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The Sad Machinery Of Spring

9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 18, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

For its fifth album, the former Tin Hat Trio is minus one founding member, accordionist Rob Burger, but takes in three new musicians: harpist Zeena Parkins (who has recorded with the group before), clarinetist Ben Goldberg (who has recorded several jazz and klezmer albums under his own name) and multi-instrumentalist Ara Anderson, who contributes a number of horns and keyboards to the mix and has played before with Tom Waits and others. Despite the personnel shift -- founders Mark Orton (guitar, piano and other instruments) and Carla Kihlstedt (violins, voice and more) remain -- and the wider canvas, the basic M.O. of Tin Hat remains relatively intact. The group has been described in the past as "acoustic chamber music," and while that is as apt a tag as any, it's also rather limiting. Tin Hat draws from a number of not-always-compatible genres -- among them various branches of classical music, world elements and the freeness of jazz -- but then blurs the lines until none are particularly recognizable as such. But for The Sad Machinery of Spring the reconfigured, largely instrumental group specifically looked for inspiration in the works of surrealist Polish writer Bruno Schulz, who was killed by the Nazis in 1942. The essence of klezmer and related Eastern European sounds hover over Sad Machinery's compositions and improvisations, but Tin Hat is too unorthodox and resourceful to be so obvious. There is a balance of many moods and sonic variations among these tracks, ranging from playful and carefree to bucolic to jarringly eccentric. Whether that reflects Schulz's own creations most listeners will probably never know, but no matter: Sad Machinery is hardly a passive listening experience, but it's never boring. ~ Jeff Tamarkin

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 18, 2012)
  • Original Release Date: December 7, 2011
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RykoDisc
  • Run Time: 48 minutes
  • ASIN: B000LPR3R2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,091 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jan P. Dennis on February 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD
. . . as always.

And this genre-bending band, perhaps more than any other, has those details absolutely nailed.

It was a brilliant move expanding this minimalist group from a trio to a quintet, adding, it must be said, such monster Downtown players as Zeena Parkins (harp) and Ben Goldberg (various clarinets). For me, this move morphs the band from a quirky, generally interesting although somewhat static outfit, into a killer ensemble of absolute spot-on chamber-jazzish players. Still anchored by the heartbreakingly beautiful violin and various exotic string instruments of the inimitable Carla Kihlstedt and the Kevin Breit/Ry Cooderish guitar of Mark Orton, the band has brilliantly expanded its musical palette to include a greater diversity of sounds and moods than ever before, without compromising--indeed, almost magically augmenting--its signature aesthetic.

Throughout the disc emerge spellbinding moments of musical magic: the deft interplay of trumpet, clarinet, guitar, and violin on "Blind Paper Dragon"; the chthonic mysteries of "Dionysus," mesmerically conveyed through the violin/guitar/piano magic of Kihlstedt/Orton/Anderson; the adroit instrumental interweavings of "Drawing Lessons"--almost every tune has its special pleasures. What seems to have been not entirely lacking but insufficiently on display on previous discs--but here in spades--is a kind of rigor and spine that lifts the proceedings from mere prettiness into realms of sheer gloriousness.

This is a band that has grown into one of the most important instrumental ensembles currently on the jazz/New Music scene. Highest recommendation.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James Lamperetta on February 22, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Tin Hat is one of the precious few groups occupy a space that is uniquely their own.

Formerly known as Tin Hat Trio, multi-instrumentalists Carla Kihlstedt and Mark Orton used fellow founding-member Rob Burger's departure as the impetus to expand the group and shorten the name. Recruiting fellow multi-instrumentalist Ara Anderson, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and harpist Zeena Parkins, the quintet's new CD "The Sad Machinery of Spring" finds a freshly invigorated band artfully exploring and further embellishing the multi-stylistic forays which were synonymous with THT.

Utilizing an assortment of almost two-dozen instruments, the group continues to blend and bend classical, folk, blues, bluegrass, jazz, and world music into a wholly original aural hybrid. Steeped in virtuosity, tempered with understatement and imbued with a hint of irreverence and avant-garde attitude, the fifteen tunes on the new CD are evocative miniatures, wonderfully varied except for their ability to engage and intrigue.

It takes less than three minutes for TH to cast its spell as the haunting familiarity of "Old World" offers up a charming welcome. With Orton's gentle acoustic guitar shaping the backdrop, Goldberg sets the theme afloat before Kihlstedt's violin emerges to gently tuck it in.

"Blind Paper Dragon" finds Anderson's trumpet gliding over the percussive gallop of acoustic guitar, accented with flourishes of both harp and violin. Goldberg's solo sings of Bourbon St. while a moment later his playing takes on an edge as he and Anderson mix it up.

"The Land of Perpetual Sleep" is every bit as spooky one would imagine the place to be.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Icky on February 5, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Once again, Tin Hat delievers just what I've been waiting for. The music has a very free flowing feel to it, mainly because the songs are structured without actually sounding like they're structured. Rather than focusing on countless chord changes, the backing rhythm(often a guitar) tends to deviate very little throughout the songs, giving the other instruments room to breathe and explore the possible note combinations without feeling rushed. Because each instrument has the potential to shift the overall tone of a song back and forth, the music often sounds epic. Yet, because average song length is around 3:30, the epic quality of the music is concisely packaged , never sounding empty, but instead rich and fulfilling(imagine a musical cheese cake).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 15, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I heard a track off this played on BBC Radio 3's Late Junction show, and immediately tracked it down. Hmmm, Turtle Island meets Penguin Cafe meets Kronos, directed by Kurt Weill?

Great stuff.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Shaffner on December 12, 2007
Format: Audio CD
In comparison to the other four Tin Hat Trio albums, I feel this one is by far the least inventive. Yes the music is very beautiful, and more fully orchestrated than their other albums (because of the added musicians in the group), however Tin Hat Trio's best musical attributes-- including the use of mixed meter and non-traditional instruments and sounds-- are almost non-existent in this album. I've listened to this album at least a half dozen times, so I've given it a fair chance. It just doesn't grab me with its originality and quirkyness like the rest of Tin Hat Trio's repertoire.

If you, like me, are interested in the quirky and unique, I would instead of Sad Machinery recommend Carla Kihlstedt's (Tin Hat's violinist and vocalist) solo album, Two Foot Yard.
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