In Tall Buildings
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In Tall Buildings

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE
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"Album Review: In Tall Buildings"

Nice. In Tall Buildings self-titled debut on Whistler Records is nice. Now, no one wants to be called nice. Your grandma wants you to be nice. Nice guys finish last. Nice is often used to avoid actually telling someone how you feel. But sometimes, as in the case with In Tall Buildings, nice is the highest of high compliments. The world needs nice, and Erik Hall’s (the man behind In Tall Buildings) debut is nice in the nicest way possible. It’s the Tom Hanks of records. It is accessible to everyone: young, old, edgy, button downed, you name it.


It is hard to make this argument without making the record sound middle of the road. The album’s acoustic beauty isn’t as twisted as Bill Callahan’s or Bonnie Prince Billy’s. Its sadness isn’t nearly as heartbreaking as Mark Eitzel’s. It’s not quite folk or alt country. It treads on Lou Barlow singer songwriter territory lightly. The thing is that it’s so well crafted, produced, and written that it doesn’t matter what it isn’t.

What In Tall Buildings is, however, is an album you wish you could, maybe not hug, but put your arm around. Maybe it helps that it’s just one man because it bristles with conviction and purpose. From the Low-like “Suitor” to the repetitive and drum heavy “Good Fences”, the album finds ways to add touches that could easily have been jarring if not for Hall’s steady hand and singular vision.

Opener “Walking Man” starts with a little guitar picking and a shaker and just lightly adds cymbals. It gives way to maybe the best track on the album, “The Way To A Monster’s Lair”, which pulsates along in a sort of unplugged Grandaddy way. It could have been an epic space rock jam in someone else’s hands. That is the what makes this record so damned likable. There’s a push and pull of what it could be and what it is, and it’s consistently better for being that way.

“Alarm Will Sound” is the “rocker” of the album – a kind of somber one placed perfectly as the second to last song. Thirty minutes worth of softness gives way to the album’s only guitar solo, a Neil Young-esque one that, fittingly, is still quite restrained. Closer, “Flemishing” brings things back down to a Red House Painters crawl, and, at nine-plus minutes, slowly guides us to the end.

Oddly enough, and again it’s just another testament to Hall’s talents, this record has been brewing for 4 years while he toured with NOMO and His Name Is Alive. All the while, Hall collected recording equipment, instruments and worked on his songs in his apartment. This easily could have lead to a tragically overstuffed album. This is not the case.

According to the bio on Intallbuildings.com, “Tape delays, spring reverbs, half-broken synthesizers, funky organs, mics, preamps, mixers, and an old Fender Starcaster guitar all found their way into his apartment”, and all are worked seamlessly into the songs. There’s no mad scientist at work here. Only a guy crafting beautiful songs and augmenting them with a feathery touch in an anti-Mark Linkous sort of way.

So, don’t run away from the “nice” moniker. We all have that friend that we genuinely marvel at their niceness instead of snidely thinking they are so god damned nice. In Tall Buildings is that friend. In Tall Buildings doesn’t make us throw up in our mouths a little, but makes us think that maybe we should, and can, be a little better, a little nicer. Maybe a hug really is in order. - Loud Loop Press - April 29, 2010


"Album Review: In Tall Buildings"

Most postcollegiate indie-rock bildungsromans traffic in an obnoxious combination of solipsism and cheap philosophizing, but on his solo debut, University of Michigan grad Erik Hall matter-of-factly follows the transition from student life to adulthood. He spent his Ann Arbor years playing with excellent bands like Saturday Looks Good to Me and His Name Is Alive, and on In Tall Buildings he matches a pop sensibility inherited from the former to an ambitious sonic palette taken from the latter. (He's also a member of post-Afrobeat group Nomo, but I'm hard pressed to find any obvious aesthetic connection there.) His spacious, handcrafted pop, awash in synthesizers, reverb, and bedroom-recording static, evokes rootless melancholy without wallowing in it. - Chicago Reader - May 13, 2010


"The varying musical spaces of In Tall Buildings"

Since his college days at the University of Michigan, musician Erik Hall has been a member of the jazz group NOMO. But that experience didn’t stop his need to rock. The self-described '90s rock kid at heart has steadily built a repertoire of rock songs. The project – known as In Tall Buildings - has lived largely behind the four walls of his apartment. On Saturday, April 9, In Tall Buildings will perform at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Erik Hall recently stopped by WBEZ's Jim and Kay Mabie performance studio to talk about his project. - Chicago Public Radio - April 7, 2011


"Best of Chicago 2010"

A promising debut record filled with gorgeous indie-pop. - Huffington Post - December 29, 2010


"Under the Radar: Sounds of an Early Fall"

