The Black Atlas – Equinox

The Black Atlas

The best kind of art is the kind that you don’t understand. Well, the only true art is not understood. A form of art that is completely understood is just a more creative form of direct communication. Yes, it’s true that even if the art is easily digestible, most people don’t truly understand what it’s trying to convey unless they make the choice to invest in such understanding.

The best art makes you wonder. Although, there is the all too typical reaction that comes with something that isn’t easily understood: “that’s weird.” In reality, even if you’re just interacting with someone one-on-one, the best way to capture their attention is to do something they don’t understand. If you listen to a song and it makes you think, “What does that mean?” and it eventually has you rewinding the song multiple times in an attempt to decipher its meaning and even thinking of it many hours after you last heard it, that song is memorable. The songwriter has sank a creative anchor in your brain and kept that song on your mind simply because you don’t understand it.

The Black Atlas is this kind of songwriter. The entire experience of this musical project from the album art (which is worthy of being on a Tool album) to the cryptic lyrics and ambient music made me wonder. The Black Atlas is the work of a musician from New York City named Peter Koronios. The debut EP from The Black Atlas titled The Other (Volume I of The Equinox) was recorded with Koronios performing on all instruments, according to the project’s Bandcamp site. I’m not sure if The Black Atlas is yet a full band as I’ve only read it described as a project, but Koronios has been touring with musicians under the moniker and has a few in studio live recordings posted on YouTube, which of course, feature a full band. Equinox (Volume III of The Equinox) was released in late 2015 according to Soundcloud. Devils (Volume II of The Equinox) was released last summer while The Other (Volume I) was released in late 2014 according to Bandcamp.

The Other (Volume I) is the most straightforward hard rock of the three EPs. Although, the keyboard work here adds more than enough dark, electronic ambience on its own with its haunting Jazz organ sounds in the verses to Rivers. Actually, almost everything about this track is haunting. With the exception of the chorus, the lead vocals are deep and robotic sounding, to the point of sounding closer to regular speech than singing. After the second chorus, the song shifts to a collage of samples and ambient sounds and never returns to the established verse/chorus pattern.

The last track is The Other. This song is a brilliant doom rock piece. The guitar work gloomily rings in the ears as the track slowly moves along. The lyrics are what I would imagine a manic-depressive would write in the midst of a particularly intense episode of hopelessness.

“This old and empty house
I aimlessly walk its halls
As I stare out the window
Framed by decaying walls
There are people hanging
Their clothes out on the lawn
There are pictures hanging
Of places I’ve never gone”

There are three tracks on each of the three EPs. Moonsong is the first song on the second EP, Devils. The experimentation is amped up here in comparison to the first EP. On Moonsong, almost the entire first two minutes are composed of the noise of multiple instruments including a tenor sax, which gives the track a distinctive Blues element. The bass starts the first solid rhythm of the song at just past 1:50. This, much like The Other, is a particularly depressing tune as it conveys a strong feeling of loneliness.

“One hundred nights of dreamless sleep
In a room with no windows
I couldn’t spend another night
In the Golden Green Hotel
I packed my bags and threw them in the fire I had made
I was alone, no one saw me there”

Black Milk is a heavily electronic song that begins with a beeping effect that is at one moment panned completely to the left speaker and the next moment panned entirely to the right speaker. This is a bit unpleasant with headphones as it made my head hurt after about 30 seconds of hearing it back-and-forth in both ears, it became dizzying in a way. However, listening through computer speakers is much more tolerable. This track also contains multiple clips of people speaking, nothing immediately identifiable, mostly just random clips of speech such as some guy saying, “don’t put your hand in that jar.” Despite the sonic irritation of the intro, Black Milk is one of the most laid back compositions on any of the EPs. The chorus is soothing with its gentle guitar strumming and uplifting vocals.

Again, Equinox (Volume III) is more atmospheric and artsy than the previous EP. There’s something almost spiritual about the way the vocals sound in the title track. The lead vocalist sounds like some otherworldly creature imparting profoundly important wisdom onto the human race. Musically, the song includes all the familiar elements: looped sounds, and subtle uses of the piano and guitar. The track also features some violin and female backing vocals. The female sings along with the lead vocalist in the chorus, which adds some brightness to an otherwise sullen sounding tune. The song ends with the female vocalist sweetly singing the chorus melody.

The Master is different from most all of the other songs on all three EPs due to it being more like a modern pop song than a dark, experimental electronica song. All I can say is that the song is catchy and a bit more mainstream in comparison to previous compositions. Maybe this is Koronios’ way of being experimental with his own sound.

Equinox is a great album for someone feeling burnt out on the same old music (much like myself). It will likely prove to be an interesting listen for those who have an open mind and a hunger for something new and different. It’s been said many times before that the simplest songs are the most memorable and ultimately, the most popular. This may be true in most cases, but in the case of The Black Atlas, complexity works because of an ability to be complex in ways that largely haven’t been seen before.

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