This Atmospheres article was written by Anton Sanatov, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
When you come across a record that flaunts a bold concept – one so evident that it manifests itself even before the needle drops – it’s hard not to get immersed in it. And when you finally make your way past the album cover onto the sounds, and they only corroborate what you have already anticipated, then you might as well just roll with it. This is most certainly the case with Atmospheres‘ ‘The Departure’; which is as thematic an album as they come. And the only way to speak of it is on its own terms, in the margins of its own universe.
Not to outline the obvious, but there is a very apparent cosmic vibe to this album – the band’s moniker juxtaposed with the title alone suggests a countdown to lift-off. Yet it is not the space odyssey one might expect, much rather a galactic voyage gone rogue and left to float around a black hole with questionable odds of return.
‘Sun’ opens up the record heavily, blasting off with confident drumbeats and chunky guitars that oscillate through corners of infinite space, and echo throughout the rest of the record. The off-beat riffs (resonant of Stephen Carpenter‘s work with Deftones), which populate such tracks as ‘Void’ and ‘The Farthest Star’, add a unique, mechanical dimension to the celestial melodicism of the album, and provide a fine contrast to the harrowing strands of tranquil passages of such songs as ‘Void’ and ‘Laniakea’. The latter numbers are prime examples of the album’s onerous substance. The journey of this record is lonesome and ambivalent, although it remains eager to dart into unexplored frontiers.
The experimental song structures, or much rather progressions, often invoke associations of jam sessions carried out in orbit. And whilst they remain interesting throughout, and the bands makes great use of a variety of instrumental resources, the insistent thematic direction of the sound occasionally makes one song ‘bleed’ into another, essentially creating an effect of mixing black with black.
That being said, the title track and ‘Direction’ are clear cut gems of song-writing finesse, showcasing fantastic compositional prowess and lyrical musicianship. The production is sealed tight, remaining consistent throughout the album. And although it at times makes some the of the sections appear looped, its clarity and scope nonetheless contribute to achieving the record’s conceptual ambience.
As I have said, ‘The Departure’ is not a voyage at hyper-speeds; it is an exploration of alienation and reason behind the retreat. As far as a concept record it does indeed succeed, and may even have the potential to some day set off for the dark side of the moon, but at this point it is more of a soundtrack to a trip across the galaxy… But what a gorgeous trip it is.