At the other end of the definition of what constitutes a band, we find Chicago’s own Erik Hall and his one-man project, In Tall Buildings. Hall succeeds in making his introversion feel as appealing as Harper Blynn’s gregariousness, a tricky feat achieved with a battery of vintage recording commitment and the sort of cabin fever familiar only to a man sequestered in a high-rise apartment overlooking Lake Michigan. Many of the eponymous album’s most engaging moments are a result of the collision of two sonically disparate environments layered over each other, such as the demented drums that appear, in no apparent relation to time signature or dynamic, in the middle section of the sparse acoustic ballad “Twenty One.” In Tall Buildings is the aural representation of a pleasantly scattered mind, something like what Neil Young might sound like with multiple personality disorder and a bottomless freezer of ice cream sandwiches. - American Songwriter - August 31, 2010


"Erik Hall's In Tall Buildings"

Erik Hall, who records and performs as In Tall Buildings, describes his musical philosophy using a pair of quotes as diametrically opposed as the north and south poles of a magnet: "First thought best thought" and "Edit yourself, mercilessly."

"They are absolutely conflicting, and yet absolutely true and crucial," says Hall, who attributes the statements to Iowa-born musician Arthur Russell (a posthumous collection of the artist's work was released under the title "First Thought Best Thought" on Audika Records in 2006) and author Kurt Vonnegut. "I know the first instinct is, ‘How the hell can both these things be true?' But somehow I'm trying to navigate these polar opposites."

Hall, who also plays guitar in the long-running jazz-rock sextet NOMO, began work on his solo effort, "In Tall Buildings" (Whistler), more than three years ago, completing the album's eight atmospheric tracks at a near-glacial pace. Indeed, when discussing his process, Hall sounds very much like a geology professor describing the creation of a stunning mineral formation. "It was very, very gradual and very, very delicate," he says. "I had no deadlines, so whenever the mood struck I would just go back, open up the Pro Tools session and add something. Then months later it would hit me: ‘Oh, it's done. It's a song.'"

The resulting tunes are dense and textured, veering from the jaunty "The Way to a Monster's Lair," colored by a swooning clarinet line from NOMO bandmate Elliot Bergman (the only other musician who appears on the recording), to the minimalist "Fleming," which unfolds over a hypnotic nine-plus minutes. Listening to the record, it's little surprise to hear Hall name-check a diverse array of influences, including Steve Reich, Neil Young, Maurice Ravel and Gillian Welch.

Born and raised in Chicago's Lincoln Park, Hall began playing guitar when he was just 9 years old, harboring aspirations to shred like Metallica's Kirk Hammett. In high school, inspired by Seattle-based acts like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, the guitarist formed his first band, Concord Lane, with friends that included current NOMO drummer Quin Kirchner. But even then, Hall says that desire to record a solo album bubbled just beneath the surface. "Making music of my own has always been my driving force," says Hall. "In some ways, (this record) dates back to eighth grade when I got my first cassette recorder. It's been a long time in the making ... and I'm really happy to finally be able to get it out to the world." - Chicago Tribune - February 19, 2010


"New Tunes from In Tall Buildings"

Erik Hall has had his share in the music biz, playing with NOMO and Saturday Looks Good to Me. Now, he’s set to release his own album under the name In Tall Buildings, which comes out this week on Whistler Records. This track sort of has the old feel of Rogue Wave, but you can tell that Hall spends his time dabbling with every instrument possible. It’s full of layers, but in the sort of way that doesn’t weigh you down. Listen up. - Austin Town Hall - April 7, 2010


Discography

Warm Rock 7"
2011, Whistler Records

In Tall Buildings (CD, LP)
2010, Whistler Records

Photos

Bio

Erik Hall grew up in the center of Chicago, among sky scrapers, traffic lights, pedestrians, parks, factories, and Lake Michigan. He studied classical piano from the age of 8, played guitar in rock bands and percussion in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and studied jazz and sound recording at the University of Michigan School of Music. He is a founding member of the band NOMO and has recorded and toured with Michigan bands His Name Is Alive and Saturday Looks Good to Me.

In 2009 Erik completed work on his first batch of original songs and named the project In Tall Buildings. The self-recorded debut album was released in April of 2010 on Chicago's Whistler Records, and the Chicago Tribune immediately praised the music as being “dense, textured, [and] hypnotic.” American Songwriter magazine referred to In Tall Buildings as “the aural representation of a pleasantly scattered mind,” and The Huffington Post included In Tall Buildings on their Best of Chicago 2010 list.

Erik spent 2010 bringing In Tall Buildings to stages throughout Chicago and beyond. The live band calls upon NOMO drummer and longtime collaborator, Quin Kirchner, and Chicago bassist / composer Matt Ulery (Eastern Blok, Matt Ulery's Loom). The trio delivers an apt distillation of Erik's songs' most defining elements, and they have shared stages with NOMO, Sharon Van Etten, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and Vieux Farka Touré.