Canvas Solaris - Penumbra Diffuse
Sensory Records
Instrumental Tech/Prog-Metal
7 songs (48:42)
Release year: 2006
Canvas Solaris, Sensory Records
Reviewed by Ken

I am not a fan of instrumental albums.

Canvas Solaris was a name I began hearing after their Sensory debut, Penumbra Diffuse, was released this past January. The label website served me up an MP3 for the track “Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo” and I had to agree, this was a great track. A full album of this sort of thing, however, didn’t intrigue me one bit. Musically this band was very much like Zero Hour—one of the best bands I’ve heard in the past ten years—but I pretty much assumed an album's worth of this sort of instrumental music would bore me silly. So I closed the door on this band, or, rather, I tried to.

As time went on, people kept suggesting them to me. Canvas Solaris just wouldn’t go away. They were stalking me! Strangely enough, about two months ago I came across this album at a local record shop (Nuggets in Boston, Kenmore Square…GO!) for a whopping $2. I couldn't pass it up! It’s most definitely worth the $2, I thought. Sure enough, it was worth it; worth more, in fact.

Penumbra Diffuse is a damn good album. What I like most about it is the fact that the band doesn’t get excessive with anything, everything is precise. There is nothing self-indulgent about the songs, no excessive solos, noises or drumming to fill the space where vocals would normally be. While some songs are heavy, others are mellow with acoustic guitars and all manner of “non-heavy” instrumentation such as tabla, mandolin, clay drums and some light synthesizer work. It all flows seamlessly, melding metal with countless audio shapes and shifts that form a very solidly fused musical landscape. Precise.

Opening with “Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo,” the song bolsters some of the album’s heaviest moments, shifting from the riff-heavy sound of label mates Zero Hour to some tribal drum interludes to some slight keyboard-injected pyschedelia. “Accidents In Mutual Silence” and “To Fracture” are the closest relatives to “Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo,” both mixing heavy riffs propelled by odd (read awe-inspiring) time signatures and lighter moments that recall new age and electronic dub. “Vaihayasa” is a Middle Eastern and Latin-flavored jaunt told by 6- and 12-string acoustics, supported and carried by myriad percussive instruments. That percussive support is further extended to “Pyshotropic Resonance,” by definition an example of organized chaos, orderly disorder; the song is all over the map, discordant, and typical of what I usually fear with instrumental albums, though it strangely works within the more strict confines of the album as a whole. “Horizontal Radiant” and “Luminescence” are the album’s two epic tracks, the latter just a hair longer at an even 12:00. “Horizontal Radiant” shows itself from all angles, it’s heavy prog, it’s mellow prog (think Dan Swanö’s Unicorn releases), it’s got that new age vibe, rock, electronic undercurrents, synthesizers and percussion; a great song indeed. Not to be outshined, “Luminescence” takes a slightly subtler approach, it combines all the elements of “Horizontal Radiant,” but it’s an emotive song, it slowly builds itself up, crescendos, to only fall and rise again. Epic.

I still maintain my opinion of instrumental albums, I’ve heard too many for one band to convert me, but Canvas Solaris got through my defenses in a big way. I barely notice that there aren't any vocals, which is generally the biggest hurdle for me. Since buying Penumbra Diffuse I have purchased their Spatial/Design EP and Sublimation from their old label, Tribunal Records ($10 for both, plus $4 S&H), and I am equally as pleased with both of them. I’m not a complete convert, but I’m now more open to the possibility. I do, however, find myself thinking of how much more amazing this band would be with a vocalist—something they once had during the early days of the band—but at the end of the day Canvas Solaris really have no need for a vocalist, their music says enough, and it comes with a glowing recommendation.

AUDIO: Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Panoraminc Long-Range Vertigo, Horizontal Radiant, To Fracture and Luminescence
Ken quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Canvas Solaris that we have reviewed:
Canvas Solaris - Irradiance reviewed by Jaime and quoted 81 / 100
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There are 13 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:40 am
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