Given the number of downbeat electronic acts arriving on the scene recently, our reaction (a premature closing of the mind) to the arrival of two MP3s in the Void inbox this morning was naturally, unsurprising. The band, an electronica duo from Chicago, called themselves ‘The Atomic Project’, and a quick glance at the accompanying description revealed the words ‘down-tempo’, and ‘Portishead’. Oh good, we thought. Some more Portisheadabees ready to rock the charts with their moody electro trip hop. Happily, we were wrong.
The Atomic Project is indeed moody sounding. And trip hop, if you want to put a technical term on it. However a looser, poppier sound means that there is no fear of the music falling into that dreaded ‘Bond theme’ comparison attributed so many down-tempo bands – instead the music is more reminiscent of a slightly gloomier Air. I mean this as a good thing, you understand.
The first of the two tracks, ‘Gravity’, is a spacy, atmospheric number characterised by an emotional vocal track and sultry, rolling instrumentation. Singer Lauren Cheatham’s vocals are the centre point of the song. Powerful and emotional, her voice sits comfortably against, but is never overpowered by, a lush, orchestral backdrop of violins, tinkling piano, and subtle electronica.
The second of the two tracks, ‘Forecast’, has a different sound – a slower, groovier tone of soft bass, down-tempo percussion and… yup, turntablism is in there too. But where the band’s contemporaries rely on beats and samples, The Atomic Project seem to rely on vocals and melody, making for an overall more chilled out sound. There is a warmth to this band rarely found in electronic music of this kind… but enough glitch and electronica to keep its trip hop appeal.
“It’s not as you thought it was…” sings Cheatham at the end of Forecast. “…I don’t think it ever was”. Too right. As opposed to the same-old-same-old reaction that I initially anticipated, this band has surprised me with two beautiful songs that grow on me the more I listen to them. Their new album is out now, and I’ll be sure to track it down and give it a listen. I’m much more open minded now and expect great things from this band.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’d prefer to be lazing in the sun at the Big Chill festival as opposed to Ibiza this year, then by all means give it a whirl and I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised.
Listen to The Atomica Project by clicking here