The debut effort by San Francisco's Carta, led by guitarist Kyle Monday (writer or co-writer of all the songs, and the only original bandmember left at the time of its release), finds the group well established in working in the realm of contemplative atmospherics. This isn't to say The Glass Bottom Boat is diaphanous new age or the like; rather, like many fine bands before it -- Joy Division, Low, Mogwai among others -- Carta seeks to use rock band instrumentation to emphasize reflective mood rather than simply traditional performance. Unlike many other predominantly instrumental rock acts of recent years, though, Carta are blessedly free of the go-nowhere dullardry that ended up giving post-rock a bad name -- the group's songs are all miniature portraits that benefit from careful variation within a generally propulsive structure. Credit goes to Sonny Culbertson's drumming for keeping it moving very well, while the combination of Monday, Jason Perez and Sarah Bell on various instruments results in a detailed lushness. From the start, with the stately "Kavan" and its core guitar melody added to chimes, trumpet and piano among other instruments, The Glass Bottom Boat lives up to the darkly beautiful cover art. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carta are very good with song conclusions, wrapping up each piece on a strong note, such as the almost shoegazed-out "Larva" and the brass-tinged "Legomenon." Songs where the arrangements are less busy let individual parts stand out beautifully together; "Burning Bridges" has a particularly elegiac feel to it while the lengthy title track, with its unsettled but very beautiful cello contribution from Alexander Kort set against Ray Welter's direct, descending bassline makes for a fine introduction. It becomes all the more striking when Bell sings out clearly, a suddenly thrilling addition that heralds a slow intensification of the song as a whole, the drums more noticeable, everything that much more wound up until it hits a lovely extended coda.