“The Captain’s Name Was Death” by The Atlantic Manor
“I am proud to be lo-fi. I know of no other way.”
The above sentiment offered by R. Sell, the Miami based singer-song writer known as The Atlantic Manor, has so much heart it inspires. He rightly suggests that no matter your resources, you can find a way to record and circulate your music amongst a community of listeners. Over the last decade R. Sell has released 11 diy, lo-fi records under the The Atlantic Manor moniker and from the looks of it, this dude has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Sell strongly identifies with the American underground music scene whose beauty and authority comes from the pure motives and raw energy of those artists that dare to do something out of the ordinary. With complete disregard for the monotonous expectations of the cacophonous clamor of the music industry’s crony-capitalist regime, Sell envisions the American underground as a community and a movement that is required in order to maintain any semblance of genuine and authentic artistry within America’s broader music economy. Simply said the shear volume of work and the grit and guts with which this project has been engaged is awesome. But it must also be said to be problematic. Any record from one moment to the next can be said to have varying degrees of relevance, but I am unsure if this can be said of The Atlantic Manor’s 11th release The World Beneath This World is Brightening.
The record opens with lackadaisical strumming and a twisted child like voice singing what seems to be a satanic version of Old McDonald Had a Farm. The second track Vessels somewhat resembles Joy Division’s Atmosphere. It is a 14 minute long cyclical and meandering progression with muted and indistinct lyrics. The strategy of the track is the same as Velvet underground’s Heroine, a simple structure with vocals littering the staccato guitar notes, though the track never builds, it does not crescendo, and it does not really move a muscle from the first note until the last. The next song, Failing By the Second, begins with a muted strum subtly sounding in the background, and a metronomic back beat that is upfront and unwavering, save the occasional fill. The song is minor and brooding; it is haunted by guitar distortion that mimics the sound of a depressed whale song or the moan of steel beams that shift back and forth in some post-apocalyptic wind.
Like the majority of The Atlantic Manor’s music, The Captains Name Was Death is structured by the cyclical pattern of a few strummed chords. R. Sell’s voice is bloodshot with humility. The track just rolls along as tremolo accents and an inartful clean tone guitar solo dance with the synthesized sound of a wood saw song. The drums for DeathCrown, the epitome of diy recording, have Stephen Morris all over them, but it is at this very moment that R. Sell’s formulations become tired. The songs run into to each other, making it difficult to decipher one from the other. While Apple Dreams definitely has wistful qualities, these qualities are mere replications of what was heard for 14 minutes in Vessels. The songs may not be exactly the same, but some might say that one’s existence makes the other obsolete.
The World Beneath This One is Brightening, like the record itself, is out of sync and out of tune; it is a mélange of minor chords and baritone mud sack sadness that never really translates into anything. At this point it becomes clear that the record is limited in its depth. The transition from The World Beneath to The Good Son is astounding in its sameness. The closer is a 12 minute depressant that perhaps encapsulates Sell’s best effort. Black River Runs’ attempt to infuse various unorthodox sounds into the haphazardly strummed guitar backed by a syth drone is quite appealing. I have received much of Atlantic Manor’s back catalog and am eager to peruse the collection of songs. Like a second-hand store, The Atlantic Manor conceals the occasional diamond in the rough, but that gem is all too often embedded in throw away tracks. I understand that The Atlantic Manor wants to be profoundly productive—11 albums in 10 years—but I would say that the band/the song-writer would be very well served if they or he or whomever was more selective of the parts of themselves that they choose to exhibit; that is if they would like their community of listeners to grow.
Slow Drugs and Other Sorrows (2009)
On the Wrong Side of Saturday Night (2008)
All the Best Girls Have Winter Hearts (2007)
Sneaking Up on the Death Scene (2006)
The Trouble that You Left (2006)
Special is Dead (2005)
Failing by the Second (2004)
The Desperate Vibe of Emotional Devastation (2002)
The Hate We Get Going (2001)
When I am a Viking (2001)