Empyrean Atlas: Poly Rush
Secret Villages

At eighteen minutes, Poly Rush might seem more EP-length teaser than full-length argument on behalf of Empyrean Atlas, yet what a teaser it is. WNYC host John Schaefer succinctly characterized the quintet's sound as “a cross between Philip Glass and King Sunny Ade,” which isn't off-base, though sticklers might argue the group's sound is more Reich than Glass. Regardless, the band is very much David Crowell's, seeing as how he not only contributed guitars and synthesizer to the six tracks but also wrote, produced, and mixed them. He's not alone, however: Andrew Smiley and new recruit Will Chapin complete the guitar front-line, while the bottom end's ably accounted for by bassist Greg Chudzik and drummer Jason Nazary. I can't recall another outfit whose polyrhythms lock quite so tightly together as do Empyrean Atlas's.

The title track bolts from the gate with interlocking patterns that truly do sound like some minimalism-styled update on Afrobeat, especially when the chiming patterns call to mind the exuberance of classic King Sunny. Though all five of the individual players' lines are intricately woven, the music never ends up sounding clinical or studied; if anything, it bursts with a kind of joyous abandon that's well nigh impossible to resist. After that jolt of energy, the comparatively peaceful “Polipoli” slows the tempo for a scenic view of the sun-dappled countryside, momentum still in place but not as feverishly unleashed. Still, as pleasing to the ear as pastoral, acoustic-flavoured pieces such as “Ocelot” and “Murmuring” are, it's ultimately the uptempo numbers that speak loudest in favour of the project. Brief it might be, but a track like “Echolocation,” for example, is very much capable of inducing an entranced swoon the moment that dazzling interplay appears.

November 2017