In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 2

As I exited the CTA Green Line on a crisp, clear Chicago Sunday, Reggie’s Rock Club and Music Joint beckoned with the promise of Progtoberfest’s final day: twelve hours of sixteen bands on two stages. Constantly unfolding delight or endless endurance test? Only one way to find out.

(Notes for after the jump: links are provided to bands’ online presence — website, Facebook or Bandcamp pages — wherever possible.  An asterisk [*] by a band’s name means I bought one or more of their CDs at the event; A cross [+] means the band didn’t have CDs for sale — but their music is now on my want list.  Here we go …)

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Continue reading “In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 2”

Consider putting Little Atlas on your map

The Miami-based proggers Little Atlas (home page) have—according to keyboardist, vocalist, and founder Steve Katsikas—been around for nearly twenty years and have just released their fifth studio album, Automatic Day littleatlas_automaticday(10t Records). I have all of the band’s albums save their debut, Neverworldly, which are all very solid to exceptional, and yet have never spoken with anyone else about the group. A few months ago, I was going to write a post about that odd silence, and now that the group’s new album is out, I’m finally writing it.

My .02 is that Little Atlas is well worth checking out, and that each of the band’s album has progressively (yes, pun intended) built upon and improved on the previous. Comparisons to early Genesis, Marillion, and Spock’s Beard are apt points of reference. The music is highly intelligent and tasteful, with a wide array of tones, moods, tempos, and lyrical perspectives. While the players are all top-notch, the focus is definitely on songs and grand themes rather than virtuoso showcasing. Katsikas has a background in psychology, which is evident in many of the songs, notably in the 2007 album, Hollow, which presents ten different perspectives in a sort of psychological-prog suite (the title song, “Hollow”, is one of my favorite cuts by the group). As for the new album, Roger Trenwith of the “Astounded by Sound” blog does a fine job of explaining its many merits:

Covering subjects linking the mythical, the stellar, the metaphysical and the politick, both personal and impersonal, Steve Katsikas has crafted a set of intelligent lyrics that to highlight one particular trio of songs make a stately progress from Greek mythology (Twin of Ares) to man’s helplessness at the mercy of the passage of time (At the End Of The Day), via a depiction of Nature as the true deity (Emily True), without seeming in the slightest part contrived, or indeed jarringly disconnected, as could have been the case with a blunter intellect holding the pen. OK – so the lyrics to Emily True are actually by poet Emily Dickenson, but these three songs manage to flow seamlessly nonetheless!

Musically, Emily True manages to mix Rush and Blue Oyster Cult with an epic vision to come up with a new art rock template for the 21st century, and a fine beast it is too.

Illusion Of Control continues an undercurrent of darkness that runs through the album, and would not have sounded out of place had it been penned by Amplifier around the time of The Octopus. Although not quite as heavy (but heavy enough!) as the Manchester sci-fi prog metallers, it is yet more evidence of a new post-prog zeitgeist currently weaving its smoky tendrils through the subconsciousness of a fair number of bands around the globe….

Never forgetting the value of a structured song, there are no aimless instrumental passages, and no displays of musical ego on Automatic Day. Everything is kept tight and to the point. Probably the best song on the record is We All Remember Truth, which within its economic four minutes manages to display all the virtues of the first two sentences in this paragraph.

Read the entire review. And watch a video for “Oort”, the opening cut from Automatic Day: