Monday, September 26, 2011

Grand Atlantic - Constellations

Grand Atlantic
Independent Release

Brisbane based outfit Grand Atlantic have enjoyed some success here in Australia, but it’s in the U.S. where the band have really been welcomed with open arms, with the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Phil Usher, guitarist Morgan Hann, bassist Sean Bower, and new Mat Von Diehm) touring stateside with considerable success.
Not wanting to lose any of the momentum they’ve built up with their three releases to date (2006’s ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ E.P., 2007’s ‘This Is Grand Atlantic’ and 2009’s ‘How We Survive’), the band started song writing for their new album when time allowed, and in late 2010/early 2011, relocated to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum (An abandoned psychiatric hospital near Dunedin, New Zealand) with producer Dale Cotton to record their latest and highly anticipated third full-length effort ‘Constellations’.
It’s hard to tell whether it was Cotton’s influence, the fact that recording in such a strange and unusual location, or whether the band had already made a conscious decision to try something new – but either way, ‘Constellations’ is a little different from what we have come expect from the Grand Atlantic. The pop influences that have infiltrated their former work is still very much evident within the band’s eleven new tunes, but it’s the overall darker and heavier sounding shoegazer influences that masks the pop/rock side of the band’s sound that really dominates the overall feel of ‘Constellations’. It does not signal a complete reinvention of Grand Atlantic, but ‘Constellations’ at least hints at a band who aren’t prepared to go the safe option and simply repeat themselves time and time again.
‘Searchlights’ gets the album off to a relaxed and confident start with the band locking into a moody groove that evokes a bit of a reflective feel with its gradual ebbs and flows and soaring choruses, while the up-tempo and rhythmic follow-up ‘Central Station Blues’ sees the band turn everything up to deliver something that sounds like a cross between The Stone Roses and Jet.
From here, the band seamlessly mix moody atmospherics with energetic rock elements on tracks such as ‘Carved From Stone’ and ‘NML’, while elsewhere unleashing their inner psychedelic rock inhibitions on blistering efforts such as ‘Poison To The Vine’, ‘Little Traps’, the title track ‘Constellations’ and ‘Fresh Ideas In Home Security’ (Which is the first single/promotional video clip from the album).
But what really makes this album interesting is the diversity from one sound to the next, with the title track ‘Mountains Too Steep’ showcasing a touch of the blues/folk seeping through the band’s song writing, while the hint of classic rock within ‘Voyager’ and the stripped back acoustic closer ‘Queenie’ are definite favourites.
Given the success the band has enjoyed up until this point, it could have been really easy for Grand Atlantic to simply build upon their proven formula on their new album. But the fact that they’ve chosen to do something a little more daring shows that there’s more to Grand Atlantic’s career than merely achieving recognition on a global scale.

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© Justin Donnelly