All Tiny Creatures: Segni
All Tiny Creatures: Harbors
Multi-instrumentalist Thomas Wincek has released music with several groups in the past 10 years, including the experimental electronic collaborative mainframe Emotional Joystick, the meticulous instrumental quintet Collections of Colonies of Bees, and the ethereal, playful supergroup Volcano Choir, a collaboration between the Bees and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
All Tiny Creatures is Wincek's newest endeavor. The building blocks of the Wisconsin quartet's debut full-length, Harbors, were whittled from looped and freestanding sounds democratically created by synthesis, guitars, and percussion. But as the needle glides into "Holography", the swift and playful start of side A, there's a new kind of compositional poise. Harbors is an album of transformative repetition, of music that travels freely between the left and right brain. It pulls from the same well (with a new bucket) as their Krautrock and Minimalist forebears (guys like Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Manuel Göttsching) and even the greater history of rhythmic percussion found the world over. And then there's one entirely new instrument for All Tiny Creatures: the human voice. Joining All Tiny Creatures vocalists Thomas Wincek and Andrew Fitzpatrick are Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro & Epstein), Phil Cook, Brad Cook, and Joe Westerlund (Megafaun) and more.
All Tiny Creatures Harbors features visual art by world-renown designer Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. in Portland. The LP and CD are both packaged in old-style tip on gatefold jackets. The 2xLP comes in two color sets, randomly selected and jawdroppingly beautiful.
All Tiny Creatures: Dark Clock
"Dude, look what I just got." It started with a text. All Tiny Creatures' founder Thomas Wincek was at work on the new album. He'd just found a Rockman, the headphone amp designed by Boston founder Tom Scholz. A guitar DI Box with multiple effects built in, it?s what Def Leppard used all over Hysteria. I had no idea. For those vast radio jams of my youth, my brain had been the effects processor.
A couple months later, I was listening to Drexciya, watching King Crimson live videos, and hearing Beach Boys songs I never knew existed. Wincek was leaving a note for me before I time traveled. I was learning the secrets of Dark Clock. All Tiny Creatures' second album is an ode to the intertwined bodies of music and technology. A familiar, primordial ease is wrapped up in pulsing electricity. In ten songs, the Wisconsin-based four-piece reminds us that our blood-filled frames are responsible for making the tangle of wires around us. We're still inventing fire.
All Tiny Creatures is Wincek, along with Andrew Fitzpatrick, Matt Skemp, and Ben Derickson. Wincek, Skemp, and Fitzpatrick are also part of Volcano Choir, the sonic collision between Justin Vernon and the venerable Collections of Colonies of Bees.
Ape School: Marijuana’s on the Phone
?Marijuana called me on the phone a long time ago. I hung up. It left a message.”
Began as a drunken strum into a tape recorder, ?Marijuana’s on the Phone’ is your forged hall pass for Ape School, the moniker for Michael Johnson and his prodigious musical output. Spawned five years ago in the wake of former bands Lilys and Holopaw (and while Johnson was playing alongside fellow Philadelphians Kurt Vile and War on Drugs), Ape School is on the cusp of sonic apocalypse with Junior Violence, the new album coming this August from Hometapes. ?Marijuana’s on the Phone’ is your first drag.
“I went to the studio with Eric Slick [Dr. Dog] and just ripped through a loose concept. Ended up using his first take drums. Went and found a couple of kids in the building to play sax and vibes. Ended up layering tons of Eventide guitars over it and jotted down a quick bit of lyrics. First take vocals all the way across. Beefheart/Barrett bastardization gone mudslide.” - Michael Johnson on ?Marijuana’s on the Phone’
Backed with “Blame Mark Griffey,” the 7” features a full-color cover in a heavy PVC sleeve, plus two transparency masks by Freegums. The record was created in partnership with Needless Records, the Florida-based label home to Jacuzzi Boys and Woven Bones.
