All Tiny Creatures open for the Rural Alberta Advantage this Saturday at First Ave.

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Courtesy of Chris Rosenau
89.3 the Current listeners won't have trouble finding something to do this Saturday: between the Horrors at the Triple Rock and the Rural Alberta Advantage/All Tiny Creatures at First Avenue, there's plenty of reason to head downtown. Both the RAA and All Tiny Creatures released new albums this year, but the latter's Harbors (released in March via Portland boutique label Hometapes) has been getting some pretty heavy rotation in this particular iPod since its release.

With Harbors, All Tiny Creatures add vocals to their typically-dense mix of guitar, keyboard and percussion swatches. But don't think these Wisconsin minimalists have forgotten their roots: the vocals merely act as another textural element in the mix, rather than taking the forefront. Equal parts unfolding soundscapes and rhythmically-driven experimental pop jams, Harbors is a strong statement from this quartet.

All Tiny Creatures certainly don't have the same immediacy as the Rural Alberta Advantage -- the Canadian trio favors workman-like folk underpinned by creative percussion elements -- but the contrast should create a nice pairing for this mainroom show.

One of the most quoted tidbits about All Tiny Creatures is their friendship with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. ATC's leader Thomas Wincek also plays with Vernon in Volcano Choir and Collections of Colonies of Bees, two other Wisconsin-based groups who deal in similarly compositional music. Vernon even provides some backing vocals to the ethereal "An Iris," the second track on Harbors. With the way vocals float rhythmically through the mix on the track, it's hard to pick out exactly where he comes in, but there are snatches of that signature falsetto every now and then.

Because of All Tiny Creatures' interest in electronic textures and sounds, their music isn't really best described as post rock of the Explosions in the Sky variety. There's the same interest in composition, but not the same quiet/loud catharsis that so many EITS songs are based around. One of the longer tunes on the album, "Triangle Frog," gradually buzzes and swells its way to an all-encompassing tone without any real rhythmic propulsion throughout.

Tunes like "Holography" and "Glass Bubbles" compose the poppier side of Harbors, with their insistent percussion and hemiola-style guitar/keyboard noodlings. Repetitive rhythms and melodies lay the foundation for these songs as various bit parts move in and out, creating a dense, textural collages that occasionally swell and recede throughout. Many songs on Harbors fade into each other like a good mixtape, so it's no surprise then that the band released a series of two mixtapes featuring extra compositions before the release of Harbors.

The quartet usually performs in near darkness, with white floor lights acting as the only lightsource. With the volume turned up loud, it's easy to get lost in All Tiny Creatures' contemplative jams. Harbors is a great headphones record -- perhaps one of my personal favorites in recent memory -- but the band's live show adds a series of new compositions and transitions to the mix that make it even more worthwhile.

All Tiny Creatures open for the Rural Alberta Advantage Saturday September 24 in the First Avenue Mainroom. 18+, 6:30 pm, $18.00 adv, $20.00 door.


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