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Posted September 11, 2007 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

The Tiny Masters of Today and Tomorrow

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For most 12 year olds, life typically consists of school, recess, and who can run the fastest in a game of tag. Ah, when the days were simple and pure. While this also proves to be the conventional age for kids to get interested in music, the ones who pursue it in an artistic form usually find themselves being taught guitar once per week by an aging hippie or a financially desperate college student. Unless they are proclaimed a prodigy, expectations (if any) are minimal. The aspects of original songwriting normally do not peek through until high school at the very least, with maturity and structural theory often being too initially complexing for those in middle or elementary school. I’m sure many of us have seen talent shows where younger kids play competent covers of classic hits; but how often do we actually stumble across a group who entirely writes and plays their own material? Being a skilled guitarist or bassist at that young age is one thing, but being proficient in the field of songwriting is something that is truly rare to be seen. If you are older than 24, the combined ages of the two core members in Tiny Masters of Today is less than your age alone. The sibling duo consists of Ivan, age 13, and his little sister Ada, age 11. Now, before you jump the gun and ignore this post based on their ages alone — give their songs a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

If I did not do a justifiable job of convincing you to give Tiny Masters of Today a chance, perhaps you will listen to someone more experienced. Is David Bowie credible enough for you? He called their debut EP, Big Noise, “genius” and compared the duo to Suicide and The Shaggs; two underrated acts who varied dramatically in style but resonated similarly in resulting influence. I suppose The Shaggs comparison is entertaining to ponder, as The Shaggs relied on their amateurish take for immediate satisfaction. And while Tiny Masters of Today certainly relies on a sense of lovable inexperience, their level of originality exceeds their age brightly. If Bowie is going to take the time to commend two kids from Brooklyn on their music, it would be safe to assume that it is worth at least a few listens. In fact, Bowie was not the only one who gave the band a thumbs up. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins heard Tiny Masters of Today’s demos on MySpace and was impressed. Hearing that their initial demos were using simple drum loops, Simins contacted Ivan and Ada to express his genuine interest. “Our parents had to talk to him first and make sure he wasn’t some psycho,” said Ada. Simins proved to be beneficial in enhancing the duo’s sound, participating as the drummer during live shows and in the studio. In addition to playing the drums on every track, he also produced Tiny Masters of Today’s debut full-length album, Bang Bang Boom Cake.

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Rather expectedly, Ivan plays lead guitar and Ada takes care of the bass work. They both lend in their share of vocals but Ivan is often the prominent force. His voice, however, is entirely indistinguishable between the genders at this point and, in an enjoyable manner, it contributes fully to their original sound. Though I imagine that Ivan will be pressed for luck when his voice starts cracking, his excellent melodic comprehension should allow for future success if handled properly. The band’s presence is certainly reputable enough, amassing over 200,000 plays on MySpace and getting signed to a label (Mute Records) as a result. In addition to Ziggy and Simins, other musicians are appreciative of Tiny Masters of Today as well. Both CSS and Liars have remixed Tiny Masters of Today’s infectious “Hey, Mr. DJ” and a portion of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Karen O and Nick Zinner) appear on my favorite track from Bang Bang Boom Cake, “Hologram World”. As Karen O takes part in an explosively irresistible chorus with both Ivan and Ada, Zinner’s heavy guitar riffs provides for a blistering wall of distorted sound as the threesome bursts out, “It’s a hologram world, own it!” I may get some sort of backlash for saying this, but I truly believe that “Hologram World” can compete with some of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ more impressive tracks. It is a fun-filled romp from start to finish.

“Trendsetter” also features another notable guest in Kimya Dawson, the ex-signer of Moldy Peaches. Though it seems like an experimental piece (even from a band like this), it just surprises me how Tiny Masters of Today can transition from style to style throughout Bang Bang Boom Cake without sounding overly hesitant. They even have a song that pokes fun at the “controversial” tag. The droning “Bushy” is a rather encouraging political attempt. Though the song is barely over a minute long and just passably reaps from repetitiveness, at least they are managing to make their subject matter somewhat diverse. As Bush says in the sampled clip, “And to the C students: I say you too can be president of the United States.” Ooh, how ironic! Though I would not be surprised if several critics bash Tiny Masters of Today with their age solely in mind, there is no denying the fantastic quality of songs like “Hologram World”. Though you could easily attribute the success to the addition of Karen O and Nick Zinner, the productive approach could not have been done without the brother-sister duo of Ivan and Ada. From Bowie to Karen O, respectable musicians certainly are not faking their admiration. If they can appreciate such potential, it should not be excruciatingly difficult for many others either.

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Tiny Masters of Today – Hologram World (feat. Karen O & Nick Zinner)

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/tinymas-hol.mp3]

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Tiny Masters of Today – Hey, Mr. DJ (feat. DJ Atsushi Numata)

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/tinymas-hey.mp3]

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Tiny Masters of Today – Trendsetter (feat. Kimya Dawson & Angelo Spencer)

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/tinymas-tre.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].