Ativin is an instrumental group that formed in the winter of 1994 when guitarist Chris Carothers first met drummer Rory Leitch. Although originally conceived as a two piece, guitarist Dan Burton joined in the spring of 1995. The threesome began writing songs and touring in the Midwestern United States throughout 1995. In April of 1996 the band recorded the five song Pills Versus Planes CD EP with Steve Albini and Carl Saff. In December of 1996 Polyvinyl Records released the EP. Secretly Canadian quickly followed up the EP in February of 1997 releasing the "Modern Gang Reader" 7". The single showed the band departing from the aggression and distortion of Pills Vs. Planes and focusing more on rhythm and structure. During the summer of 1997 the band embarked on an East Coast tour with Seattle's Roadside Monument. In October of 1997 the band entered the studio with Andy Bryant and recorded the seven song LP German Water. Using added elements of organ, tapes and space Ativin has created an organic sounding album of shifting rhythms and tension.
Ativin's second full-length -- and first in 2 1/2 years -- is one ass-kicker of a record. Dan Burton and Chris Carothers have that rare chemistry which makes one question any auteurist theories, and in their stead seek out the magic that can come only with the process of collaboration. On INTERIORS, we get to watch as Ativin learns and then utters new languages, then reminisces with old. Yes, there are driving rock songs that have that signature Ativin groove, but they also have the more atmospheric moments which careen headlong into METAL MACHINE MUSIC territory and onward into campfire sing-alongs for dope-freaks. There is indeed some singing on this album, and thank goodness for that, as Carothers (who hasnÃ•t sung on record since the first Ativin EP PILLS VS. PLANES from 1996) and Burton (who also sings with his other band Early Day Miners) truly have something to say. Indeed, Burton and Carothers are two ships which pass in the night and annihilate weather patterns in the process. The album was recorded at Burton's Grotto Home Studio in the heat of the Indiana summer. Kevin Duneman (the Race, chiseldrillhammer) was enlisted as drum czar. INTERIORS is bound to tickle fans of everything from This Heat to Stars of the Lid to Zeni Geva.
An intentional homage to the world of horror literature and film, Night Mute is Ativin’s ten song exploration into the themes of death, hopelessness, and fear. On it, the band has created a concise and harrowing sonic vision rooted in their trademark foundation of dirge and repetition of the guitar/guitar/drums. With emphasis placed on deconstructing the music back to its barest elements, the band has pulled away from the "spacious" and cinematic side of the Summing the Approach EP and last year's Interiors. Song titles and lyrical content reinforce the notion that this could be a subtle, disconnected soundtrack for terminally ill patients lying in wait behind closed doors. Guitarists and songwriters Dan Burton and Chris Carothers relish in the deconstruction of their own music. “Night Terror”, “Drink This”, “Concentrate” and “Blood” are each meticulously honed razorblade attacks nodding to a return to the Ativin of yore — angular instrumental rockers like those on which the band waged war on earlier albums. The addition of expert, marksmen style drumming from Mark Rice (the Impossible Shapes, John Wilkes Booze) propels Burton's and Carothers' spiraling, schizophrenic guitar interplay into a nightmare space where few, if any, musical acts have gone before. Taking a look at Ativin's sordid past, one will see that there is more to their music then the late '90s post rock explosion from whence they came. In fact, Night Mute shows a stake in the divergent corners of the outsider canon. Echoes of Durutti Column, Unsane, Tones On Tail, Keiji Haino, and Organum can be heard throughout. Their sober take of the early Love & Rockets tune “The Game”, for instance, finds Burton front & center at the microphone, slowly reeling in on what feels like a Philip K. Dick gothic folktale.
Ativin have received a lot of shit for supposedly sounding like Slint. That's the truth. If you read all the reviews they have garnered, you may read the word "slinstrumental" more than once. But all that adds up to is lazy post-college scribes who just want to hawk freebies for those Dexter's Cigar reissues. Far from slintstrumental, Summing The Approach is more plain mental. More PÅ“rt and Gorecki than McMahan and Walford, the four songs clock in a smudge under 30 minutes and expand further out than their debut full-length from last year, German Water. Indeed more like a spilled bong, it stretches out into a blurry haze. But it's not stoner rock. Sure it has its spacy elements, but the Ativin guys are far too straight-laced to bear such a distinction. On Summing The Approach's four songs, guitarists Dan Burton and Chris Carothers sway their guitar drone back and forth over Rory Letich's drumming. The groove heard on German Water and their "Modern Gang Reader" 7" is still there, just submerged. Just like most of their Indiana friends who will crank up "Cy" as they burnout in vacant parking lots with shit weed. The trio recorded these songs back in March of 1998 with Steve Albini before slumming their way state to state on an exhausting tour. And the rumors about a split 7" with Roadside Monument are false. Stop calling about it.