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ANTA – Centurionaut

Thrones & Dominions

Anta - Centurionauttl;dr – the sort of prog album that’ll tickle prog-fanciers silly, and the sort of album that sounds enough like not-prog to get the less proggy involved.

ANTA, née Snakes on a Plane, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate being reminded of. Second album, but they’re all been around Bristol and Bath for something like a thousand years in something like a million bands, many of which were brilliant but under-recognised (Loxondonta anyone? Thought not)

I’m in the position of being aware of the various members’ work for a fair while now, and I’m while much of their work was great, Centurionaut is a MASSIVE step up for them. It’s always been a case of “yeah, that’s alright, I’d punt a fiver on that,” even with ANTA’s first album (The Equine Tree that Bears Fruit), but Centurionaut is a full-on HOW THE FUCK DID THEY BECOME UTTERLY FUCKING INCREDIBLE moment on first listen.

A sentiment that persists.

ANTA were, for quite a few people, one of the bands that nailed Supernormal 2012. Loads of people were wandering around going “did you see those hairy prog fuckers? Wasn’t expecting the opening band of the day to be the best.” A kind of a turning point in their narrative – they were offered a record deal on the back of the show (Centurionaut ended up self-released) and I reckon it gave them a bit of push to really concentrate on making an amazing second album. Narrativising mixed with guesswork is always dangerous, blah pinch of salt blah.

So here’s the thing – there’s no real thing as ‘alchemy’ in music. There’s quite a lot of luck. But luck only goes so far. What ANTA have in their favour, massively, is at least two members who know the fuck out of studios and amps. Joe Garcia (who’s won awards for his bass gurn – truly, a thing of exceptional splendour) has the sort of rig that you could bury a standing army with and is one of Bristol’s finer sound techs. Jedward ‘the Lion’ King (drums) has been behind the mixing desk – live and recording – for an astonishing array of bands. So when the band set out to record, there was minimal chance of it turning into a ‘nice idea, shame about the recording’ element. It’s a great record, but it’s really important to note that they’re not some folk who’ve magically found the right combination of instruments and people – these folk have been dogging around shithole venues for yonks.

One of the better things about this record is a personal thing – after all the unfortunate timings and lost members, ANTA have turned in a record that’s seriously worth listening to.

Ah, but the sounds! So it’s a lean one – about 40 minutes or so. There’s plenty of time signature changes and strange modes, but never into the realm of prickish music student. Penultimate track “Canatophium I” clocks in at 10 minutes and manages to segue between post-rockish washes to (Deep) Purplish plonking to some heavy doomery, all neatly and seamlessly tucked in with the delicacy of new parents. There’s a load of melodic interplay between keywizard Alex Bertram-Powell and guitarsmith Stephen Kerrison – some nice and really smart cross-rhythms and augmenting each others lines (see particularly on “Helepolis”).

Of course, there’s a million instrumental bands that are a bit proggy doing the rounds, so I’m going to hazard that what sets this out from the rest is that they don’t really scrimp on anything – there’s not a flimsy flam sound to the whole thing, the gongs all sing out, the guitar lines are penetrating but not tinny, the basslines are thick enough to make a carpenter weep. In spite of being prog, there’s no sense of over-egging ideas ‘just because’ this most of the songs clock in over 6 minutes. A heavy riff isn’t ever a heavy riff for effect – it’s fucking heavy like a broad-ranging sewer-prolapse. Topping it all off, it’s available in a gorgeous gatefold LP with slightly repulsive speckly vinyl for rates that scream ‘reasonable’.

Have you bought it yet? Good, do so. Remind me to give you a biscuit as a reward next time I see you.

-Kev Nickells-

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