After-hours Atlanta is an unsavory place. The weekend warriors have fled to the suburbs, the real nightcrawlers are out and about, and the bar staff lets its hair down to get their own party started, which is right where the Constellations' debut CD, Southern Gothic, picks up.
The studio project-turned-full-fledged band – rounded out by core members Devin Donnelly, Elijah Jones and Ben H. Allen – envisioned Southern Gothic as a freak ride into the underbelly of late-night Atlanta. "We wanted to capture those dark and dingy places that you see at 4 or 5 in the morning," explains Allen, who is best known for his studio work with artists such as Christina Aguilera, Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective.
Southern Gothic is a slick pop album, released on Allen's Make Records Not Bombs label. Throughout each song, vocalist Jones channels the spirit of a deranged and street-hardened bard spouting off tales of drugs and urban depravity over a web of intense back beats and a confident disco swagger.
Songs like "Love Is Murder" (featuring Cee-Lo) and "Take A Ride" are sonically complex numbers that rely on simple harmonics. A barrage of syncopated beats and rhythms bound from song to song, creating the illusion of a wall of sound that disguises the minimal two- and three-chord structures. "The idea was to write songs that we could play on just a piano or that we could play with 12 people on stage and still have them be compelling," says Allen.
The centerpiece of the album is a revision of Tom Waits' song "Step Right Up," where Jones leads a roller-coaster ride through Atlanta locales, name-dropping door guys, bartenders and DJs at the Drunken Unicorn, El Myr, the Star Bar and all points in between.
"Blondie from the Clermont Lounge is as much of a character in the Constellations' story as anyone else," he says.
The Constellations' CD release party, with the Selmanaires and Judi Chicago. $5. 9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 9. Highland Inn Ballroom, 644 N. Highland Ave. 404-874-5756, ext. 450. www.myspace.com/highlandinnloungeatlanta.
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