In Tall Buildings – In Tall Buildings

In Tall Buildings – In Tall Buildings

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In Tall Buildings, both album and band, is the brainchild of veteran multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall, a Chicago-based musician who’s played in different capacities for a variety of bands, including Saturday Looks Good To Me, His Name is Alive and, most recently, post afro-beat band NOMO. A project that gestated over the course of four years, In Tall Buildings finds Hall combining wistful folk with wistful electronica to create an album that’s absolutely lousy with wistfulness. (Perhaps understandable, since the genesis of the record was the break-up of a long-term relationship.)

Not that a consistency in mood is a bad thing. When Hall finds the right blend of modern troubadour acoustic-guitar guy folk with more expansive electronic textures, the result is the kind of stuff that drops jaws and expands minds. To witness, “The Way To A Monster’s Lair,” which sways briskly between finger-picked guitars and woodwinds to motorik breakdowns buoyed by furiously oscillating electronic flourishes. Elsewhere, “Good Suitor” manages to even bring a funky dance-beat into the mix – which is remarkable given the overall bedroom-recording aesthetic of Buildings – and the last moments of “Elvis Presley Blues” recalls the damaged, melancholic experimental songwriting of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers.

All of which is to say that there’s quite a few strong moments of creative levity. Where In Tall Buildings goes awry, though, is in building a strong songwriting foundation so that those standout moments can become highlights of memorable songs. What’s truly peculiar about far too much of Buildings as a whole is the sensation that you’re listening to a head-to-head battle between a competent singer-songwriter and a more adroit electronic composer. When the latter wins out, In Tall Buildings is extraordinarily put-together; when it’s the former though, such as on Bon Iver-biting “Twenty-One” or on-the-nose CSNY homage “Suitor”, the music becomes sleepy and uninspired.

Luckily, Buildings reaches its creative peak by the end, as “Flemishing” fuzzes-out everything from guitar to organ, ensuring the album closes on a quiet, yet uncharacteristically epic note. In Tall Buildings could have used more of that ambition to make it stand out in the electro-folk pack. As is, it’s a satisfactory listen for contemplative weekend mornings.


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