Newark Wilder’s debut album Vanessa Atalanta (The Cottage Recording Co.) is a diverse cornucopia of psychedelic punk that utilizes sneering guitars, punchy basslines, steadfast drums, and the swagger of frontman Benjamin Kinzer. Kinzer, a classically trained cellist, is the ringleader of the rambunctious outfit that includes Atlanta luminaries Nadir Baaset, Rebecca Flax (Young Sirens), and Gibby Ruby.
Vanessa Atalanta was produced by Luciano Giarrano at the infamous East Atlanta hideaway The Cottage. The now 17-year-old Kinzer was specifically drawn to The Cottage because “I knew that Small Reactions and Gold Bears had recorded at The Cottage, and they're two of my favorite Atlanta bands, so I thought I'd just try it. [ . . . ] it all just worked out really well.”
It certainly did. From the opening 6/8 shimmer of “Tint/Shade” through the triumphant coda of “There is no blue without you,” Vanessa Atalanta is a record as bombastically rich as it is dynamically complex.
Songs like “Stephen Loves My Eyes” and “Atalanta” hearken back to bands like Can and Joy Division. In “Stephen Loves My Eyes” Kinzer feverishly sings “I don’t have much time /you may need it and I don’t mind”. The song feels like a late night hook-up—intense, liberating, exhilarating. “Atalanta” kicks off with an explosion of guitars that culminates in an acrobatic instrumental section swarming with feedback, delayed guitar trills, and the pulse of Baaset’s kick and snare.
However, tracks like “Pharma Girl” display the band’s versatility. “Pharma Girl” opens with an XX-style bass and drum machine groove underscoring Kinzer’s vocal “I want to leave a little light in my head / at all times / feel my arms racing down your spine / feel it like a knife.” Drawing on Kinzer’s classical roots, “Nemo,” in contrast, provides a brooding respite to the album. At its instrumental apex, “Nemo” moves like a submarine that’s looming over a shipwrecked oceanliner—exploring the marine underworld in the same way that post-rock outfits like Explosions in The Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor defined the limits of the galaxy.
Vanessa Atalanta is a record that is deeply influenced by the city of Atlanta. Kinzer says “[Atlanta] has such an urban and cement aesthetic, but it's also so full of trees and greenery. I think that's really influenced the way I write. I always try to create a really strong technical basis, like the cement part of it; a groundwork that some would say, would be more technical and sharp, but then I try to flesh it out with broader brush strokes of deeper melodic color.”
released March 18, 2016
All songs written by Benjamin Kinzer. Recorded at The Cottage in Atlanta.