Atlantic Drone - "A Vivified Sugar Cube Explains The Universe"
(Circadia Records 2009, CIRC-001, LP)
From Aural Innovations #41 (October 2010)
I struggled to describe Atlantic Drone's 2007 self-titled debut, but that was the beauty of the album. Looking back at the review and revisiting the album a few years later I still smile at my description of one track as like King Crimson dropping a shitload of acid and blasting off into the space-prog cosmos. I voted the album one of my favorites of the year and then moved on, as is so often the case when one is reviewing piles of music.
Fast forward to this year and I was reading an article in Signal to Noise magazine about concert poster art and one of the artists profiled was Steven Cerio. After straining my brain for a while trying to recall where I remembered the name from I realized it was the mastermind behind Atlantic Drone. A quick email asking didja-ever-do-anything-since-that-cool-album later and I had scored myself a copy of the second Atlantic Drone album, an LP only released put out by Circadia Records in late 2009.
It seems that the Atlantic Drone on A Vivified Sugar Cube Explains The Universe is less of a band than a cast of characters brought together to give musical shape to Cerio's vision, including members of Yo La Tengo, Bongwater, King Missile, Love, Electric Frankenstein, Toothfairy, and others). Whereas the first Atlantic Drone album was a set of tracks that functioned as stand alones, the new album more or less plays like a single extended excursion. This is psychedelia of the trippiest and most hallucinatory sort. But there's lots happening on the album. Elements of free-jazz and the avant-garde pervade throughout, and after several listens I imagined Faust, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart and John Cage getting together to create their collective conception of psychedelic music.
The album opens with multiple guitars playing a combination of liquid, acid and Eastern influenced psychedelic styles, propelled by tribal jazzy percussion. There's a bit of a late 60s San Francisco feel to the music but also a more modern spaced out vibe reminiscent of the early Spacious Mind albums. On My Kingdom For A Confection we learn that "Happiness appears in confectionary form", and Atlantic Drone state their case by way of voice narrative interspersed with lysergic free-jazz explosions and Krautrock meets Captain Beefheart in space mania. Despite the free-wheeling craziness of much of the music, the craftsmanship that went into the assembly process is clear, as is the impressive level of musicianship. Be It Wonderful! is a highlight, with it's bursts of feedback and electronics, dramatic percussion, and King Crimson-ish rocking intensity, along with tension-laced peaceful interludes. Comets and Clovis is like an avant-garde psychedelic symphony warming up. The Sky Behind Her confuses the senses with searing, droning, acidic orchestral meandering. And Only Orange Thru Eyelids (for Farla) is the peaceful finale that brings the listener-voyager back to Earth. This is an album that should be enjoyed alone, played from beginning to end, with eyes closed and headphones firmly fastened.
Cerio's main gig is his artwork and I would encourage readers to check out his web site at www.happyhomeland.com. The artwork he did for the LP is mind-blowingly beautiful and an appropriately surreal match for the music, making for a killer vinyl package. He has designed graphics and posters for King Crimson, White Zombie, Monster Magnet, and many others, but, most notably, for The Residents (really, check out all the cool stuff on his web site).
For more information you can visit the Atlantic Drone web site at: http://www.myspace.com/atlanticdrone
Visit the Steve Cerio web site dedicated to his art work at: http://www.happyhomeland.com
Visit the Circadia Records web site at: http://www.circadiarecords.com
Reviewed by Spaceman33