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posted: Dec 20, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

Chicago-based New York City-originating eccentric project Atomica will trigger memories of the best record of urban downtempo, orchestral trip hop and female-fronted pop-electronica that the nineties have given us. The trio's bold and nonchalant approach to the matter evokes rapturing scenarios of fresh yet nostalgic tunes enriched by intense and passionate vocals and visionary lyricism. Portishead, Conjure One (these two above everyone else), Lamb, Bethany Curve, Taxi, Drop the Fear, Rebro and other bands of that type jump to mind immediately, but their music is so un-derivative and eclectic that I am sure you'll be thinking of loads more names that would complement that sentence quite nicely. Atomica have a lot of potential. Emotional and truth-transpiring lyrics, skilled and well-rounded song-writing, powerul and full sound...

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posted: Dec 20, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

...Wade Alin teams up with vocalist Lauren Cheatham to deliver the best blend of modern trip-hop and vintage jazz sensibilities since the debut album by Portishead. While the Portishead comparisons are inevitable, given the scratchy loops and bass-heavy minimalism of "Bittersweet" and the fuzz-laced vocals of "Gun," it's a comparison that sells Alin and Cheatham short, for though their sound can be reminiscent of other trip-hop acts, it's not derivative. For one thing, they're less dependent on rhythm, and those tracks that emphasize the drum section sound very organic. Album opener "One Day In New York City," for example, propels its languid bass line along with clattering cymbals, while "Recent" is achingly beautiful despite a lack of percussion, with Cheatham's lonely voice slithering among soft fuzz, electric piano and the occasional bluesy guitar riff. There's also a distinct - if subdued - classical feel to this album, with warm pianos sharing the spotlight with moody strings on "Pollen" while staccato violins bounce along on the comparatively upbeat "Larsen." "Quiver" features a fuller sound, with multiple layers of both organic and electronic atmosphere riding a wave of crashing brass percussion, and highlights Cheatham's evocative lyrical style with such lines as "I've seen myself quiver with a body of toxins." If there's any complaint with this album, it's that it isn't long enough; with eleven tracks, it clocks in at under fifty minutes, but each song is so delicately heartbreaking you could listen to Atomica for three times as long and still not get enough.

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posted: Oct 24, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

"Real" jazz, I mean good jazz, has the ability to be simultaneously current and timeless. It provides opportunities for innovation, and serves as a soundtrack for urban life. Atomica takes that aesthetic to its modern incarnation, adding beats and instrumentation unheard of in the days of the Bop, but which still have that city rhythm.

While it would be easy (see "lazy") to write this off as "trip hop", that would be associating it with music that often had more superficiality than brains, which makes so much of that ilk sound dated now. No, this album is another breed. This is deepest emotion laid bare on the floor, with the heart as a centerpiece. With titles like "Quiver", " Bittersweet", "Sorrow", and "Worry", it's obvious that the passions displayed are being melded with a good dose of urban existential alienation...

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posted: Oct 13, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

Atomica is one of those groups that convince me to not give up on trip-hop - passionate, melancholy, just yummy. Lauren Cheatham has a rich and lush voice, similar to Tracey Thorn. This band does so much right - the mixing is sweet and clean, and their music is even released under a Creative Commons license. From the 2005 album Metropolitan.

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posted: Sep 19, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

...Atomica makes lovely, layered, atmospheric, dream pop. These songs are very melodic for this genre. Usually bands such as this tend to rely too much on the toys they're working with and less on actual songwriting. Not so for this band. The melodies are enchanting and haunting. But the toys make lovely sounds as well. This is a great trip-hop, dreamy pop record.

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posted: Sep 12, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

...A bleak despair bleeds through Alin's retrospective re-creation of his time in New York City, and Lauren Cheatham adds such a weary worldliness to his lyrics that to listen to Metropolitan is to hear how a city can break your heart over and over again. But Alin's efforts through Atomica aren't to break things, but to move through and rectify the destruction of the past. He wants to gather all the pieces and fit them together once again. "You can't say I've never tried to love you / You can't say I've never tried to die for you," Cheatham sings in "Salt," and her voice, tarnished by the persistent weight of the city, remains pure at its core. The music of Metropolitan is suffused with the melancholy that so pervades trip-hop but Alin and company never succumb to the entropic end inherent in its decay.

