Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., June 14, 2019
"You've never heard anything like this before" is a hoary cliche that's nearly never correct, but damned if it isn't true when it comes to Atlas Maior. The Austin quartet seemingly dreamed about a nexus between Middle Eastern music, Latin groove, and jazz, then created it instead of finding it. Riptide, the group's fourth full-length, leans forcefully on the first third of that equation, but calling a hypnotic raver like "Chamber of Mirrors" a weak pastiche on maqamat isn't accurate. Saxophonist Joshua Thomson improvises like he's sitting in with Pharaoh Sanders, while drummer Ted Camat adds a swinging foundation for dueling oudists Charlie Lockwood and Josh Peters. Though rarely in the foreground, Camat becomes the MVP, keeping things fresh with surf beats ("Nastaran"), cumbia ("Cumbia Raposa"), and even a rock thump ("Huzzam Hive, Pt. II"). Atlas Maior's alloy of Arabic melodies, jazz harmonies, and rhythmic eclecticism beats the noise of other so-called world fusion acts.