It's a problem that could be called a rock critic's dream or worst nightmare. The dilemma: what happens when one listens to a band and can't think of any words to describe its music? This mixed blessing faces listeners of Ativin, a Bloomington, IN., three-piece of guitarists Dan Burton and Chris Carothers and drummer Rory Leitch. Taking its inspiration from the dawn of post-rock (Slint, Rodan), Ativin creates five songs on Pills Vs. Planes that utilize a tension-release concept to convey themes of despair, confusion and anger. That's not to say Ativin's music is completely dark and/or depressing. In almost every piece on Pills, one can find some glimmer of a melody or catchy interlude. It's music for contemplation or introspection. Pills features four songs recorded by indie guru Steve Albini and one song put to tape by engineer Carl Saff. The album opens with the growling, double-guitar snarl of "I Know One-Hundred Things," a multi-thematic composition that'll make your head spin with groove-rooted riffs and mysterious, loud dynamic changes. "King's Ship" begins with a macho prog-metal thump before introducing a sly, psychedelic riff that gives way to a furious, distortion-drenched midsection. "Mass" starts with a plaintive, almost soothing exterior that is quickly blasted away by roaring noise. This song is probably playing repeatedly on the subway ride from heaven to hell. "Metallic Boy" wastes no time slapping you around the room, clocking in at just over one minute of relentless rage. The album's real kicker is "Meditational Flaws," where crickets chirp their acceptance for the beautiful, methodical seven-minute-plus epic that follows. Listen with headphones for maximum effect.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Cohen