Anathallo's Floating World is a convincing rejoinder to the notion that there's nothing new in the rock world. The band takes its name from the Greek word meaning "to renew or refresh," and the Mount Pleasant, MI, septet sounds not only, well, refreshingly new, but like little else in rock music -- "rock" being a very elastic definition in this case, since familiar elements from the genre play a minimal role in Floating World's musical tapestry. The record veers all over the shop, from post-rock freakouts, classical chamber group motifs, and avant-garde jazz to the hushed intimacy of Sufjan Stevens, the Decemberists' operatic inclinations, and the cut-and-paste machinations of the Books and Animal Collective. Self-confessed high-school marching band geeks, Anathallo rely on a host of off-kilter instrumentation to create slow-burn intros that blossom into full-throated crescendos, typically highlighted by complex vocal harmonies and counterpoint singing. The songs feature everything from melodica, glockenspiel, trumpets, and trombones (lots of trombones, actually) to Velcro peels and socket-wrench whirs. And these aren't just support accents, either, but often starring roles. There are more traditional elements, too, like guitars, piano, and a lead singer (Matt Joynt), but shifting styles and meters, restless tempos, and the kitchen-sink instrument approach preclude orthodox readings. There are moments when the mishmash of styles seems to take the place of actual songcraft, and the reliance on handclap percussion becomes annoying after the first dozen or so instances. You may also miss a good-quality bottom end from time to time. But when all the various elements coalesce, as they do on the four songs that make up the "Hanasakajijii" suite, the results manage the neat trick of being so inventive as to inspire the simplest joy. You can't dance to it, but when you need a break from 4/4 beats and standard rock fare, this Floating World is a good one to visit.
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AllMusic Review by John Schacht