Canvas Solaris - Penumbra Diffuse - Sensory Records 2006
Running Time: 48:42
After the scattered, disjointed Sublimation, I kind of wrote off Georgia's Canvas Solaris. Sure, the talent was in abundance, but all the technical ability in the world doesn't mean shit if you can't make a song memorable. Bands like CurlUpAndDie and, to a more psychotic extent, Ion Dissonance packed their songs with all the inverted time signatures and H Diminished 7ths the slide-rule metal contingent could ever want, but at the same time, there were songs. On Sublimation, Canvas Solaris simply didn't have that unnameable factor that made me want to return for subsequent listens. And thus, when CS's second full-length, Penumbra Diffuse, arrived, hopes were not high.
I must've been, though, for letting this album sit around so long. The year or so away has been kind and beneficial to Canvas Solaris, the gods of prog/jazz/instruMetalosity smiling down upon their sons, and upon Penumbra Diffuse. Not nearly as clean-toned as Dysrythmia, yet not as infused with backwoods brawl as Karma To Burn, the ground upon which CS trod is as influenced by The Mars Volta as it is Mahavishnu Orchestra. Warped jazz bass is sideswiped by a Fantomas-style guitar freakout in opener 'Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo', and a MicroMoog synth rides atop the loping, fluid groove of 'Horizontal Radiant', conjuring the ghost of early 70s Alan Parsons Project before staccato riffwork slices and dices the mellowness into something much more metal-friendly. Still, before too long, the abrasive guitars give way to the full-bodied sound of 12-string acoustics and the return of the MicroMoog to the forefront. It was with the expansive, meandering 'Horizontal Radiant' that I realized Canvas Solaris had found "it". Around forty-five seconds into 'Accidents In Mutual Silence', the band latches onto this hokey Southern rock groove and hangs with it for just long enough to lock it into your head, and make you absurdly thankful when it returns later on in the song. It's catchy, and over the 4:15 course of 'Accidents...', I caught them returning to that deep-fried groove at least two more times with subtle variations. Lush acoustics bring a Middle Eastern tone to 'Vaihayasa', recalling some of The Tea Party's more esoteric side, or maybe Dead Can Dance's earlier work.
Thundering timpani, castanets, and a host of other ethnic percussive instruments stand out, to make 'Vaihayasa' a welcome respite from the fractured delivery of much of Penumbra Diffuse. 'To Fracture' finds liquid basslines and a guitar synthesizer sharing the road with one of the two songs here to feature a standard drumset and not much else in the way of rhythm. Not to say that all these strange instruments and 70s prog references mean that CS has forgotten their metal roots, though. Far from it, to which the aggressive attack found in 'Psychotropic Resonance' will attest.
Penumbra Diffuse ends with the epic-length 'Luminescence', and is the song I'd like most to hear lyrics to, if I were given the chance. Everything good about the album thus far can be found within the borders of this song, so I'll save the lengthy description, and leave you with these parting words. Penumbra Diffuse isn't an album of background music. It's an album made to be digested, and album to challenge both musical genre and artistic preference. Well, they've made a fan of me at least, when it comes to instrumental music, that's not an easy thing to do.