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In Tall Buildings on January 28, 2011 14:33

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[Erik Hall's] 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 "Flemishing," 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.

Best of Chicago 2010 ... A promising debut record filled with gorgeous indie-pop.

In Tall Buildings is the aural representation of a pleasantly scattered mind.

[Hall's] spacious, handcrafted pop, awash in synthesizers, reverb, and bedroom-recording static, evokes rootless melancholy without wallowing in it.

It bristles with conviction and purpose. ... The album finds ways to add touches that could easily have been jarring if not for Hall's steady hand and singular vision. ... There's no mad scientist at work here. Only a guy crafting beautiful songs and augmenting them with a feathery touch.

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.

The Way to a Monster's Lair has that great yearn you hear in Mark Linkous, or Carter Tanton, or Neil Young, or any other man you imagine leaning over his guitar and bleeding songs out onto his scuffy basement carpet.


In Tall Buildings is the title of this record, the name of the band, and the title of a John Hartford song. This "band" is really Erik Hall and his songs. Erik is a natural multi-instrumentalist, equally at home playing electric guitar and percussion in NOMO, fuzzed-out bass in His Name Is Alive, or Motown-inspired drums in Saturday Looks Good To Me. But here we find him, for the first time, in his own element, alone in his home studio, layering track upon track of vocal harmonies, guitars, pianos, and heavy rhythms, to create his solo debut as a veritable one man band.

This is rock music, informed by Erik's array of influences. Imagine a Thom Yorke remix of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, or if Gillian Welch were to sit in with Steve Reich & Musicians. Bubbling synth sequences, driving distorted drum beats, interwoven finger-picked guitars, and pulsing woodwind chorales all find their way into the mix. Erik's lyrics unveil a personal world through stark imagery: a monster's lair, a bed of soft linens, a spilled glass of wine, a shared whiskey bottle, a plummeting star, and a walking man.

The story of the album starts in Ann Arbor, where Erik got his music degree from the University of Michigan and sold cheese at Zingerman's Deli. A planned move to the east coast fell through as a long-term relationship unraveled, and new songs started to appear. Erik headed home to Chicago, and, in a high-rise overlooking Lake Michigan, he slowly crafted his first record. It's not so much a breakup album as it is a document of a man making a new beginning, and finding his own voice.

For a couple years In Tall Buildings sat in the slow cooker while Erik spent months at a time on the road with NOMO and His Name Is Alive, returning home to put all his earnings into recording equipment and all his time into songwriting. 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 onto his songs. He maxed out his credit card, recorded vocals in a linen closet, and called in favors to make it happen, and after four years and countless hours producing himself, here is a beautiful and challenging record.

Whistler Records
April, 2010


written, performed, and recorded by Erik Hall

clarinet and bass clarinet performed by Elliot Bergman
"Elvis Presley Blues" written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (Irving Music Inc. / Cracklin' Music / BMI)

recorded and mixed at home, October 2006 - December 2008
additional mixing by Rick Fritz at Jira Productions, Chicago
mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service

Released by: Whistler Records
Release/catalogue number: WSLR-008
Release date: Apr 6, 2010


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