Friday, April 20, 2012

[Review] Atata - Tatat [2012]

I've always been of a mind that the more people in a band usually results in a more compromised sound. Too many chefs in the kitchen, stuff like that. I'm almost always right, as well. A clarity in vision and singular attention to detail can result in some of the most marvelous creations. Orchestras are ruled by the dictatorship of a conductor, Films ruled by auteurs. With bands, it becomes a little tougher. Independent bands are much more democratic affairs, and aspirations to a focused sound can fail more often than succeed.

With a group of seasoned veterans, experienced by playing in livehouses and stadiums across Japan, the chances of genius might be thwarted and a diamond in the rough appear. Atata make this claim by positioning 6 people in the same practice room and essentially letting each one play their instruments like insane people. But these are insane people all on the same drugs, all seeing the same delusion and all laughing in unison. Somehow they play together as one, as an orchestra, but each with distinct voices and no clear conductor to be found.

What's to be especially admired with each of the songs is the level of craftsmanship with which they're designed. There aren't clear choruses or verses in all the songs, and there are almost never two parts of a song that sound exactly alike. Like a jazz track, each instrument is constantly moving, improvising, and refreshing each refrain, independent of each other. The mastery of each is amazing. Angular, dueling guitars; versatile keyboards, going from buzzing moog to orchestral piano in the same song; sublime drumming that knows exactly when to hit the groove hard; bass that is as jazzy and smooth as it is deep and growling; vocals that are human and angelic at once, hitting every note perfectly. There's just a lot to their songs.

For me, music is really about feelings. What does this music evoke in me, how does it make me feel, what does it remind me of? Most music I like can evoke profound memories of important times in my life. In fact, it is one of my favorite past-times to analyze why I'm enjoying something at the moment. When I was thinking about Atata's newest album, and what it was reminding me of, I ended up making a list. Every song on the album is a different face of a single identity. Each song is its own ecosystem, and somehow I found myself lost in the myriad of memories hidden in each. Star Soldier reminded me of lullabies and Naht's The Spelling of My Solution, one of my favorite albums. Minority Fight Song put me back in college, driving down the interstate with the Get Up Kids or the Anniversary blaring from my dinky tape deck. Recito was every break-up I've been through, complete with the initial sadness and final recovery and triumph.

I say all this to express that this album is fucking great. Too often do you see bands full of veterans produce tired music, void of personality and passion. This is not one of those bands or albums. Watching their recent video for Star Soldier only reinforced the fun and passion they have for playing music for people. Every song on this 8 song album is just a finely crafted masterpiece. I've already listened to the album 5 times today, and I can see myself listening to it for months and months more, there's just so much to it.

The album is available in a couple places, that I can find at the moment. On Ototoy it is 900 yen from today (4/20) to May 3rd. After that it will change to 1500 yen. That translates to about 11.00 USD, so you might be better off just heading to iTunes, where you can get it for $9.99 or $1.29 per track. This is really an amazing album and you owe it to yourself to at least check out the video above. Below I'm posting a megamix, which has some of the choice parts from each song all mushed together. It's worth a listen too. The 3 tracks that I posted about earlier are on the album but they've re-recorded them, so there are some definite improvements. Even though there's only 8 songs, each is really long and the album clocks in at around 40 minutes.

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