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Little Atlas - Surface Serene CD (album) cover

SURFACE SERENE

Little Atlas

Neo-Prog


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5 stars Without a doubt, this album would've been named as the CD of the month. And I mean 'would have' because this album was released in July of 2003. So that makes it a bit difficult to still make it the CD of the month. I can't understand how it came to be that we only just found out about this wonderful album. Well, better late than never.

For the real lover of progressive rock, this CD can be considered as a God send. Just when everyone thought that Spock's Beard was 'the' predominant progressive rock band and that the level of quality of music couldn't get any higher, along comes a new American band who easily reaches that high level. This album contains all the styles that we know about in this genre of music. You hear fragments of Genesis, Yes, Kansas, Gentle Giant etc. But you can't easily characterize Little Atlas either and that's exactly what makes it so good. Even though the catchy melodies become more and more complex, you're still able to play them back in your head. At one moment it sounds classic and the next moment it sounds modern. It gets you thinking about bands such as Parallel Or 90 Degrees and Echolyn as well as Spock's Beard. This is neither certainly not progressive metal nor neo prog. At one moment the music sounds sensitive, but at the next moment it's again chaotic with widely varied keyboards and, of course, the demanded guitar solos. You can't remain unaffected by it.

Just because this album is from last year doesn't mean that it shouldn't be a part of your CD collection. You won't regret it for a second.

Hopefully their next CD will be of the same calibre and end up in our hands on time so that it'll have a fair chance to become CD of the month. It would've been in our yearly top ten list. It's too bad it missed the chance!

Report this review (#19274)
Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another CD on my list of bands that would be better off as strictly instrumental. It's not that singer/keyboardist/guitarist Steve Katsikas sings off-key or flat, he just has one of those love/hate voices. For me, I find his voice rather over the top, as if he's trying too hard to sing with emotion and power.

Too bad, for me I guess, because this band has a huge amount of talent and it shows in the instrumental aspects of the band. They inflect middle eastern sounds with latin percussion, silky moog and solid bass playing, big electric guitar sound and sensual drum undercurrents. A great mix, good production and even lyrics I can find interesting. The tunes have melodies which are both hummable and memorable. I find they often stay with me all day, long after the CD player has been shut down.

The music harkens back to the glory days of prog, they don't cut any new cloth, but they play from the heart, not by the numbers. There is a passion to the performances, you feel as if they are serving up a piece of themselves. The music swirls from dainty keyboard trickles to chugging rhythm breaks. I think Little Atlas would best be appreciated in a live setting.

Honesty is a sweet tune, sung with harmony vocals from Steve's wife Joanna. It has a slight latin flavor that shifts and swells. Can I Find It has a memorable vocal line, sweeping guitar fills and nice interplay between bass and drums. Faceless can be downloaded from their record label's website: http://www.progrockrecords.com/shop/view.php?id=9 . It starts off like a Nirvana song, I can't remember the title, but it rocks along and really is a fair showcase for the bands overall sound. The bonus track, Shine, is reminiscent of some 80's classic rock tunes, with a touch of prog.

I would recommend this to fans of classic prog (Genesis, Kansas, Yes, ELP), there are no metal threads here.

Report this review (#19275)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
progaeopteryx
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is truly a wonderful discovery. It's rare to find an album that contains no filler, but Little Atlas' Surface Serene truly has no filler. Every single track on this amazing release is great. If I were a prog rock DJ, I could honestly say that I'd be hard-pressed to have to pick one song over another to play on the radio. They are all truly that great.

Little Atlas is sort of in the same boat as Spock's Beard, although they sound nothing like Spock's Beard. They have a sound that is all their own, but you hear influences all over the place. I hear influences from Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Echolyn, and Kansas, among others. Even though they show influences from the classic prog acts of the past, it's all mixed in with a very modern sound, kind of like what IZZ has been doing, but much better. Although there are no epics here, and it is only slightly complex in places, Little Atlas' hook is their catchy melodies. I sometimes find that these melodies can stick in my brain for several days after a listen. That's quite addictive for one with just two brain cells (and one of them is devoted to breathing!). The band plays with a lot of energy, emotion, and passion.

Overall, a genuine masterpiece. I expect that many years in the future, people will look back on this as one of the crowning achievements of progressive rock in the early 21st century. An essential addition to any prog rock collection. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#69187)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First off, I only purchased this album after I got their latest album "Wanderlust" with an intention to complete the band's album. I have a mixed feeling about the music Little Atlas offers. At one part of me this might not be the kind of music I truly enjoy and I don't have any compelling reason why I feel this way. But music is emotion. If it does not create a stimuli in your mind, then forget about it. That's what I felt also when I got the "Wanderlust" album. The other part of me saying - hey, this is something different! Look at how electric guitar punches its notes and chords throughout the album! You can have a sense of Steve Howe style played in relatively upbeat mode but you get also a sense of Robert Fripp. So it confuses me but it's attractive for me.

