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Posted on July 3rd, 2013 (7:10 am) by Theresa Flanagan

Switching out "Live Free or Die" for "America's Dairyland" as a license plate slogan five years ago stung a bit. But much as I love my original home state, our hardcore motto and dearly departed Old Man of the Mountain are pretty much the only things that other people just might recognize New Hampshire for. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has cheese, beer, the Packers, and Bon Iver. But Justin Vernon's solo-turned-ensemble project is just one group on the state's experimental indie scene, even if many of them are different configurations and collaborations of the same members. It includes the likes of Volcano Choir, Zola Jesus, Peaking Lights, Jersey transplant Julian Lynch, and Yellow Ostrich and Megafaun - now based in Brooklyn and North Carolina, respectively. And of course, All Tiny Creatures, helmed by Thomas Wincek, with fellow Volcano Choir members Andrew Fitzpatrick (guitar) and Matthew Skempe (bass), along with Ben Derickson (drums). Their music exists as an amalgamation of traditional instrumentation and exquisitely meticulous electronic craftsmanship. Dark Clock envelops and washes over with its intricately layered waves of sound without ever becoming heavily weighted down.

All Tiny Creatures' debut LP Harbors (2011) featured a lot of guests, including Justin Vernon on single "An Iris," all of Megafaun on "Tine Feature," and Ryan Olcott on "Glass Bubbles." Dark Clock relies mainly on the four members, though "The Book" was based around the "love is a sacrifice" sound byte from computer music pioneer Charles Dodge's "The Story of Our Lives" off of Synthesized Voices (1976). Julian Lynch also adds clarinet to the bubbling closing track "Reunion," which highlights some of the similarities and differences between this record and his recent release Lines. Both cast captivating, layered spells, flowing easily through their full lengths but compelling track by track as well. But Lynch is perhaps fittingly represented on the label Underwater Peoples, because Lines in all its multi-instrumented glory is muffled and murmuring as though emerging from some depths, burbling under a masked surface. Dark Clock is bright and clear: "pop music from an alternate universe" according to Wincek. It's a mix of warm, sunny Beach Boys harmonies, '80s synth, looping guitar licks, and something like futuristic, crystalline starlight. "A Lone Sound" almost sounds like Miike Snow, but more organic somehow. Organic is the best way to describe the whole record, really. Every part fits together in a way that could never be called predictable or expected but equally is never shocking or startling. It's clear when each track stops and the next starts, and yet each fits into the next so well that it's hard to stop listening.

It's possible to pull out and analyze specific tracks, like "Comets," which first appeared on An Iris Mixtape. It has evolved since - crystallizing and coalescing into its current, sharper, stronger form. Or the shimmery "All Die Out," with guitar breaks that hit just hard enough to counter the precious synth runs at its start. Or the rising build up of "Impossible Season," with the grittiest vocals of the whole record on the increasingly urgent "now you take it away." But it's also unnecessary. All Tiny Creatures have benefited by using their own voices this time around. Instead of certain tracks appearing as vehicles to fit the guest vocalist's different sound, or as transitional pieces to fit them together, Dark Clock is a cohesive collection. It's one that demands your attention, and doesn't let go of it easily.

I may still be struggling with my identity as a Wisconsinite, but All Tiny Creatures have definitely hit their stride on Dark Clock. The record came out June 25th on Hometapes. They've put out A Lone Sound Mixtape ahead of its release, which you can grab over on Soundcloud.

Track List:
1. Comets
2. A Lone Sound
3. Hypertext
4. All Die Out
5. Impossible Season
6. Quickest Cut
7. The Book
8. Chase Lights
9. Wave Particles
10. Reunion

All Tiny Creatures: Dark Clock
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

77 / 100
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