Review from www.pitchfork.com .
This version of Small Black’s debut EP is a remastered update of the original that popped up online last year, now outfitted with two additional tracks. Originally a bedroom duo consisting of Ryan Heyner and Josh Kolenik, Small Black added two new members (including Pitchfork.tv contributors Juan Pieczanski and Jeff Curtin) to bring the insular, demo-like tracks included here to a live setting. And if Small Black are shaping up to be a proper band (their upcoming full-length will feature the expanded line-up), this EP serves as an intriguing portrait of the group in its pollywog stage, making music that is simply stated and occasionally arresting.
Much of the EP sounds almost half-formed, as heavy reverb and over-processed synthesizers often overwhelm the subtle melodies and bright patches that anchor the dazed, mercurial songs. Most often, you have to work a little harder for the small rewards; beneath the tangled synth chatter and seasick sway of “Weird Machines” is a joviality that could be blown up to fill a large space (confirmed by a live version that appeared on a recent split EP with the like-minded Washed Out). Such revelry can spill out of a track at any given moment, and major highlight “Despicable Dogs” is by far the best demonstration of it here. But Heyner and Kolenik seem more interested in establishing a mood than pursuing full-on pop pleasures; they often sabotage their more accessible moments with noisy sample cycles and calamitous, disorienting percussion.
But Small Black should be approached as a document of a band in its embryonic form, a wash of ideas that work just often enough to be satisfying. The only real mistake is the addition of the two additional tunes– the too-straightforward “Kings of Animals” and the ambling, harmonica-centered “Baby Bird Pt. 2”. Both are true to the sound of the original EP, but they fail to conjure the same buzzing, sentimental vibe. Certainly the larger, fully formed version of Small Black is the one to look out for, but Small Black— shaky, yet often gratifying– is more than just a stop-gap.