The center cannot hold
Every ambitious album grapples with a similar set of difficulties. One of the most common is whether or not the theme of the record in question is holding together. So often an artist is more preoccupied with what they can do, and what they want to do, and they forget that the final product should be greater than the sum of its parts. Regardless of its individually promising moments, Spinning Creature never finds a theme to cling to, and as a result, wastes its boundless potential spinning in all directions.
A majority of what gets in the way when discussing Spinning Creatures is that each track seems to contain an album’s worth of ideas. Experimental artists often struggle to know when they are done with an idea, which can either lead to unfinished explorations or overly explored ideas that didn’t require nearly as much time as was given to them. Spinning Creature tends to lean toward the former, which is less exhausting but maybe even more frustrating. For example, the opening track, “Every Moment,” plays with angelic sounds; everything is crystalline and thrumming. However, the next track, “Berries,” does away with that entirely, and shifts towards a groovy style of production, more akin to something from Flying Lotus or Thundercat. This continues throughout the record. “Don’t Move” is a little more straight-up—based on a single consistent drumbeat that propels it forward. “Soon Will Be Flood” is almost a disco track, and the titular “Spinning Creature” is a beautiful guitar showcase that brings to mind something more typical of Nels Cline’s usual offerings.
On a positive note, the tracks are all rather good. They work as individual pieces of music quite wonderfully. This should come as no surprise given the talent level of each individual band member (Nels Cline of Wilco and Yuka C. Honda of Cibo Matto), but it’s still shocking how well-made each individual portion of the record is. It’s just unfortunate that nothing ever comes together for the album.
There’s no reason to avoid this album. It is deeply competent, and as mentioned every song is decent to great, but there’s no sense that any time was placed into pulling all of these songs together into a single offering. Each track is so disparate and unique that it feels like two friends got together, made some great music and then just put it out into the world. If you’re okay with that, then you’ll enjoy this album—but be warned that you may be left wishing for something more.