Atra Aeterna Epoch

Admittedly my review of Atra Aeterna’s (aka Zach Mitchell) first album, Blackgrounds, might’ve been a tad harsh. To his credit, the bedroom electronic producer called it "fair” and bounced back with an even more capable effort: Epoch. (Somewhere in between he released an EP called Luminarie that I have yet to hear.) While I likened Blackgrounds to composer Clint Mansell because of its similarly cold and melancholic electronic compositions –— and because Mitchell unabashedly took his name from a Mansell track from Requiem for a Dream — Epoch is a much warmer record, pushing electronic elements to the background, allowing sprightly piano melodies and distinctly punctuated beats to fill the space. While I hate to draw the comparison between him and Moby, it’s difficult not to hear the similarities on "Cold Soldier” and the title track, as drums echo along to an orderly procession of piano, synthesisers and strings. Thanks to Play and every follow-up since, Moby’s placed his inedible mark on this particular combo and it’s hard to shake the comparison. Similarly, Mitchell creates movements rather than songs, softly introducing one element after the next then removing them one by one in much the same way. It can be formulaic at times, but when the compositions are this beautiful, who the hell cares? Epoch is Mitchell’s second full-length in a very short time. As promising and prolific as he is, what’s this guy got to do to score a record deal? (Independent)