I kind like feel also that the band sounds like Rush meets Yes, Kansas and King Crimson - as I did mention on my review of "wanderlust" at this site as well. The band has successfully blended the components of prog classic bands into a cohesive and made the music that is unique Little Atlas.Roy Strattman, the band's guitarist, is a pivotal element to the sounds of Little Atlas.

The song might sound poppy for example "Faceless" which might sound like typical pop song with aggressive guitar fills. "Surface Serene", the title track, is a simple and straightforward song with a excellent chorus. "Can I Find It" is seven and a half minutes epic (?) that has excellent composition. There are catchy keyboard punches as well by band leader Steve Katsikas who also arranges most of the composition. "Changeover" has an excellent percussive arrangement over an Eastern tinged melody which might favor most of you, I think.

Little Atlas is no doubt a band who has a great potential. I have been listening to the band's two albums so far and all of them are excellent. I recommend you to have this CD. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#75726)
Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The second album from Little Atlas Surface Serene is a bit of a mixed affair. When you start your album with a riff that sounds like Nirvanaīs Smells like Teen Spirit itīs bound to divide the waters in a prog world. Sometimes that is a good thing and a sign that the band moves some boundaries with their music. In the case of Little Atlas itīs just a mix of genres that will please some and annoy others. Personally Iīm both pleased and a little annoyed.

The good things about Surface......is that the technical level of the musicians are high. There are some really great moments in each song and I especially enjoy the synth runs that appear in some of the songs. The little instrumental parts that Little Atlas play throughout the album are really great. Itīs those parts that makes their music progressive and to some extent exciting.

The other side of their music is something I am not too fond of. Itīs the American College rock side. Maybe itīs a bit unfair to compare Little Atlas with this hidious genre, but there are definitely elements, and they really get me down. Lead singer Steve Katsikas is not my cup of tea either. Again I associate him with American Collage rock. The sound on Surface Serene isnīt too good either, itīs like the balance in the mix is wrong.

Well the annoying things aside itīs an OK album and I will rate it a big 2 stars. Personally I want listen to this very much, but the quality in the compositions are allright and Iīm sure that this album will have an audience somewhere.

Report this review (#162131)
Posted Monday, February 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The hard years had yet to come for Little Atlas.David McKean left the band to continue his studies and Dan Katsikas quit, as he became a parent and moved 40 miles away from the band's basis.Scott Fansler and Tom Vazquez were their replacements, while a more progressive side was in the development, but soon the band would face another hard situation.Scott had to move to Denver and Aaron Whitman joined an unknown Pop Rock outfit.With the help of his wife Joanna, Steve Katsikas revived a fading act with a fresh line-up through ads and auditions.Drummer Diego Pocovi (in the place of the departing Tom Vazquez), bassist Rik Bigai and guitarist Roy Strattman joined the Katsikas' pair and the new formation recorded ''Surface serene'', released in 2003 on ProgRock Records.

Five years after their weak debut, Little Atlas had become a full-blown Prog band with only flashes from their past and a brand new style, delivering strong 70's influences coming from the US Prog scene.With a sound comparable to KANSAS, ETHOS and PENTWATER and resembling to the apprroach of ECHOLYN and AKACIA, ''Surface serene'' is a great step forward for the Americans, consisting of symphonic orientations, Neo Prog showering and some harder, mainly guitar-fronted ideas, always structured in complex and refreshing tracks, even if this work lacks any attempt on an epic composition.The basic components of Little Atlas' music are now the attacking synthesizers, the retro-inspired keyboard moves, the power of the electric guitars and the interesting bass work, thrown in a package of pieces, which also feature some piano-driven Classical sauce and intense, lyrical moments.Great melodies, quirky executions and tight arrangements guarantee a nice listening experience.They saw full respect to the 70's with a very vintage aura surrounding all pieces, mainly due to the abscence of the fear for producing dense and complicated music and the similarities with the old bands.The tricky organ parts and the very YES-like bass lines are another reason for the nostalgic influences.Eventually their ideas could produce a fine contrast between rich, instrumental orchestrations and smoother, electric textures, always supported by the harmony of the vocals and the good sense of melody.

US Prog is back.Interesting material with an evident balance between the modern and the old days, led by emphatic, convincing arrangements.Recommended.

Report this review (#1201500)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | Review Permalink

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