Robert Slap, Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World

slap_atlantMy confession: This review is quite late in coming because Robert Slap caught me on a day where my professed—and untoward—bias against the use of overt New Age tropes was turned to high. I saw the word “Atlantis” and the Papyrus font, and I thought, here we go again. So I nudged it over to the no-thanks pile. Fast forward to me putting together a recent podcast episode, shuffling the music in my library, and this quite good, if obviously New Age, track comes on, and it’s Robert Slap. So here’s the review. Yes, Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World, the final installment in Slap’s story of the lost kingdom, has its very, very New Age moments and does wander a bit into too-sweet or too-melodramatic territories for me, but there’s also some very good work here. Slap has spent his life in the music industry and worked as a backing player for a lot of musicians, so he’s got his chops. In fact, it was the guitar work on “Healing Temple” that brought me around for a fresh listen. Outside of the 12-minute opening track, “Crystal Chamber,” the steps in this journey run just four to six minutes, so Slap offers up a change of scene quite often. “Crystal Chamber” is heavy on flute and pads, with a steady sequencer line running beneath it. Although most of the flute work skews toward a Native American or Andean feel, Slap throws a few jazzy trills into the mix for fun, which also helps keep this track from getting static. There’s a fair amount of world influence throughout the album. The crisp, warbling plucks of Eastern strings fill “Wizard’s Journey” with charm, but the piece almost loses me at its mid-point. It rears up at what I’m sure is a narratively appropriate moment, like some point of arrival or discovery, and delivers a symphonic burst that’s just too overdone for me. I feel like Slap could have eased from one section of this solid track to the next without the bombast. It’s minor compared to the title track, which is so loaded with it from the start that I simply don’t enjoy it. Again, from a theme standpoint, it probably works fine. It’s meant to be big and dramatic. For me as a listener, it’s just too much of both. I prefer the pieces that leave the drama behind. “Voices From the Past” is a striding, cool tune filled with bright, round tones almost like kalimba or dulcimer, laid out in separate, complementary sequencer lines. Light hand percussion, synth vocal pads, and more flute round the piece out. Something in it puts me in mind of Shadowfax’s “New Electric India.” The biggest draw for me is the piece that pulled me back in, “Healing Temple.” It slips in on a bass drone and echoing, crystalline tones. Acoustic guitar and flute take the forefront; the flute here is snakey and lithe. Midway through, Slap lays down a guitar solo against a slow-moving backdrop of pads and sharp percussion. I honestly wish more of this style of playing had found its way into the mix.

Out in the world beyond my opinion, Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World is resonating with New Age listeners. It’s been ranked highly on the Zone Music Reporter charts, which means it’s been getting airplay on New Age outlets. I’ve seen fit to include it in my own podcast as well. There’s good music here, especially if you’re predisposed to a heavy New Age style, and I like it more when Slap dials down the melodrama. I think that while it may enhance the story, for me as a listener, it interrupts the experience. However, for some—perhaps many—this trip to Atlantis will be worth taking.

Available from Robert Slap’s web site.

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