Pop Addict: All Tiny Creatures’ Harbors

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

All Tiny Creatures: HarborsAll Tiny Creatures: Harbors (Hometapes, 3/29/11)

All Tiny Creatures: “An Iris”

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If you’re in a band from Wisconsin, and you’re friends with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, people are going to hear about your record. And if you happen to enlist his help, if only for one track, most of those people will venture a listen or two. Make that song your single and you’ve pretty much guaranteed a modicum of favorable attention from fans and critics alike.

But if, like Madison’s All Tiny Creatures, you also happen to seamlessly weave synthesizers, guitars, and percussion into loop-heavy, pop-friendly melodies, then you’ve probably earned a great deal of that notoriety on your own; in fact, that attention might be long overdue. With or without Justin Vernon, your band is on the verge of something exciting. And you should congratulate yourself with a nice Wisconsin cheese tray.

All Tiny Creatures’ debut album, Harbors, follows in the footsteps of founder and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Wincek’s earlier work with the experimental group Collections of Colonies of Bees and the Vernon-fronted Volcano Choir.

With the help of Andrew Fitzpatrick, Ben Derickson, and Matthew Skemp, Harbors picks up where Segni, the band’s 2009 four-track  EP, left off. Like Segni, the album features an array of looped, layered instrumental segments that Wincek and co. have wrangled into fairly concrete verse-chorus arrangements. The band is at its best when it toys with these rhythmic and melodic repetitions, swimming with (or against) each current with an incalculable ease.

On Harbors, All Tiny Creatures have also included vocals for the first time. The band enlisted a handful of friends to share mic duties, including Vernon; Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro, Epstein); Phil Cook, Brad Cook, and Joe Westerlund of Megafaun, Ryan Olcott (12 Rods, Mystery Palace); and Matthew Byars (The Caribbean).

The vocals, used more as complementary instruments than as lyrical conveyors, are largely mixed down, lending a ghostly, whispered quality to many of the tracks. On “An Iris,” Vernon’s voice is audible yet caught somewhere in the backdrop, suspended in a wash of brief, repeated guitar hooks and synthesized loops. Each track is constructed much in the same way, with a hook, or fragment of a hook, that takes shape with the calculated, tempered addition of each complementary drum beat, bass line, or vocal melody.

The result is a collection of eleven beautiful, buoyant tracks that build, and build, and build, that layer sound upon sound, until there’s nothing left to do but start the process over once again.

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