[2015.02.01] Tom Hollingworth, for NE:MM Magazine.
Group Of The Atlos is the name of a society of musicians that has grown around its five original members that formed in 2006. As a whole, they display traits common to post-rock practices, operating as a flexible set of players servicing the songs they compose with individual egos not rising above the resonating character of the work. Various vocalists and instrumentalists may be given a moment of focus in a track, but such displays do not provide the listener with evidence of what a future composition might be constructed from.
Following a project scoring a film in 2013, the Wisconsin collective returned to recording this eight-track LP, R U Person Or Not. Throughout this new album, much of the music is weighty and sombre. Learning To Share opens with a slow waltz of guitar octaves. From this introduction, the texture crescendos as many guitar and brass counterparts are added. This building passage instantly supports their instrumental-rock influences. We hear similar building sections later, too - (the endings of News From Wino and On Wreck for example.)
to: Saviour follows up, incorporating a soulful and wailing lead rock-vocal, roaming around the pentatonic scale, as the other instrumentation effectively peddles the route note. Such a style of singing is unusual within an album of more progressive arrangements like this one, for often such ornamentation and flamboyance in technique is considered immodest and individualistic amongst the post-rock purists. That kind of attitude is a lazy stereotype, and it is to Group Of The Atlos’ credit to include this vocal sound: a welcome additional timbre, giving a rich colour to this record’s rainbow.
Fucks With Us presents one of the album’s most surprising sonic inclusions: a Jamaican-accent-inflected sung rap, leading a slow minor-skank. Out of delirious repetitions of ‘forgive me, forgive me,’ a manic stream of lyrical confession breaks out, resilient through to the song’s conclusion.
Coplight uses it penultimate position to patiently wind together the roads of the record, carefully unfolding a melancholic duet. A true moment of intimacy is carved out (away from the earlier storms) by blending a solo male and a solo female’s vocal over soft instrumentation.
The album concludes in a wonderfully farcical fashion with the spooky flash-groove of Forgiveness Rules. The paralleling vocals with guitar wails, and the celebratory energy perfectly off-setting the ernest resonances of the penultimate track.
With the deliberately naive title of the record, and altered-skull artwork, we are given clues that, as listeners, we might experience an album focussed on some aspects of humanity (existentialism perhaps?,) and though each track is quite unique sonically, it is for this philosophical focus that the set forms as a coherent collection.
R U Person Or Not certainly contains unique sounds, thoughtfully chosen and performed. The use of overlapping various voices throughout cleverly supports an idea of unity as an antidote against existential isolation considered in the lyrics: From the various vocalists occupying different frequencies within the crowd-chanting of Gun, and On Wreck, to the lyrical phrases completed from the gendered voices, hand-in-hand on Coplight. The variety of colour and influence throughout stimulates imagination in the listener’s mind. Such a display of so many styles, from track-to-track, makes it an enigmatic record as a whole, with certain portions resonating at different sittings.