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Friday, November 14, 2008

CD Review: Canvas Solaris - The Atomized Dream

Canvas Solaris - The Atomized Dream
2008 Sensory
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Proving that not every band coming out of Georgia are down-tuned sludge-proggers or screamo metalcorists, Nathan Sapp, Hunter Ginn and their enduring project Canvas Solaris have been working far below the radar, although their electro-prog is just as busy as any of their contemporaries. Interestingly enough you will hear jagged guitar screeches and squeals ala The Chariot and Norma Jean as you will also be submitted to chunky chords, blast beats and even periods of thrash. Add to the pot moments of fusion, jazz and soaring guitar rock and Canvas Solaris isn't your prototype prog unit.

Granted, Canvas Solaris have grown more talented at their eccentric and often wondrous craft as a strict instrumental band, after chucking the vocals ages ago. Always worth a listen, their previous outing Cortical Tectonics was chock full of fusion sways, tribal rhythms, harmonious syncopation and of course metallic bursts of loudness. "Interface" from that album was soothingly cosmic even as other moments on the album were busier than President-elect Obama's publicists.

When you get right down into it with Canvas Solaris, you have to think they've been working damned hard towards realizing a metalhead's interpretation of Yes' Songs From Topographic Oceans. The chirping mini-Moogs and ambient Mellotron aside, Canvas Solaris' fourth full-length album The Atomized Dream takes one step further in articulating their psych fugue.

With three new additions to the lineup following the deparature of guitarist/bassist Ben Simpkins, The Atomized Dream certainly bears more texture courtesy of the expansion to the band's rhythm section. It also bears the potential for more quirks--both good and downright weird (like the high fidelity feeback ostinato swirling on "The Unknowable and Defeating Glow" for a length of time)but there's always a payoff on The Atomized Dream, be it the calypso and electronic hip hop beat loops lurking beneath the Alan Howarth-esque synths and guitar lines on "Chromatic Dusk," densely layered like an eighties Herbie Hancock jam gone prog metal.

As always, Canvas Solaris' beats and tempos are calculatedly whipped and jabbed with near stop-go delivery, which allows the guitars to soar and strum and the synths to float. The songwriting on "Patterns Spiral Into Swarm" is shrewd enough to allow the song to build into contained strumfests despite the subdued organs and keys providing outer world ambience.

Canvas Solaris still operates with a singular-strike mentality outside of the frequently gratuitous coats of electronic fuzz and near-geeky keyboard glosses, as a song like "Heat Distortion Manifest" builds from near-nothingness into an out-of-control notefest.

Perhaps The Atomized Dream lays one thumb on the trigger at times before letting it--and their tailspun music--wildly loose. Always technical and proficient, Canvas Solaris nevertheless seems more intent on building the perfect machine instead of letting the machine fly on autopilot. With each album they've gradually taken appropriate steps to fly just a bit freer than before. Of couse, The Atomized Dream has a lot to prove for a band that now sees five in its camp versus three. Not that it needs to be another Cortical Tectonics, The Atomized Dream is sometimes playful, sometimes dreamy and often full of looming anxiety that randomly comes out in increments. Look out when this band really pulls the trigger...

Rating: ***1/2


cjk_44 said...

ray, thanks for the review. i love it when two consecutive reviews can be as diverse as Canvas Solaris and AC/DC.

i love "Penumbra Diffuse" but somehow managed to miss "Cortical Tectonics".

i suppose i am little concerned they've expande to a five piece, but i guess that's a good way to get their music in the live setting and actually pull it off, no?

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I would agree with that assessment. I don't think this album is as urgent as the others, but it's technically sound and you're right; a five piece would allow them to put their show on the road