Ape School: Junior Violence
Junior Violence begins with a death rattle of the most optimistic sort. Half-synthesized and half-howled, the first song on Ape School's new album sums up birth, death, and the guilt you face as you drop the needle on side A:
Did you know you fucked yourself?
Everything is on the other side of that question. Answer it and you'll wonder why you're just now fessing up. Tell your truth and the Oberheim OB-8 will cascade like a waterfall. The bass line will try to feel you up. It's all foreplay for the anthemic "Marijuana's on the Phone" and the nine tracks that follow, adding up to the second album from Ape School, the flaming sigil for a man named Michael Johnson (see Holopaw, Lilys, Kurt Vile, and War on Drugs). Junior Violence is part confession, part blitz, part hangover, and part ascension.
AU: Both Lights
Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka, the Portland, Oregon-based duo known as AU, embody remarkable, frantic energy. It permeates everything they touch. AU brings into question the moment and where you are in it.
Both Lights is their third album and the long-anticipated followup to 2008's acclaimed LP Verbs and still-memorable tours with Why? and Deerhoof. Wyland's soaring vocals and multi-tentacled performance on keys and guitar are fortified by Valatka's adrenalized percussion. Contributions by saxophonist Colin Stetson (most recently seen on stage with Bon Iver) and vocalist Holland Andrews take Both Lights into the stratosphere, where it shines as AU’s finest work yet.
Wyland and Valatka reflect that light. The first single -- "Solid Gold" -- is a sweeping aural experience that captures not only the journey through the past three years of love, loss, and levity, but the voyage music can take us all on if we click play and just listen. "The back and forth, the tug of war for love," writes Wyland, getting at the root of "Solid Gold", in essence a love song, "exhausting, exhilarating, and so totally not sustainable." Like the best songs, in some way or another, we can all sing along to that.
Bear In Heaven: Wholehearted Mess
The first manifestation of Bear In Heaven's Beast Rest Forth Mouth, the Wholehearted Mess 12" EP is pressed in jewel-like multicolored vinyl. Bear In Heaven curated remixes of the single "Wholehearted Mess" from Pink Skull, Max Brannslokker, and Arclike, resulting in the creation of a unique tributary off Bear In Heaven's own musical flow and in a bona fide banging dance-friendly record. Limited to 1000. Comes with a digital download, so you can take it with you.
Bear In Heaven: Red Bloom of the Boom
?Red Bloom of the Boom? marks the in-between moment of Jon Philpot's solo explosion becoming a full band's orchestra of sound. "We started clean and natural and as time passed we twisted, distorted and tweaked. After all that we're as handsome as ever," says Philpot, in a simple-yet-accurate explanation of the monster of a band that Bear In Heaven, unassumingly walking the streets of Brooklyn, has so suddenly, but deliberately, become.
Bear In Heaven: Beast Rest Forth Mouth
Bear in Heaven have trapped echos, tremors, winds, and fading light. They've redefined time, and folded it. They've unbuttoned sound, and realigned it. Within four walls in Brooklyn, Jon Philpot, Adam Wills, Sadek Bazaara, and Joe Stickney mined the democracy of their collaboration, plus the endless hours of stream-of-consciousness recorded documentation of rehearsals over the past years, to conceive the crystalline form of Beast Rest Forth Mouth, their second album, their exaltation.
Brad Laner: Neighbor Singing
Brad Laner: Nearest Suns
You can't get away from the sun. Brad Laner returns with his third solo album, created in the winds swirling around the reuniting of his cult noise-pop band and American shoegaze pioneers, Medicine. Like Neighbor Singing and Natural Selections before it, Nearest Suns was composed, played, and recorded entirely in Laner's Granada Hills, California home by Laner himself. It's an old new universe in twelve songs, shattering what it means to be called a singer-songwriter, messing around with the noticion of getting older, and soundtracking the infinite distortion and infinite harmony of falling in and out of love.