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CD REVIEW: Atlantic Manor - On the Wrong Side of Saturday Night

By  J.D. Stefan

 

 

 

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Artist: The Atlantic Manor
Album: On the Wrong Side of a Saturday Night
Label: Do Too Records
Website:
www.theatlanticmanor.com
Genre:  Indie/Lo-Fi
Technical Grade: 5/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 5/10
Commercial Value: 3/10
Overall Talent Level: 5/10
Songwriting Skills: 4/10
Performance Skill: 5/10
Best Songs:.A Pause Before Dust, Where I Let You Go
Weakness: Lack of dynamic energy, buried vocals, songs are all too similar

CD REVIEW:

The Atlantic Manor is a trio consisting of R. Sell on vocals, guitar and noise, Bob Platt on piano and Ariel Herrera on drums.  The band is the “alias” of songwriter and vocalist R. Sell and is a self-proclaimed part of the American Underground “flourishing in obscurity”.  On the Wrong Side of a Saturday Night is a true DIY effort which the band recorded very quickly.  The liner notes state that the album was recorded in one or two takes and no rehearsals were involved.  This would indicate that the album would likely be quite avant-garde and experimental improvisation but it’s not – the vibe is clearly indie lo-fi/slow-core.  It’s not complex music but if there were truly no rehearsals for the recording sessions then it’s all the more compelling.  The band’s website doesn’t have a lot of info on the band itself although it’s clear that they turn out a lot of music.  11 releases are referred to on the site but unfortunately, this particular CD is nowhere to be found.

The CD opens with “A Pause Before Dust”, an impressive, introspective track that clearly shows The Atlantic Manor have their act together.  The fade out at the end of the track is a bit unexpected and unusual but this is impressive work for being done quickly and in limited takes.  “You Are Forgiven” follows and appears to be an instrumental song until the vocal appears just past the 4-minute mark.  Sell’s vocal style is that of a tired blues singer who’s seen it all.  It fits the slow groove and mood of his songs perfectly and though there aren’t really any songs that recall the blues, the tired emotion in his voice comes through – especially on a song like “Oh Death” and “Destroyer’s Blues”.  The latter features a great section with some chaotic guitar feedback and noise.  The recording itself is in line with DIY and lo-fi expectations.  The instruments are actually captured pretty well and the balance is consistent in most places.  There are a lot of instrumental passages in the songs and Sell’s vocals often take a backseat to the music which is sometimes a shame as there are some great lyrics and imagery that don’t get the share of the spotlight.  The performances are adequate, nothing stellar here but it all works together well.  The overall audio quality is decent other than the vocal balance which certainly appears intentional.  No engineers or producers are listed.  The CD art and packaging is also understated.  Light filtering through a set of curtains is the only image on the cover – no name or information and the back of the CD is simple black background with white text with very sparse information.  I do like the fact that the lyrics for the songs are printed in the foldout and really, the graphics are suitable for this release.

It’s hard to criticize lo-fi since the lower quality is an essential part of the genre.  My issue with this album is that it doesn’t go anywhere.  All the songs roam at about the same tempo and the instrumentation hardly varies.  There are times when one song follows another and it’s almost hard to tell the two songs apart.  Sell has some interesting lyrics but they’re second to the music with his vocal being buried behind the instrumentation in many places.  Reading the lyric isn’t enough, I wanted to hear him sing it clearly.  I can be a fan of longer instrumental portions but there’s a lot of repetition going on with these songs and the dynamics rarely change.  A whole CD of slow-core can be interesting if it’s varied enough.  This one for me begins to wear out and drag after a few songs.  Sell has a good, plaintive voice and much more could have been done with the arrangements and production to make the songs more compelling. 

Underground, lo-fi, DIY projects are great and there’s a ton of talent (to quote The Atlantic Manor) “thriving in obscurity”.  However, in this release, there’s too much obscurity in the songs and recording and it just doesn’t go anywhere for me.  With so many releases from The Atlantic Manor this one may just have been a casualty of quantity over quality.

J.D. Stefan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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