Album Reviews

Anti Atlas – Between Two

(One Little Indian) UK release date: 30 July 2007

There is, believe it or not, an advantage to be had in producing a record so Godawful that on first listen you’ll convince reviewers it’s the worst thing they’ve heard all year.

Though this may not seem like a great marketing ploy, it does allow the possibility that between this first listen, and knowing that it has to be listened to again before the review is written, the reviewer will spend so much time dreading the event, and building up an aural picture of how bad it was first time round, that the disc will never be able to live up to this (complete lack of) expectation and will, in fact, end up sounding “not so bad after all”.

This does not excuse Anti Atlas for being a rubbish rip-off of Sigur Ros, nor of disappearing up their own backsides as they desperately try to ape early ’90s classical/pop crossover artists such as Hector Zazou while claiming to reference everyone from This Mortal Coil (on a particularly boring and derivative day, we must assume) to Steve Reich (in their dreams) and Mahler. And Dvorak. And Puccini. And Holst.

So what has saved it from a no-star to one-star review? The music is listenable, to be fair, just derivative and unoriginal. Norwegian vocalist Kristin Fjellseth’s voice is beguiling and pleasant – she sings in her native language on two of the album’s tracks – and amid the other singers assembled here, she stands out from the crowd.

There are vocalists from eight countries involved in total, and the record can’t help but be infused with the smugness of the kind of people who think that this in itself is a good thing. You know the ones – they loiter around the local arts centre in floaty skirts and hippie beads, weaving baskets and complaining about globalisation. Music they like is, de facto, no damn good, so be warned. It may sound a bit like whales in places.

At times Anti Atlas’s proclaimed This Mortal Coil worship does allow them to sound like a demo that would rightly be tossed aside by 4AD, but never in a good enough way to redeem it. The final track ends abuptly, and while this is undoubtedly a blessing, it also hammers home that they’ve somewhat missed the point of glacial ambient chill-out soundscaping. It should glide gently into sleep, not sound abrupt and forced.

Then there’s Gemma Hayes providing vocals on It’s A Shame. This is because half of Anti Atlas is her manager Chris Hufford, not because she has anything to add to the project. And if you’re thinking “ah, but isn’t he also Radiohead‘s manager? Maybe it sounds as good as Thom and the lads”, just don’t. Ned Bigham, the other half of the partnership used to drum for Neneh Cherry, but is a classical performer really. Apparently.

Sadly, the more often you listen to Between Voices, the less offensive it becomes. This is because on repeated listenings, the more you will notices things that have been influenced by much better bands. Bands you like more. Do yourself a favour – go and listen to their records instead.

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Anti Atlas – Between Two