Anathallo writes lush pocket symphonies that make grand twists and take stately, Sufjan Stevens-worthy turns. Maybe it's a west Michigan thing like Holland's favorite son, the Mount Pleasant collective has a penchant for mass-part harmony theatrics and arrangements that settle intricately around detailed storylines and subtle Christian themes. But where Stevens' record explores the heart of Midwestern America, Floating World is a concept album based on Japanese literature and art. The four-part "Hanasakajijii," for example, retraces the age-old folk tale "Grandfather Cherry Blossom," while "Hoodwink" curves and swoops like calligraphy across artisan paper. There are also nods to the more maudlin side of contemporary emo here and there, but Anathallo's restless musical sense fortunately manages those tendencies. A self-described "marching band gone wild," the group incorporates rat-a-tat drumming, Velcro, socket wrenches, chains, handclaps and foot stomps into the rhythms of Floating World, and grabs for an equally wide variety of instruments. Pianos, bells, xylophones, spastic theremins and distorted guitars all appear in songs that range from waltzes ("Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!"), to New Orleans-style jazz ("By Number"), to the ethereal rush of Sigur Rós on closer "Kasa No Hone (The Umbrella's Bones)," and ultimately it's curiosity that Anathallo floats on.
Floating World is available through anathallo.com now; and June 6 on Amazon.
Luke Hackney writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.