The Royal Arctic Institute
From Catnap to Coma
Already Dead Tapes and Records
The Royal Arctic Institute are an instrumental combo made up of five veteran musicians who have spent years in other bands, as studio musicians and as hired road warriors. Members have played in Das Damen and with artists as varied as Roky Erickson, Arthur Lee, and Townes Van Zandt. Their name is a reference to the fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, and the music they make focuses on atmosphere and textures. For their latest effort, From Catnap to Coma, the band gathered in an old leatherworks factory in Hoboken with Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew acting as producer.
The record is structured as a suite with five sections. They encourage listeners to allow the music to carry them along as if they’re floating through a dream. The songs are melodic meditations featuring chiming guitars and shimmering keyboards. My imagination takes me to strange places. I imagine being lost in the stacks of a bibliophile planet when contemplating “Ghosts of the Great Library.” I imagine dwarves speaking backwards and David Lynch contentedly stroking a log in a grand salon. From Catnap to Coma is trippy in a very pleasant way.