The Tin Box ~ Play

Last spring, we reviewed Places, a charming EP from Brooklyn’s The Tin Box, which was a highlight from Hibernate’s 26-release benefit for the homeless.  The artist followed this with Places II in the fall, rounding the project to album length.  This year, The Tin Box returns with the sparkling Play, another beguiling effort sure to draw new fans to the fold.  Given the fact that each release is only $1, it’s impossible to go wrong.  Those in need of an emotional boost will find Play a perfect panacea.

Tucker Sferro’s music is laden with bells, honoring the moniker by providing the impression of a music box.  One may think of chimes, a thumb piano, a calliope, or a generative, sun-activated outdoor sculpture.  A curious tone results from a mixture of compositional and improvisational techniques.  One is not always able to predict where the next note will land.  Yet the music is intensely melodic; the music box dancer has no difficulty twirling in time.

An association of music boxes with childhood lends the set a comforting, nostalgic sheen.  Midway through “Treasures,” the bells shimmer and twinkle like a blanket of stars on a cold winter’s night.  “Constellations” makes the connection even more evident.  This peaceful, positive music is the natural outgrowth of a discography whose titles include Joy and Optimism.  Percussive repetition creates a trancelike feeling in “Communion,” as befits its spiritual base.  We suspect that the title refers more to a feeling of oneness than to the celebration of a rite, but either interpretation fits.

Much of the artist’s output revolves around extended tracks (the opener here topping ten minutes), but two of Play‘s tracks are short enough to be singles.  “Sparrow’s dream” creates a delicate stereo interplay, with bells wandering as minstrels through the woods.  Then “Seasons” distills the artist’s sound to a feeling, bridging the path to the closer.  This is the second-shortest piece in The The Tin’s discography, after 2016’s “Zygote,” which was a single.  Still, the best approach to the set is simply to let it play.  After thirty-five minutes, one may feel anxiety slipping away, replaced by hopeful calm. Such an elusive, invaluable feeling is indeed a treasure.  (Richard Allen)

The very first entry, The Tin Box‘s Places, is an immediate favorite.  The electronic timbres are bright and cheery, a breath of fresh air to listeners so recently disappointed by the cancellation of the marathon.  Brooklyn’s Tucker Sferro offers two extended pieces, one inspired by Maine and the other New Jersey, with pieces from Vermont, Connecticut and New York to come.  The first is perky, percussive and danceable; the second, calming and warm.  Back in April, these sounds were in sharp contrast to the spiking pandemic numbers in the Northeast; now that the area has become the safest in the nation, they come across as a celebration. 
  • Igloo Magazine

    “Invisible Kin” named to “Best Albums of 2017” list:

    In fact barely a tone here is jangling or discordant—everything is focused, intricate and direct. Invisible Kin’s sound has its roots in Autechre’s easier material, or Boards of Canada’s more upbeat and uptempo productions.

    The Tin Box is a solo project by US composer Tucker Sferro. Sferro is something of a rarity when it comes to electronic production: beforehand he was a brass player in a jazz ensemble who’s transformed into an electronic producer. Invisible Kin is The Tin Box’s fifth release and it lives up to Sferro’s own musical history. This is a composer who knows his stuff. Very well. Invisible Kin is a record that’s been made feeling steady in a stream of optimism, complexity and intimacy.

    In fact barely a tone here is jangling or discordant—everything is focused, intricate and direct. Invisible Kin’s sound has its roots in Autechre’s easier material, or Boards of Canada’s more upbeat and uptempo productions.

    Opener, “Far Away Spaces” is somewhat of a false starter, with an edgy synth leading in melody. Things get delicate on the second track “Wellspring Unlimited,” with glass sounding melodies alongside intricate synth patterns creating a ruminative play in harmony. Invisible Kin has abrasive moments too, the big bending baseline of “Metropolis One” gives the record a muscular groove despite its restful being. “Twins Ecstatic” has pure intentions but distorted sequencing.

