It starts with the deep drones of an organ and the slow unsteady clacking of a few pairs of drumsticks. The song, called "Ame," is both haunting and captivating in its simplicity. Being only the first 50 seconds of Anathallo's latest release, Floating World, it gives barely a sign of what's to follow—the sonic blossoming that will wax and wane over the hour to come.

It also doesn't hint at the fact that the music is soon to become more than a collection of brave and beautiful compositions, but also a story of life and death taken from old Japanese folklore: a tale about a stray dog that has been taken in by a couple and then finds treasure in their backyard, but ultimately faces a tragic demise at the hands of anger and greed.

One way many critics have come to deal with Anathallo's soaring indie-rock orchestra has been to unjustly simplify it by categorization, which usually results in comparing the Michigan outfit to yet another Michigonian who shares the habit of loading songs with as many layers as possible—Sufjan Stevens.

"It's sort of a bummer," says Matt Joynt, vocalist/guitarist and one-seventh of the band. "We would be making this music regardless of whether Sufjan Stevens existed or not. And we've been playing for six years now, so part of it is just the lack of people doing any research. At the same time, to us it's really been about what people who really listen to music—and don't get paid to listen to music—think about it. And that's all been really positive."

While I adamantly disagree that there's much in common between the two artists, I suppose the unifying link is an obvious and understandable one. Like Stevens, Anathallo utilize a long list of instruments—traditional and not—to compose their stories. On Floating World you can hear guitar, cello, bass, drums, electric tambourine, bells, flugelhorn, trombone, chains, clarinet, trumpet, harp, and more. Even a choir of vocals often takes on the role of an instrument.

With compositions as delicate and precise as they are, there must be a history of musical studies to be found somewhere on the band's resumé. But their work also flaunts a sort of carefree and innocent sense of experimentation, which can only come from an ear that hasn't been extensively trained. Anathallo's roster, Joynt confirms, has a bit of both.

"We have people who are trained in the folk way of learning by hearing, then we have people who grew up on Neil Young, the Beatles, and the Zombies," he says. "Other people have been heavily involved in bands and choir and a lot of musical theater, which is where I think the theatrical sensibility comes in, the sort of comedic element of it, the absurdity of how over the top it gets at times.

"But we tend to find the most common point of interest when we're creating," he continues, "then we really thrive on it and input to it. We all write together as a group."

With Daniel Bracken, Andrew Dost, Nathan Sandberg, Joel Thiele, Seth Walker, Bret Wallin, and of course Joynt writing songs on Floating World (and at least eight more helping in the recording process), that makes seven brains and fourteen hands working on one project. Things are bound to get a little messy. But that's also one of the reasons they're able to be so fascinating. Some listeners, though, don't appreciate the band's theory that there can never really be too many cooks in the kitchen—this summer Pitchfork gave Floating World a heartbreaking 2.7 of 10 (and of course the writer also drew those far-off comparisons to Stevens). Joynt says the band is perfectly aware that they're not perfect. They're still learning how to best use and control the plethora of options that sit literally at their fingertips (and they ain't no 2.7 either).

"Sometimes we don't know when to pull things back," he admits with a chuckle. "We're still learning about finding that balance between doing too much while really utilizing all the elements we can have in the music. It's trial and error. Sometimes it really works and sometimes it's like 'Oh man, we shouldn't have done that!' But that's part of the fun of making art, I think: the excitement of failure."