Tiger Flower Circle Sun
Christopher Willits is an example of the new breed of electronic musicans, who combines playing traditional instruments with building his own digital musical vehicle using a computer running Max/MSP. This has been going on since the mid 90s; artists like Aphex Twin, Kit Clayton, Keith Fullerton Whitman and even Radiohead have augmented their more conventional musical tools with roll-your-own noise makers. Willits takes a fresh approach to this resolutely nerdy musical discipline. The stuttering, fragmented sound of granular synthesis is front and center, but it’s in the context of careful songwriting.
It’s hard not to relate the music on Tiger Flower Circle Sun to its influences — The staccato gallop of the bass in “Green Faces” recalls Philip Glass. The digitally scuzzed up guitar in “Sunlight In You” sounds a lot like Fennesz work on Venice. The overall strategy of using wistful pop chord sequences in extended, non-traditional song forms drove Jimmy Tamborello’s DNTEL project. But Willits has a unique way of blending those elements that seems personally authentic. All of these tracks — most overtly “The Hands Connect To The Heart” began life as improvisations using looping pedals and software manipulations. But the improvisator elements are transmuted by selection, editing and treatment into something more than self-indulgent repetition.
Tiger Flower Circle Sun ends in a triptych marked by jarring transitions — between the mostly acoustic “Light Into Branches” and the harsh yet melodic distortion of “Branches Into Flowers” into the Eno-esque shimmering ambience of “Flowers Into Stardust.” It’s clear that Christopher Willits brings a lot together for this album — classical Minimalism a la Glass & Reich, gentle indie-pop songwriting, and relentless experimentation. It could have been a mess, and yes, it’s messy at times. But it’s always inviting and listenable.