It’s nice to have friends, especially when one is new. Tiny Leaves (Joel Nathaniel Pike) is accomplished on his own, as evidenced by the previously-reviewed Get Yourself Up On a High Mountain; his ambient work is complimented here by the remix contributions of Zvuku and Message to Bears. As we wait for the album, What We Dream Of operates as another lovely teaser.
“Hope Awakening” is the EP’s gentle introduction, a reminder in tone and title that Tiny Leaves occupies the encouraging spoke of the ambient spectrum. While others seek to institute calm or spark contemplation (each laudable in its own way), Pike’s approach adds a little something extra. Yes, life is worth living, he seems to be saying; keep on keeping on. While many of his titles delve into dreams and endings, those with “end” arrive at the ends, serving as doorways into other realms. In imitation, loops and improvisations wind around each other, eventually becoming so entangled that they seem indistinguishable; save in rare instances such as those found on “What Follows – Part III”, when the neck of the guitar becomes the launching pad for quiet chordal spasms. Zvuku’s remix ignores this sound, concentrating instead on piano and soft drones, creating what is in essence a brand new track.
Zvuku notices what Pike sometimes does not – that his piano work is his strongest asset. The nearly 11-minute “Lightly” soars whenever the ivories enter, sending the ambient washes to the background or banishing them completely. But whenever the piano leaves, the track begins to languish. The last 1:17 – piano only, no guests – would make a fine track by itself. “In the End – Part IV” experiments with the longer framework as well, but Message to Bears knows that it needs to be shorter and punchier. The reworking is half the length, but adds a drumbeat and light euphoric vocals.
It’s good to have friends who can help out when needed – even better when one’s friends can help to identify one’s strengths and encourage them to blossom. This is exactly what Pike’s friends do, raising hopes for a fully-developed full-length, expected in the near future. (Richard Allen)
Release date: October 15