Split The Atom Again

Written by: AP on 29/11/2010 20:39:03

One of the most unusual releases to appear on my list this year is without a doubt the latest by Casanatra. I say unusual not because the music contained on "Split the Atom Again" is the reinvention of alternative rock science as its title implies, but because alternative rock hardly ever awakens my interest. Only a handful of its practitioners have managed to create music that stimulates me (Biffy Clyro, Billy Talent, Brand New, Incubus, Jimmy Eat World and Thrice) precisely because it is alternative, fusing influences from far and wide into something unique and instantly recognizable. As opposed to the multitude of general stateside rock that gets lumped into the genre without being very alternative at all. As such, the roster of bands referenced in Casanatra's promo package - which includes Incubus, Soundgarden and, rather oddly, Tool - meant this album was coming to my lab for analysis.

Although Tool is a pretty brazen name to flash in the context of "Split the Atom Again", the Incubus citation is dead on, and worn proudly by Casanatra. The laid back, soulful groove, funky experimentation and suitably catchy choruses mimic the progressive mindedness of said Californian cult band, and vocalist Dennis Asher might - by a slightly intoxicated listener - be mistaken for Brandon Boyd, but the more discerning of us will of course hear right through the promises of great things like raising the bar and challenging the listener. Don't get me wrong, "Split the Atom Again" has a certain, relaxing allure to it, but the songs are often too restrained to make the kind of impact that songs like "Nice to Know You" or "I Wish You Were Here" do. The baffling thing is that this restraint only manifests itself in the vocals, and what's more, it seems to be intentional. "True Story", "Black Mountain" and "Sleeping on Air" prove Dennis has the ability, but in the remainder of songs it sounds like he purposefully limits his highs for what, the audio equivalent of a lazy summer afternoon?

Musically Casanatra are on par with their influences (though they do not make use of the plethora of instruments Incubus does, or inject electronica or hip hop into the mix), and when the band breaks into a jam it's... well, music to my ears. The interplay of Lance Reed (drums), Brett Johnson (bass), Jer Fink (guitar) and Asher (who also plays guitar) is sublime, and at times so fluid it reminds me of the telepathy that Led Zeppelin or Queens of the Stone Age share on stage. These are the defining moments on "Split the Atom Again" and they are not rare, but the vocals take such a central role in the music that even the band's prodigal musicianship lacks the capacity to fully divert my attention from it. Casanatra are not short on ideas; their technical prowess is generally beyond reproach; but with such phlegmatic vocals the execution is frustratingly lacklustre.


Download: True Story, Black Mountain, Sleeping on Air
For the fans of: Incubus, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden
Listen: Myspace

Release date 21.09.2010
Blue Worm Records

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