Little Atlas - Wanderlust


Year of Release: 2005
Label: ProgRock Records
Catalog Number:
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:13:00

Miami's Little Atlas plays modern, world-class progressive rock in the vein of a Flower Kings or a Spock's Beard, but arguably, with a gentler, more refined touch. The band's early-Genesis, Kansas and Rush inspirations are vaguely apparent, and the Venezuelan influence of two of the band members, a guest artist and the cover illustrator are surprisingly low-key.

Wanderlust is 7 songs running from 6 to 11 minutes each, with a positive, upbeat vibe. There's almost no verse / chorus / verse structure - instead each song starts with a theme which is consistently developed and expanded until it takes on a life of its own, exploring all sorts of musical soundscapes, never looking back, always driven by a high-energy major-key attitude that will sweep you along in an unstoppable, constantly changing barrage of modern progressive rock driven by brightly colored sounds and tantalizing ballads.

In a twist of irony, I heard Wanderlust before Little Atlas's singer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Katsikas had ever seen the final product - such was the demand for promotional and pre-sale copies. So it's no surprise that Little Atlas sold the album's entire first pressing within a month, leaving them with no stock to sell at the CD's official release party.

Katsikas's singing is in a strong mid-range, and although you can hear he's stretching in the high registers, he remains tone-perfect. He's at his best when doing the softer or the lower-range pieces, like the opening lines of "Home", and you'll often hear him slipping in and out of falsetto with the ease of a Steve Hogarth. And that singing seems to be omnipresent on Wanderlust - there are several wonderful instrumental passages but the signature sound is the singing which permeates the majority of the album.

The music is approachable yet there are enough complexities and displays of fine musicianship to hold your interest throughout. Roy Strattman, who does not play a Fender, delivers guitar work that is prominent on the CD and particularly pleasing, with well-varied sounds, long solos and creative technique. Katsikas's keyboards are also varied and imaginative with liberal use of piano, synth and (simulated) Mellotrons. Guest artist Bill Ayasse is the violinist for new York's Frogg Caf?. Listen for his solo on "Mirror Of Life". Claudia Sarmiento contributes an energetic cuatro part. (A cuatro is a traditional 4 string Venezuelan folk guitar resembling a ukelele.)

A favorite moment is the wonderful guitar / piano trade-off on "Home", which is probably the album's strongest piece. Other standouts are the 10- and 11-minute mini-epics "The Prisoner" and "Higher," which take you through section after section of head-nodding symphonic rock of the highest order. "On And On" is a catchy piece whose opening sections recall the band's excellent "Surface Serene", the title track of their previous CD, and the on and on chorus is a poignant but catchy piece that would support a sing-along in a live environment. Yet the song quickly moves into a strong instrumental interlude which is another of the record's high points, boasting every element that turns progressive fans onto our chosen genre of music.

In a first for Little Atlas, all four band members contributed in more or less equal proportion to the songwriting process. The result is a varied but cohesive body of work that never once drops its standards. Production was also handled in-house and is remarkably well done.

As the first band signed to the increasingly successful Prog Rock Records label, Little Atlas has again delivered a record with every probability of fueling progressive rock's resurgence. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to set my CD player to repeat track 5, "Home" over and over again.


Tracklisting:
The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust / Higher / Weariness Rides / The Prisoner / Home / On and On / Mirror of Life

Musicians:
Steve Katsikas - lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, sax
Roy Strattman - guitar
Rik Bigai - bass
Diego Pocov? - drums

Guests:

Bill Ayasse - violin
Claudia Sarmiento - cuatro

Discography:
Neverworldly (1998)
Surface Serene (2003)
Wanderlust (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 6th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Score:
Artist website: www.littleatlas.com
Hits: 961
Language: english

  

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