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Tin Hat: The Sad Machinery of Spring

Once called the Tin Hat Trio, the group dropped the numerical designation following the departure of accordionist Rob Burger and the addition of three new members: Ara Anderson (trumpet, baritone horn), Zeena Parkins (harp) and Ben Goldberg (clarinets). Anderson and the group’s founders (Mark Orton on guitars and banjo, Carla Kihlstadt on all manner of violins and viola) also color their unique sound with toy piano, bass harmonica, pump organ and autoharp. With all five players writing, the end result still sounds cohesive, at a point where chamber music, free-jazz adventure and silent-movie soundtracks meet.

Inspiration for this album came from Polish novelist/graphic-artist Bruno Schulz, whose ability with narrative and flair for surrealism can be felt in Tin Hat’s music. “Daisy Bell” reshapes the Mitch Miller-type singalong often known as “Bicycle Built for Two” by putting a deadpan Kihlstedt vocal against a new, brooding melody. The trumpet and celeste march of “Janissary Band” sounds like the witching hour at a toyshop. Intentional or not, “Dionysius” and “Drawing Lessons” seem to borrow from the melodies of Ravel’s “Bolero” and “Nature Boy” respectively, if only long enough to evoke a double take that draws listeners further into the music.

Originally Published