Tiny Leaves (Joel Nathaniel Pike) has been working up to his latest release over the past three years, creating anticipation through the release of 3 sparkling singles and a remix EP. The first single, “The Fullness of Things …” (which since then has lost its ellipsis) serves as a metaphor for the entire album. Inspired by the finding and refurbishment of an old organ, the track and video gain speed and color as they progress, before coming to a soft landing. The use of a mallet imitates the use of workshop tools. The organ is “alone, not alone,” as are Pike and artist TB Ward, whose artwork “The Daffodil” becomes the cover of the single. But the story doesn’t end there; the track will later be remixed by a trio of surprising artists, including Throwing Snow. The other two ~ Diamond Family Archive and Burning Salt ~ add different sets of lyrics, the former turning the track into a folk stunner, the latter a dark pop classic. As the album is instrumental, it’s worth showcasing Xaviera Lopez’s video for the Burning Salt remix:
The evolution of this track demonstrates a process of invention and reinvention, as multiple forms appear, none definitive. The same is true of both the human personality and the interpretation and reinterpretation of our own stories. Are we alone or not alone? Can we be both? Pike seems to imply so with “Inbetween,” a comforting piece whose existence underlines the fact that we need comfort in the first place. The closing seconds slide toward unease; it takes effort to stay upbeat. In like manner, “A Stillness” stumbles toward its melody with tentative keys, as if trying on a persona. The three “tiny pieces” (all in the 1-2 minute range) mimic Pike’s own persona, while serving as pieces of a puzzle or fragments waiting to be reconciled with gold.
Given the tone of his earlier work, it’s no surprise that Pike leans heavily toward hope. Portmanteau “Respair” means “recovery from despair,” and reflects the not alone portion of the title. This track was also released as a single, again with cover art from Ward, reproduced below. The piece positively sings of spring, the piano like the thawing ground, the violin like the burgeoning green.
While the track titles delve into memory, distance and loss, the album title invites readers to fill in the blanks: we may feel alone, but we’re not alone. “The Near Isle” may begin as the loneliest track, but it replicates the template of the other tracks as every solo instrument is joined by friends. When these friends leave, the spotlight returns to the solo instrument, but the farewell is not desertion.
In the title track, the raindrop electronics of “Receiver” change to arcade beeps, shifting the tone from passive to active. Joe Almond’s gorgeous video extends the album’s theme with images of international travel. We are not alone; we are connected to each other and to creation. This realization is enough to make one want to dance, and dance we do. The world is the same, but our perception has changed. (Richard Allen)