Planar – Goodbye Atmosphere, Goodbye Traffic

Goodbye Atmosphere, Goodbye Traffic

On the surface, Goodbye Atmosphere, Goodbye Traffic is a minimalist, ambient album. I got about three or four albums like this the day this one came in the mail, and always wary of a style of music that tends to bore me, I listened to Planar because I respect and tend to enjoy Lujo Records’ releases. On first listen, I thought it was pleasant background music, the kind of thing I enjoy first thing in the morning when barely awake and trying to ease into my day. This led to further listens, and soon entirely new layers emerged.

Featuring members of The Silent Type, Gregor Samsa, and Tesserae, Planar recorded this album in 2002 as a three-piece band, using a simple drum machine and a few synthesizers. It amazes me that the band managed to convey so much and so many subtly hidden layers with such machinery, but it’s obvious that depth and talent resulted in Lujo re-releasing the effort. I’m extremely glad it found its way into my greedy hands.

True, the songs are quiet. They’re ambient, to an extent, but they’re also gently flowing and textured. Think a more subdued Tristeza, perhaps, with synths replacing guitars. On “Greater Than,” for example, the synths come across like gently played strings drifting behind Boards of Canada-esque light beats. Other tracks – especially the Greek alphabet-named interlude tracks that are long enough to stand on their own – are more quiet and ambient.

Vocal samples and bursts of quiet electronic fuzz are distributed throughout the album, giving songs like “Beta” a surreal, dreamy quality. The first actual vocals – soaring and lovely female vocals that blend nicely with the music – come in with “Square Root” and give the song a wonderfully rich sound. “Natural Log” is the most song-oriented song here, with the lovely female vocals over more traditional piano, but the whole track feels distant, and a wash of electronic sound gives the tune a chilled and subtle feel. And the closing “X,Y” feels very cool, drifting under an ambient synth wash and echoed vocals. The best moments of this 15-minute track, though, come about the 9:30 mark, when the beats pick up in intensity, the music gains a kind of weight from a slow build, and vocals come in nearly screaming but faded back enough to develop into an extremely interesting and effective technique.

Planar will surely appear to those who like the quiet nature of Boards of Canada-esque electronic music, as well as those who appreciate the synthetic nature of ambient music. There’s a lot going on in these quiet songs, but the music is still best served during those early morning or late-night hours. Dreamy and spacey, Goodbye Atmosphere is an excellent release.