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Given all the hype regarding the Saddle Creek sound and bands coming out of Nebraska, I think that the world has grown used to artists having a certain sound after hearing that they hail from the area. Cathari is a band that moves in a completely different direction than most would expect given their geographical location, but like so many other bands from the area, it would be amiss to overlook them simply because of their lack of any affiliation with the major buzz label.

Interestingly enough, one of the easiest reference points in comparison for the group is to say that they sound like something you might hear on the Projekt label. With a mixture of programmed and live rhythms, dense soundscapes, and ethereal vocals they make music that unfolds slowly and is content to draw in the listener with subtle changes. The strangely-titled first track of "Astrological Clock Fortells The Return Of Satan" opens with a soundscape that sound directly from the early 90s as dark synth washes sweep over guitar and keyboard melodies while a low-end pulse helps keep things grounded. About halfway through, the track deconstructs before again building up with a slow 4/4 kick drum and other distorted percussion while shards of electronics splinter out from the seams.

After the long instrumental opening track, the group moves into a slightly more song-oriented sound structure on "Popeholder," as singer Morgan Solomon adds breathy vocals to the thick mix of filtered live percussion and thick synths. The group is actually at their best when they keep their noodling side under control. "$8.58" is a lovely dreampop gem with waves of synths and pretty guitars over a throbbing beat, while the long album closer of "Everything Before, After, And Since" builds nicely with warm strums of guitar and subtle layers of synth over hollowed-out beat programming.

On the other side of things, tracks like "1 Minute of 10" don't add much to the release. With a percolating electronic sound that pulses for nearly a minute before dropping out to a hushed silence, it provides a definite mid-point to the album, but not much else while the unfortunately-titled "Abortion Party" starts out with what sounds like a dated soundtrack song for a post-industrial film before drifting into a beautiful closing section with a buzzing rhythm section and filtered guitars. For a debut disc, Cathari is definitely doing some interesting things, especially considering they sound nothing like most of the music coming out of the same region geographically. If you're into dark ambient/downtempo with a touch of dreampop, this is a release to check out.

Rating: 6.5