Atlas Maior

Independent release, 2015

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Although they reside from Austin, Texas, the trio of Atlas Maior sounds more like citizens of the world with their American Jazz, Middle Eastern influences, and Latin American propensities. Interestingly, the title of this second EP, Keyif, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is a Turkish word that, loosely translated, means enchantment and delight.

Although there are just three songs here, they are all long and full of unique instrumentation. Often dominated by an oud (the Middle Eastern version of an acoustic guitar), there are also flutes, double bass, and alto saxophones that are used with more typical noisemakers to yield hypnotic, robust melodies and unorthodox rhythms.

“Bete Noire” starts off the EP with light percussion and deep bass before the acrobatic saxophones and light strings engulf the tune. On one hand, the song is indebted much to classic American jazz, but there is also a distinct traditional Arab sound between the bursts of bright saxophone solos.

The middle song, “Cynthia's Tears,” is a softer mix of saxophones and strings, with a cryptic feeling that begs to be played at night, especially since it sounds like there are crickets chirping in the background. Halfway though the song, the calm percussion enters the scene, making this the most groove-oriented offering on the EP.

“Raqs Laylah” rounds out the listen with an upbeat, danceable anthem and plenty of solos hovering over Turkish and Arab rhythms. Ted Camat contributes astonishing work on the dumbek, and it's no surprise that this song's arrangement usually soundtracks a belly dance.

Apparently the band has toured extensively in Turkey, but they've also been recognized in their hometown with Atlas Maior day on March 27th, 2014. This EP is a very compelling and interesting combination of Arab, Turkish, and jazz sounds; there's a subtle power here that's about as far from what most of us expect coming out of Austin, Texas in 2017, and it's refreshing.

Rating: B

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