The Miami (US) based quintet Little Atlas was founded in 1997. On their second album “Surface Serene” the line up is as follows: Steve Katsikas (lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar and sax), Joanna Katsikas (backing vocals), Diego Pocovi (drums), Rik Bigai (bass) and Roy Strattman (guitar). Additional Musicians are Scott leamon (rhythm guitar on track 11) and Tom Vazquez (drums on tracks 2 and 11).
The first bars of "Faceless" (5:49) are not very impressive, but gradually this opening track develops into a representative song for the rest of the album. In essence it contains eleven excellent standard length rock songs, with influences of progressive and symphonic rock. All are adventurous compositions with very nice instrumental decorations. All songs sound refreshing and energetic and have a prime role for guitar and piano.
Steve Katsikas' vocals are a pleasure to listen to (please hold up your judgment on this until listening to more than just the opening track) and the nice piano arrangement, guitar licks and synthesizer solo give a good impression of the musical styles that have influenced this band. The second track "Surface Serene" (4:50) also contains some nice guitar licks, but is a more but nice ballad. In "Can I Find It" (7:34) the guitar licks and solos could well be played by Steve Howe and not only do the synthesizer solos and church organ parts remind of Yes, but so does the Caribbean touch of this song. The certainly not inconspicuously growling bass guitar in many of the songs also contributes to the regular reference to Yes.
Track 6 ."Honesty" (5:36), with its nice piano and guitar interlude followed by a few short guitar solos, featuring also organ and bass guitar, also falls into this category. The effective percussion in this piece return in the oriental sounding opening part of "Changeover" (6:40). The foundation of this varied ballad is a pleasant recurring theme played by piano and guitar. It features strong vocal harmonies and nice guitar chords and licks and some apocalyptical instrumental parts. "Dance'' (6:09) is a pleasant, rather funky piece, again with one of these nice old-fashioned synthesizer solos and the light-footed "Salmon Song" (4:23) also has an appealing melody. This is one of the few songs where the female background vocals of Joanna Katsikas are good audible.
The variation the album has to offer is once more demonstrated in tracks 8 "Momentary Thread" (5:26) and 9 "Collapsing" (4:20). The first one features classical piano and is more easy listening and modest, where in the latter the classical harpsichord and violin parts contrast sharply with heavy rock chords and soaring guitar and organ solos. With the atmospheric piece "Glacier" (3:57), followed by bonus track ''Shine'' (4:56) with an easy spacey guitar solo, the audio part of the album concludes. Next to this bonus track this so called enhanced CD also contains a track to be played on a computer. This multimedia feature offers a band presentation (although this didn’t´ t work on my computer) and also contains the song titles.
“Surface Serene” is a pleasant album to listen to. A fine and clear production, with each song showing a refreshing interpretation of modern pop/rock songwriting, based on the wealthy heritage of progressive and symphonic music.