By Matthew Romano
The highly creative collaboration from Paul McArdle and Zack Brinn has welcomed a refreshing form of new alternative rock music to New York State. The duo operate as Exit Atlas just releasing their new record The Unknown. The writing, production, and instrumentation for the album were composed in the state and sent to Nashville for finishing touches. The two Canandaigua natives have been collaborating for twenty years. This project came to life in the past two years.
Paul McArdle has spent this time as a guitarist on the Nectars stage circuit scene of the Northeast and Austin, Texas. When Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa formed his solo project, he told NYS Music “Without exaggeration, Paul is one of my favorite guitar players ever, and a huge influence for me, so I’ve always wanted to put something together with him” Paul sat in with Dopapod for a killing cover of the Derek Trucks tune “Kickin Bach” at a special leap year show dated 2/29/20 at the sold out Anthology venue in Rochester, NY. Monroe County’s Steve Gadd told NYS Music the secret of any great gig: “If you can trust the audience is hearing it the way you are, it gets to a spiritual level. In Japan or wherever you are. That’s the goal.”
Paul’s signature tone can be heard on acoustic and electric guitar for every track as part of Exit Atlas. It’s no wonder that Zack Brinn who wrote all the lyrics and handles vocals for The Unknown wanted to weave them with McArdle’s musical style. Zack also takes care of the bass lines, drums, keyboards, programming and synthesizers. Brinn sprinkled some Brian Eno-like ambient sound trails on certain numbers as well.
Zack’s vocal tones are reminiscent of Peter Gabriel from inside the studio. His lyrics on “Annual” also set a familiar vibe, “The autumn sun it falls behind hills and we can watch it go down from here, we are safe, we are home.”
The production on this album reflects the same quality credits as a Peter Gabriel record. Listen for the various textures placed inside “Rain Chant.” The ticking clock intro on “Your Job” immediately addresses the time sacrificing your real dreams for the often required conformity to the machine. The song’s music video has an animation concept that Roger Waters would appreciate.
The seize the day feeling is grasped by the duo from an “Old Park Bench”… “I don’t believe in luck we’re given a choice each new day… sitting here on this old park bench I sing it out like millions are with me. We’re gonna make it.“
The walk from the bench into the great wide open is captured on “Make Some Memories”. Zack’s words resonate, “Time to throw caution to the wind, we’re going on an adventure for the ages, don’t you have a worry about a thing, look around at all your friends waiting.” And very fitting for Halloween, “Did you think I couldn’t tell? Put that costume on the shelf.“
The title track to the The Unknown album starts the record full circle for you, “When the past is knocking on the door, the present comes collecting tolls. A bright future seems to come and go. It’s the only place to stake our hope.” Brinn’s vocals bounce off McArdle’s chilling riff like Chris Cornell on Soundgarden’s 1994 Superunknown album.
Paul McArdle and Zack Brinn told NYS Music the origin of the duo’s name came from the expression “To carry the weight of the world on one’s shoulders.” This comes from the Greek myth of Atlas as his sculpture represents. Exit Atlas new album is a way to help relieve the beast of burden for the unknown scenes that lie ahead for us all.
It’s clear during this record it’s a coming of season combination of the duo’s life and music from the past two decades. In similar style Peter Gabriel officially put out his Woodstock 94’ live set last year with Rochester’s Tony Levin on bass. He is releasing his first studio record since 2002 next year. Twenty years seems to be a good time frame to let great art come to its musical fruition.
Key Tracks: Your Job, The Unknown, Make Some Memories