Personnel: Sean Schuster-Craig (vocals, guitars, percussion, tapes).
Audio Mixer: Sean Schuster-Craig.
Recording information: Manual FX, Brooklyn, NY; Queens, NY.
Collage-pop artist Sean Schuster-Craig's work as Jib Kidder took the form of everything from plaintive folk balladry to bass mixtapes to makeshift low-budget gamelan over the course of a prolific discography that flew mostly under the radar since the early 2000s. Though coming after more than a decade's worth of experimental pop and general weirdness from Jib Kidder, 2015 album Teaspoon to the Ocean feels like a new chapter. Airtight focus has never been an issue for Schuster-Craig, whose previous work defied association with any given genre but always held a distinctive presence whether it was sample-based computer music or collections of found sound. Teaspoon to the Ocean retains this unique distinction but distills the various impulses that he explored before into an extremely clean, straightforward, and unclouded statement. Throughout the album, electronics and organic instruments cohabitate every available space. Brightly recorded live drums, pulsing drones, and vocodered vocal harmonies cluster together in album opener "Remove a Tooth," effectively coagulating into something simultaneously minimal and busy, as proggy rhythms blur under waves of static notes and vocal samples. This sets the scene for much of the album, with Schuster-Craig delving into buoyant sample-friendly pop on tunes like "In Between" and "Dozens," while taking a more oldies-modeled approach on the nostalgic arpeggios and vocal harmonies of "Appetites." His warbling, idiosyncratic vocals are signature to each song, shifting in delivery from track to track. On the patient synth meditation "The Waves," the vocals are reminiscent of Panda Bear's more lively moments, while the nasal, squeezed singing on "The Many" tends more toward Tusk-era Lindsey Buckingham. Teaspoon to the Ocean sounds like the product of countless hours of meticulous production, and countless years of ravenous music absorption before that. Looped snippets from easy listening albums meld with glitchy synths and slack key guitar lines, meshing into the uneasy beats that serve as a foundation for these massively colorful tracks. While every song is undeniably weird and sometimes crowded to the point of confusion, Schuster-Craig never loses the plot, exerting complete control over a set of tunes almost as delightfully catchy as they are perplexing. ~ Fred Thomas