Charles Atlas

Felt Cover

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The second full Charles Atlas release even looks like a sharp art piece thanks to the paint-swatch catalog design of the cover, while its music holds to the standard of elegant, atmospheric minimalism via the 4AD catalog that earlier releases had well captured. The duo of Charles Wyatt and Matt Greenberg stuck to the thoroughly instrumental here, and there aren't any outside remixes either -- it's just them and, on cello, Alexander Kort, creating everything and doing a wonderful job. Compared to the near-total restraint of Play the Spaces, Felt Cover kicks up a little bit of noise thereabouts -- there's swooping feedback backgrounds and sometimes intrusive (and intentionally so) bleeps and glitches. Synths are in general more prominent here -- actually more of a range of keyboards, contributing everything from winsome psychedelic warmth (check the slight bounce in songs like "Another Movement") to sad and lonely parts almost hanging in space. But guitar still takes pride of place, and everything from Spacemen 3's narcotic fixes to hints of Brian Eno's work circa Ambient 4: On Land and Bark Psychosis' jazz-inflected drawls can be heard. The latter especially comes to the fore on "Valdivia," partially due to the brushed drums and woozy horns that contribute to the overall atmosphere. "Que Biblia" is the long one this time out, 11 minutes of deliberate evolution -- if not as immediately gripping as Play the Spaces' "Pleiades 20," it's still a treat. There's a wonderfully wry moment at work with the title track -- which is, in fact, a cover of a song by the band Felt, "Ferdinand Magellan." Interesting credit: The "words" for the title track come from Jerry Stahl's story of self-degradation in pursuit of drugs, Permanent Midnight.

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