Review: Atoms and Void: And Nothing Else

And Nothing Else is a case study of the virtue of patience. Over its ten year creation, process and multiple recording attempts (after various thefts and technical mishaps) it’s clear that Arlie Carstens and Eric Fisher, the original team behind Atoms and Void, are in no rush. And, if you are, move along. With only two solid members but the musical input of over twenty musicians, collaborative project Atoms and Void are the musical manifestation of the expression ‘good things come to those who wait’.

Three minutes into the album it becomes clear that Atoms and Void are not easy listening – played as background music it’s easy to dismiss and will go straight over your heads, but giving Atoms and Void some time and concentration pays off immensely. ‘The Architect and the Atomizer’ is a phenomenal opening track, potentially the best on the album, and leads perfectly into second ‘Lay Down Your Weapons’ with its stunning, breathy vocals and captivating blend of psychedelia and classic piano.

‘Feathers From A Bird’, whilst perfectly suited to accompany a black and white film in which a Victorian lady wanders aimlessly in some countryside, doesn’t really seem to contribute anything to And Nothing Else as a whole, and serves as a sort of unwanted interruption before ‘Waves of Blood’, which sets us straight back on track with the dramatic, atmospheric melodies of the first two songs.

Midway through the album, ‘For Sharon, With Love’ is a short, simple love song that verges on the repetitive and, with borderline cliché lyrics like “nobody knew you like I knew you”, again contributes very little to the album in its entirety.

‘Golden Shivers’ is an instrumental piece that, while nothing ground-breaking in itself, serves to build anticipation for the remaining half of the album, and does it well.

Back to the interesting stuff: ‘Destroyed, the Sword of Saint Michael’ challenges the opening track for best song on the album, while managing to be so fundamentally different it is difficult to believe they both exist on the same album. Vocals are rarely found with Atoms and Void so they give this beautiful tale a successful standout quality, as with ‘Virginia Long Exhale’, which is also wonderfully immersive and somewhat haunting.

‘The Earth Countered’ and ‘Lowercase Blues’ bring down the tone and creates an uneasy, almost uncomfortably intense vibe towards the end of the album. Considering the eclectic, varied jumble of songs on And Nothing Else, the track order is extremely well thought through, taking the listener somewhat logically through multiple different genres until the final two tracks which blend effortlessly into one another, with a refreshing tone that leaves behind a beautiful yet inexplicable sense of optimistic reflection.

In a nutshell, And Nothing Else is an experiment. Experiments sometimes work, and sometimes don’t. Sometimes they discover something extraordinary and sometimes they tell us things we already know. Atoms and Void have somehow managed to condense all these possibilities into an extremely complex and interesting album, that you owe it to yourself to experience.

Abigail Herbert

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