All Tiny Creatures make for an exciting impression with Dark Clock, their second album. They’ve got a great sense of sound and dynamics: The production on the album is pristine and their build-ups and musical swoops and swoons are almost masterful. The songs move almost without form, flowing in an organic manner very unlike their electronic-meets-indie sound would at first assume. There is a sense of joy and genuine inspiration throughout the tracks and in all honesty, it sets itself out to be a great album on paper. There are two issues that stop this from happening, however.
Issue one is that All Tiny Creatures need to decide whether they want to have an audible frontman or if they are an instrumental group. Focusing on the former could make up for the occasional meandering within the songs by giving an additional point of attention for the listener; focusing on the latter on the other hand could give the band the chance to really flesh out the excellent parts of their purely musical side. What doesn’t work is awkwardly falling somewhere in the middle, with the vocals being there but only barely. The idea must be for them to sound ethereal or atmospheric and have them act as just another instrument rather than direct singing, but they end up sounding rather like demo vocals, temporary placeholders waiting for something meaningful to arrive. They’re buried in the back but make their appearance known just enough to catch the listener’s attention briefly but offering no good reason to do so. It’s surprisingly distracting and sometimes even veers across to the point of annoying, making the listener wish there was either something more substantial behind them or that they simply weren’t there at all.
The second issue is that for how great it sounds, Dark Clock struggles to be memorable. Everything is very pristinely executed but often lacking in something to latch onto. All Tiny Creatures are the masters of build-up but suffer from little structure beyond it – so many songs feel like they’re steadily growing towards a certain goal but they finish before they reach it. If middle-eights, breaks and bridges are an art form All Tiny Creatures have almost perfected it, but sadly such things can’t carry a full album. On the occasions when they’re not building up to something, the songs tend to sound like they’re meandering aimlessly, which at first feels intriguingly jam-like but later proves to be just rather lacking in content. Dark Clock sounds very impressive in many ways, but you leave it thinking how good it sounded rather than what actually played.
The result is a hit and miss, give and take, hodgepodge mixture of songs you’d really like to love but can’t find much to think about them beyond how good they sound. There’s a smattering of enjoyable bits going around and “Wave Particles” especially is a great example of what Dark Clock could be if it was fine-tuned further. As an overall musical concoction the album works, but is frustratingly underwhelming as it runs short on its promises.