Charles Atlas

Worsted Weight

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Released to little fanfare, this sophomore record from San Francisco's Charles Atlas was easily one of 2002's best-kept secrets. Despite its fidelity to quietude and slow-motion builds, Worsted Weight isn't easily explained away as post-rock, slowcore, or ambient. It certainly makes overtures in those directions, but the trio's restlessness and aversion to protocol mean that there are always subtle new details gently tugging these songs down unexpected paths. As in "Sun With Teeth," which glides on a tick-tock guitar melody before introducing a patch of distant horns and then, finally, glockenspiels, or "Factotum," which punctuates a fretful piano and guitar duet with twitches of impatient percussion, Worsted Weight is loaded with sly twists of melodic phrase and subtle textural changes. Despite its rounded corners and modest crescendos, it's as insidious as any record of its kind; the members of Charles Atlas may not be ostentatious enough to preach from Mogwai's book of Sturm und Drang, but give them half a moment and they'll surely find a way in -- through the back door.

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