'Atoms': Platon Karataev shed softer, indie-rock sound for a darker and louder style on introspective record
The group have already been making waves internationally owing to their deeply emotional music, and with their latest record, they've taken their sound to a whole new level
Platon Karataev takes a side-step from their usual softer, acoustic sound with their latest LP, 'Atoms', which unravels a loud, complex journey of soul-searching and growth. Formed in 2016 and comprising of members Gergely Balla, Soma Bradák, Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly, and László Sallai, Platon Karataev (named after a Leo Tolstoy character), the Budapest-based band has gone on to build an international following owing to their soft, indie-rock sound. Their first single, 'Elevator', grabbed the attention of critics and new listeners alike, landing them on Spotify’s German and UK Viral Top 50 playlists. The band's debut EP 'Orange Nights', released not long after they formed, dropped to critical acclaim and catapulted them to fame, as they became one of the most-streamed Hungarian acts. Since then, Platon Karataev has continued to build a steady following online, while also earning their spot on several major stages, including being selected as an INES#talent in 2019 as well as playing at major Hungarian festivals last year.
'Orange Nights', with its soft instruments and vocals is wonderfully atmospheric and dreamy, transporting the listener to a quiet space that allowed for making peace with one's own emotions, both good and bad. It makes for an extremely welcome sound in a world filled with chaos. But instead of doubling down on that sound and similar lyrical themes, Platon Karataev opted to go a different route, diversifying their sound and delving deeper into the psyche with the themes they explore on 'Atoms'.
"'Atoms’ is about searching after our innermost self and also about questioning everything," states the band. "Throughout the songs, there is a sense of falling - either towards our self or away from it. Catharsis is a key idea in the album, something one experiences when approaching the inner self, the core. During the past two years, we have experienced this while writing the songs of this LP. The album itself reflects a sort of emptiness, focusing on states of abandonment and the sense of floating. It also resolves an anxiety stemming from questioning former values. A neverending wrestle with transcendent beings as we are all 'splinters in God’s numb palm'."
Right from opener 'Ex Nihilo' it is abundantly clear this isn't the Platon Karataev we're used to hearing. With bits of electronica seeping in and heavier guitar riffs, all paired with layered vocals that are similar to yet not quite the same as what the band has used in the past, the song has echoes of their older sound without being obviously the same. To that end, it's a metamorphosis, one that mirrors the album's thematic elements of confronting one's innermost self: Platon Karataev has faced their own identity and pushed themselves to grow from that space into something quite interesting. Title track 'Atoms' is quite a nostalgic listen with a sound that takes it back to indie-rock of the 2000s era backdropping the theme of lonely, maddened souls battling a cold world to make their way to each other, even if they have no idea what to expect. The song is wonderfully topical, and everything from the energetic instrumentation to the solemn vocals perfectly reflects what the world feels like right now.
From there on, the songs take on a more somber sound, and though slower in sound are still distinctively different from 'Orange Nights'. 'Psalmus' is a standout with its lyrics that reflect the exhaustion that follows a long fight -- a "dead heart" that serves no purpose other than to be offered up to the ones we've hurt or sacrificed to "the Lord." Following track 'Aphelion' is one of the musical standouts of the album, bringing together the group's developing sound and emerging thematic elements together seamlessly. 'Wolf Throats' is another musical standout, a slow burn that builds from a soft start to a loud, wild end. Closer 'Valaki jár a fák hegyén', a cover of a Kaláka track, is an epic, dark way to end this release and branches out from the dark indie-rock sound of the rest of the album to something almost gothic in its presentation.
Overall, this is a solid release from Platon Karataev. It might not be exactly what fans may have expected from the band, but it wonderfully captures their growth as writers and musicians in addition to making it hard to predict what direction of the indie-rock sphere they'll experiment with next. And that makes going along with them on their musical journey quite an interesting prospect.