitars are almost hypnotic, particularly when Sapp and Simpkins decide it's time to duel over a random bass pattern. Similarly, on "Luminescence", another 12-minute track, the band dabbles with frantic electric piano, repeated guitar chords that build on until a fiercely melodic section develops out of the experiment. Unlike the Spatial/Design EP, the death metal elements in the duo's riffage is completely gone. Even Ginn refrains from fast, double-bass drumming, save for "Accidents in Mutual Silence", which is grindingly heavy and allows zero moments for acoustic or atmospheric passages.

The other songs are equally impressive, if not more. I'm a big fan of Canvas Solaris' intricate soloing and heavy tendencies, but to see they are also capable of writing other stuff is amazing. "Vaihayasa", for example, is an all-acoustic song beginning with a nice classical intro. Ben Simpkins also plays some mandolin here while Sapp's guitar synthesizers create an almost psychedelic landscape. The song becomes twice as experimental when Ginn introduces his unique tabla, Moroccan clay drums, tambourine, and other percussive rhythm work. Despite being acoustic, this is perhaps the most brooding song on the album, and I'll give the guys extra props for being able to capture that vibe without relying on cliche keyboards like some other bands. The band's most daring song, perhaps even their most avant garde work, "Psychotropic Resonance", is a mix of a multitude dissonant chords married with dark ambient sections. Eerie synths and atonal guitar rhythms join to generate extra texture and eventually spiral into searing twin guitar leads with segments of cold acoustics underneath them.

I love all Canvas Solaris releases, and even though this one will take many spins to fully absorb, I feel Penumbra Diffuse might be their best work yet. Now they aren't just a band with extraordinarily talented musicians, but they also understand atmosphere and composition. Signing to Sensory was a very clever move on their part too. Also, considering they dedicated this album to the memory of Denis D'Amour, I think the Voivod man would be proud if he heard this album.

Track Listing

  1. Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo
  2. Horizontal Radiant
  3. Accidents In Mutual Silence
  4. Vaihayasa
  5. To Fracture
  6. Psychotropic Resonance
  7. Luminescence

Added: April 25th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Canvas Solaris website
Hits: 5795
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Canvas Solaris: Penumbra Diffuse
Posted by John Larocque, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-04-25 18:12:59
My Score:

Penumbra is the third release from Georgia-based progressive metal instrumentalists Canvas Solaris and the first for their new label, Sensory Records. The band acknowledges its debt to Voivod in a dedication to the late "Piggy" D'Amour. This seems to have more of a jazz feel and less overtly metal than the previous releases, and there is more cohesion to the songs. It's certainly more musically interesting, shuffling back and forth beween fast and heavy moments and slower acoustic tempos. There was a welcome use of keyboards in the ambient 11 minute "Horizontal Radiant", while "Accidents in Mutual Silence" was a short blast of metal mayhem. One of the album's best moments is the all-acoustic Eastern-flavored "Vaihayasa" (this is a Sanskrit word that apparently means "flying in the sky"). "Luminescence" is a twelve-minute track built around a basic two chords idea, and interspersed with sections of traditional metal soloing that might have emanated from a mid-1990s Megadeth record. I'm not really sure how to review these albums, except that it's probably my favorite of their releases so far.

Canvas Solaris: Penumbra Diffuse
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-03-25 14:59:31
My Score:

Canvas Solaris wreak havoc with their brand of instrumental progressive metal on their latest release Penumbras Diffuse. While I haven't heard any of the band's previous releases, the consensus is the band was much heavier originally, although let's face it, there's some pretty heavy and technical stuff on this one. The band sound very mature throughout this first release on the Sensory label, a good place for them to be with this style of music. Featuring loads of intricate guitar riffs & solos, plenty of rhythmic grooves, keyboards, and atmospherics, Penumbra Diffuse is one classy piece of sophisticated and progressive rock.

The guitar work takes on an almost Fates Warning like tone on the 11-minute "Horizontal Radiant", which also includes some neat synthesizer washes that reminded me of Moving Pictures era Rush meets Tangerine Dream. If you like dazzling intensity ala Spastic Ink or Watchtower, check out the lightning chops on "Paranormic Long Range Vertigo", "To Fracture", and "Accidents in Mutual Silence", three extreme guitar workouts that are amazingly complex yet still heavy. The band is also not afraid to try something different, as they do on the acoustic, Mediterranean /Middle Eastern flavored "Vaihayasa", or the psychedelic fusion of "Psychotropic Resonance", which includes some wild and slippery guitar passages, heavy riffing, and gymnastic bass lines. The atmospheric and moody epic "Luminescence" is saved for last, this one filled with an assortment of keyboard and guitar solos, slowly building over the course of its 12-minutes to a stunning climax.

Normally, when one thinks of instrumental progressive rock and metal bands, you normally hear of the usual suspects like Planet X, Spastik Ink, Niacin, Spaced Out, etc..With Penumbra Diffuse, you can safely throw Canvas Solaris into that mix.

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