Erik Hall worked patiently and solitarily for four years to craft Driver, his sophomore album as In Tall Buildings. Produced between his home studio in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago and a ’60s farmhouse in Leelanau County, Michigan, the album comes twenty years after Hall originally fell in love with home recording at age 13 – the year he got his hands on his first multitrack recorder.
Raised in downtown Chicago, Hall played drums and guitar in high school rock bands, and then went on to study percussion and audio engineering at the University of Michigan. While in college he joined the avant afro-funk band NOMO and met His Name is Alive’s Warn Defever, who produced many of the band’s albums. Under Defever’s tutelage, Hall honed many of the recording and production techniques he would later apply to his solo recordings. As he explains, “I was the guy in the band badgering him with questions throughout the sessions, trying to learn everything I could and then trying it out myself at home.” As a multi-instrumentalist and producer Hall eventually went on to record and tour with several groups, including old friends His Name is Alive and, more recently, dream-pop duo Wild Belle, performing the rhythm section tracks and lending an engineering hand to their Columbia Records debut.
In 2010 Hall’s home recording efforts yielded the first In Tall Buildings album, which The Huffington Post called “gorgeous indie-pop”, and the Chicago Tribune found “hypnotic”. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he summed up much of his philosophy about composition with a pair of conflicting quotes he attributes to Allen Ginsberg and Kurt Vonnegut, respectively: “First thought, best thought” and “Edit yourself, mercilessly.” Loosely guided by these principles, Hall set out once again to assemble a new batch of songs, when he wasn’t recording and touring with other bands.
In stark contrast to the dense polyrhythms echoed by NOMO’s albums, Driver uses a relatively simple palette to create spacious pop songs, leaving plenty of room for Hall’s often Peter Gabriel-esque vocals to shine. The music, though culled from every guitar, keyboard, and drum he managed to fit into his home studio, is powerful in it’s restrained simplicity, and it’s a compelling foil to the haunting gravity of his vocal performance. Never rushed, his melodies deliver elliptical lyrics that manage to feel intimate, while retaining a sense of mystery. Ultimately, the album’s melancholic vibe is relatable, rather than moping or histrionic, and in the end these songs are incredibly comforting and inviting.
- Western Vinyl, 2015
released February 17, 2015
Written, Performed, and Produced by Erik Hall
Recorded at home in Chicago, IL and Northport, MI
Mixed by Benjamin Balcom and Erik Hall at MINBAL, Chicago
Mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service
Cover art by Hans Peter Sundquist