One of the most exciting parts of following a young band is watching their musical and songwriting sensibilities change and evolve quite literally before your ears. Sharks’ Teeth, the nom de guerre Tyler Schurlock adopts when not writing songs for and performing with Sun Hotel, started out as little more than an avenue to release a few proto-Sun Hotel demos to the full band’s expanding fan base. But stripped down B-sides and early sketches were just the start for the Sharks’ Teeth project, as the prolific output from Schurlock’s solo moniker is increasingly manifesting itself as dreamy patchworks of tape-loops, editing software artifacts and spaced-out waves of synth.
The latest release, Atrium, fits snugly into the paradoxically narrow “experimental” bucket, but is certainly not short on diversity. “Suspended in a Sunbeam” is a collection of conversations, voice mail messages and Emergency Broadcast System announcements that I’d imagine one may be concert to if Raleigh Theodore Sakers’ crack supply was replaced with some Wal-tussin and he was locked him in a closet with his mom and a copy of The Conant Project recordings; “That’s Home” combines an industrial percussion beat with vaguely melodic white noise that would be a perfect backdrop for the scene from I’m Trying To Break Your Heart in which Glenn Kotche and Jay Bennett discuss music that is kinda noisy but that can also be “played to”; and the final track, “Woke Up In A Theater In A Mansion In Birmingham”, is build around Harold Budd-esque plinks of haunting, distorted piano.
Atrium is as intriguing as it is surprising, especially when put in the context of Sun Hotel’s body of work, which possesses an innate deference to accessible, lyrically stunning indie rock. This is not to say that anything on Atrium is wholly unexpected: Sun Hotel’s latest, Coast, hid plenty examples of sonic experimentation within an otherwise straightforward set of swampy post-gospel rippers (see the intro and coda of “Rediscovery” and album closer “Book God”). But the latest Sharks’ Teeth release takes the notion of aural deconstruction to a new level while mixing in a healthy dose of lo-fi, DIY sensibility: According to the albums notes, Atrium was written, recorded and mixed entirely during the van rides and couch surfing that accompanied the Sun Hotel/Caddywhompus Winter Wonder tour.
While there isn’t much on here to which you can tap your toe or sing along, the album is rife with moments of truly understated beauty. At the very least, it is an awesome peek into the minds of some restlessly talented artists exploring the fertile creative soil around them as they continue to develop as musicians.