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posted: Aug 23, 2005 category: Reviews

Metropolitan:

Downtempo vibes and beats are twisted with incredible female vocals for the next branch off of Portishead. Wade Alin is the main songwriter and programmer and he enlisted Lauren Cheatham to provide the backdrop of gorgeous vocals that help recall the aforementioned Portishead, as well as Lamb and Bjork. Trip-hop blended this well with electronica, downtempo, and orchestral rock isn't often properly ordained. But Metropolitan is a new ministry at which to worship stunning and powerful music delivered with a subtleness that betrays its true gifted clout.

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posted: Jul 1, 2005 category: Reviews

in a haze

Scott Sturgis probably gained the most recognition from his Converter and Pain Station projects -- both of which would be classified in different industrial subgenres. Converter was the rhythmic noise powerhouse, while Pain Station appealed to fans of more traditional EBM. Other side projects, like Notime or d.b.s., showed a more laid-back ambient side of Mr. Sturgis. All of the elements of these previous projects have been melted down in to one new form, released simply as s.sturgis. Don't pick up this disc with any preconceptions, any expectations that this is the next big thing in rhythmic noise. s.sturgis leaves behind the aggression and over-distortion for a more groove oriented, almost tribal feel. These six tracks were created as a (possibly one-off) chance to open for a local band. This unique performance featured both abstract visuals and the resulting audio recorded live that night. Any of these tracks could be thrown at a dancefloor for a tempo change, for a chance to watch some bump-and-grind action, but that wasn't the original intent. The downtempo, sometimes IDM-feeling tracks are more suited for a chill-out lounge, or a relaxing night of... well, anything relaxing, including visits to the magic pipe. This release showcases the breadth of Mr. Sturgis' talent and should find its way in to every electronic music fan's collection.

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posted: May 4, 2005 category: Reviews

Europa:

This is the 4th album of the Chicago-based Micronaut. Their work is an eclectic piece of electronics, which really covers different styles. The production of this album is really outstanding and that's definitely an element you'll easily perceive. Starting in a rather ambient way with remarkable cuts like "For once always" and "Mister Tronic," they than experience with some vague dub influences leaded by bombastic rhythms on "Normalized" to mix dark ambient moods with scratches on the more experimental sounding "Invention 1/Microprocessor" to the enigmatic "Darkness." There's some contradiction in style running through this last piece for the mix of deep electronic bass sounds and the use of a cello, but the alchemy of this band makes everything possible! The 2nd part of the album becomes really interesting for exploring more danceable fields. They now come pretty close to the style of Chemical Brothers without delivering a copy of this great band. There's a terrific mix between dance vibes and psychedelic influences reinforced by guitar riffs. We here get some amazing pieces like "Perdition" and the "DJ Blitz 4/4 remix" of the same song, but also "Failsafe," "Calculate" and "Institutional." By the exception of a few vocals, the entire album remains instrumental, but never stops to fascinate the open-minded listener I am!

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posted: May 1, 2005 category: Reviews

in a haze:

Electronic soundscape paintings that H.R. Geiger's "Alien" probably dances to at the Acid Blood Club. Well done, hypnotic, and very, very dark. I am listening to it now and finding it difficult to write, since the sounds occupy the imagination to such a degree. The one thing I find annoying, though, is that the tracks sometimes do not conclude, they just stop dead in their tracks. The effect is like falling off something very high without knowing where you'll land. Hmmmmmmmmmmm... maybe that isn't annoying after all. The final track, "Euphondisson," breaks from the hard-edged tonality of the previous pieces and leads the listener instead through blissful emotional panoramas. Okay, I am repeating this track for the third time right now and it just gets better. This sort of sensitive beauty where it is unexpected is stunning.

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