Will Cullen Hart’s music has always felt like chasing the White Rabbit down his hole, though perhaps a sedated version of the cartoon bunny. The Elephant 6 co-founder’s whimsical, busy mind is always half a step out of reach, and he keeps up the pace with plenty of psychedelic shape-shifting. Whether with The Olivia Tremor Control or later with Circulatory System, Hart takes bits and pieces of fragile psychedelic pop, field recordings, sound experiments, and more, then pieces them together into an adorable jigsaw puzzle at the end of that trek, or perhaps after catching the title of Circulatory System’s new album, a mosaic.
The key to Mosaics Within Mosaics, however, is that wherever the rough edge of one suite of enjoined, warping miniatures might end, another fits directly into it, an interlocking cosmos of mosaic orbs. Sure, within each ellipse, a wobbly picture emerges. “If You Think About It Now” rings with classic “White Album” psych pop via pastel-painted Fiery Furnaces ease, vocals smeared and soft, the sonic field deep and mutable. The watery beach swoon and acoustic push of “Tiny Planes on Canvas” organically transitions into into “Mosaic #2”, an organic-electric symphony piece coming from some retro-sci-fi music box.
Even when pieces twitch out of their pretty framework (the sleepy “When You’re Small” skronks out of existence after a brief two minutes), these blips blend their way back into the mix almost immediately. The epic “Stars and Molecules” does all that in one track, moving from radiation-burnt radio signals to lush harmonies, then surfy sway, then balmy, bongo-driven guitar chopping, all before bursting back out into space. “If you’re waiting on some other world, it won’t be too long,” Hart lilts through a fog, bringing the journey into focus.
Many times when reaching out to grab onto a particularly appealing melody or sound, it’ll flit away like a puff of cotton caught on a strong wind — the 52-second “Puffs of Cotton” enforces that quite nicely. The fact that Hart pieced together the album’s 31 tracks and hour runtime from recordings made over the past 12 years, featuring contributions from a wide range of pals including Jeff Mangum and Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel, is both telling and bewildering, a true testament to his vision.
His ability to fuse these too-brief passages makes their too-brief nature that much more beautiful, the brevity of each moment that much more palpable. “There’s just so much love/ There’s just so much hate/ There’s just so much mixed-up conclusions,” Hart croons on highlight “Conclusions”. “We better ask ourselves just what went wrong or right.” Mosaics Within Mosaics, much like life, will float past you in a complicated, blur, but there are so many important, beautiful moments to learn from when you let them, rather than trying to pin them down.
Essential Tracks: “If You Think About It Now”, “Stars and Molecules”, and “Conclusions”