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"Electricity to turn you on" is a suitably apt line from 'In Planetary Sugar''s opening song 'a Drone', which does indeed contain droning guitars and a ringing high-hat in a manner not dissimilar to Spacemen 3 with Liz Fraser on vocals, before it explodes into a more modern sounding force halfway through, one that's not far from the sound of Metric or even School Of Seven Bells' heavier moments. The Connecticut band's latest album doesn't see them settling into a comfortable stride. Atrina are pushing themselves and their music to stay at the forefront of cutting edge guitar music, whilst staying true to actual guitar music, and not just flooding the songs with the latest electronic techniques.
These songs could have been created two decades ago, but Atrina have progressed on from that era so this album sounds fresh rather than retrospective in any way. It's not always a comfortable listen, but that's why God invented Mumford & Sons. This quartet want to give you something more challenging to get to grips with, and by challenging we don't mean "just make a right old racket for the sake of it". The songs here are well put together, they explore different sounds and styles and emotions and atmospheres. Take second track 'Janice and Joey'; this is abrasive and noisy, but it's followed by '6q26' which is more atmospheric, although it does feel like it could erupt at any moment. The sense of power bubbling just below the surface is palpable. And then it arrives with a flurry of horns and guitars, giving the final quarter of the song an explosion akin to a full-on Spiritualized wig-out.
There are also proggy overtones found here, but with the benefit of hindsight they extract only the good DNA and discard the nonsense. The instrumental 'Prelude To...' and 'Beard of Earth' for example. It's not all tinnitus-inducing onslaughts; 'Boredom In Detail' is a lovely, string-filled atmospheric number that gently swells over its five minutes and has a gorgeous guitar solo to finish, and this is followed by the ghostly interlude 'We Without Names'. The title-track tricks you into thinking it's a low point; standard alt-rock. Then it explodes into a frenzy of guitars. 'Thrush and Thrasher' could have been fairly normal, but Atrina have the experience not to settle for that, so a few deft moves make it stand out much more. 'Impure Geranium' has one of the strangest names we've heard for a while, and the grungy stomp of the guitars are hardly something you hear every day either. It's one last twist of alt-rock's formula before the climax of 'January 1919'. Here they begin with soft vocals and sparse guitar twangs that seem to bounce around the room. You just know it won't be long before they unchain the guitars and let them do battle with your cranium, and it's not. Like the rest of 'In Planetary Sugar' they do this to a high standard and have pieced together an imaginative and fully-realised album.
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