When Kandinsky Effect saxophonist Warren Walker eventually settled in Paris, France, he struck up a friendship with guitarist Federico Casagrande. Between various projects, the two decided to run an experiment. Walker reached out to bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Caleb Dolister (the Kandinsky Effect) back in the States, seeing if they were interested in tagging along. The four of them eventually convened in a studio up in the freezing cold of Chamonix, France, giving themselves one week to see what they could do. They managed to make an entire album made up of modern sounds pulled from the jazz, post-rock, and slightly ambient genres. They named themselves oddAtlas and their self-titled debut finally sees the light of day after a year-and-a-half wait.
Those who have followed the Kandinsky Effect for the last ten years or so will have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for them. In his other band, which is a trio, Walker relies on a little bit of electronic manipulation to his saxophone to explore his options. In oddAtlas, he is one of two lead instruments. Casagrande and his electric guitar open up the texture considerably, switching between leads that flow with Walker and expansive chords to provide background. What Dolister and Minaie provide is purely in the spirit of what’s going on. It’s obvious that these guys don’t have any strict musical genre on the brain as they build the rhythms that drive each track.
High points? Well, each track feels like it was carved out from the same rock. That isn’t to say that the songs all sound the same, just that they are all of one mind (that and they were composed within a week). The melody line to “Sole” could come from a bluesy busker on the street, even if the rest of the band is doing something a great deal more intricate. Dolister’s shuffle under “Crooked” is a welcome change as Walker and Casagrande pursue their deliberately-paced melody together, the latter adding a delightfully arpeggiated solo.
The oddAtlas answer to a funky beat can be found on “Creepy Accordion, though Dolister and Minaie can’t help but tear little holes in the pocket from time to time. “Wooden Box” has its deranged saxophone effects and “deLappe” has its skewed guitar figure. “The Guardian” seems to combine a little bit of everything mentioned before (and a little more) in just over six minutes. Perhaps “The Guardian” is the high point after all.
But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. An album like oddAtlas is ripe for a deep listening, waiting for all of you to select a favorite track. Or you can just accept the whole package, hook, line & sinker. Either way, it’s a unique achievement that can stand alongside Kandinsky Effect’s finest albums.