    A repetitive trait in Sferro’s composition style is that he uses pattern-based-MIDI-sequencing leading all the tracks. A line found in Invisible Kin’s press release is how the sound is occupied with “mathematical models of probability… and how this weaves a component of chance into his compositions” and when we think how Sferro uses pattern-based-sequencers to make music this is an insightful description. The description translates to a loose and natural vibe, in the face of controlled electronically designed music. Sferro used to play in jazz ensembles—chance and improvisation are fundamentals of jazz and they’re also fundamentals of Invisible Kin too.

    Given the confidence shown by Sferro in Invisible Kin, it’s tempting to see this release as a beginning chapter to a project where his sound can evolve into a thrilling new form. This record communicates and expresses so clearly: joy.

  • Merchants of Air

    While Björn is taking care of some of the heavier releases in our inbox, I’m still hooked on relaxing, calm music. Today, the soothing tunes have been delivered by Audiobulb, who claim to specialize in “Exploratory music & other beautiful audio excursions ….”.

    I can live with that, especially when I listen to their outputs. Take this album by Brooklyn-based act The Tin Box. It’s formed by composer Tucker Sferro who began his career playing trumpet in live jazz ensembles. Later, he expanded his instrumentarium and his music followed.

    ‘Invisible Kin’ shows a few of these influences, namely ambient, intelligent dance music and downtempo electronics. Opener ‘Far Away Spaces’ immediately reminds me of acts like Plaid and Boards Of Canada, two names who will pretty much remain a constant throughout the entire album. On the other hand, Laraaji and Autechre also come to mind, sometimes together as in the immersive ‘Voyage Immeasurable’.

    The overall tone seems to be playful and joyous. I think listening to this album can seriously improve your mood. Although the album is easily categorizable in the ambient scene, there are numerous uptempo melodies, hence probably the Laraaji influence. Of course, the percussion and beats also do their part in the bright and almost cheerful atmosphere of the music. ‘Metropolis One’ is an excellent example of that ànd one of my favorites here.

    Another one of my favorites is ‘The Muse Eternal’, a slow but energetic piece of music with less capering passages than most of the tracks here. That being said, yes, the majority of the music consists of rather jumpy melodic aspects. Personally, I wouldn’t mind one or two deep droning pieces of music in between the others but that’s just a personal opinion. In this house, I probably solve that by adding these songs to my day to day shuffle list.

    I suggest you do the same. In all ‘The Invisible Kin’ is a highly enjoyable album which will quite possibly put a blissful smile on your face. So check it out and allow the music of The Tin Box to take you on a little journey through your own psyche. It’ll be worth it.

  • Ether Real

    Avec ses multiples sorties (principalement en digital, comme celle-ci d’ailleurs), Audiobulb s’avère typiquement une structure à même de procurer découvertes et nouvelles têtes. C’est ainsi qu’en ce début d’automne, on fait la connaissance de The Tin Box, projet d’un musicien dont on nous indique qu’il a commencé sa carrière comme trompettiste de jazz, avant de bifurquer vers l’électronique et, plus spécifiquement, vers une electronica mélodique particulièrement gracieuse et sensible.

    Avec ses chromatismes rafraîchissants et immédiatement accrocheurs, ses rythmiques bien senties et justement dosées ou encore sa capacité à travailler sur la longueur (plus de six minutes de moyenne pour chacun des dix morceaux), le New-Yorkais présente tous les atouts qui nous ont fait (et nous font encore) aimer ce style musical. À la fois assez franches (celles de Voyage Immeasurable, par exemple) tout en restant dans un registre non agressif, les pulsations de The Tin Box voient parfois affleurer quelques consonances que le parcours de l’artiste nous conduit à rapprocher d’une cymbale be-bop. On retrouve les mêmes accointances avec la tessiture de certaines mélodies qu’on pourrait relier à celle d’un vibraphone (Life Aquatic).

    Le caractère aérien de l’ensemble (on serait presque tenté d’évoquer un voyage stellaire, à l’écoute d’Invisible Kin, sentiment renforcé par l’intitulé des morceaux Far Away Spaces et Voyage Immeasurable) fait de cet album une belle délectation. Celui-ci sait donc aller chercher des sonorités très oniriques, colorées et chatoyantes (à l’image de la pochette, avec ses arbres chamarrés), mais aussi des expressions plus urbaines (les rythmiques très fragmentées de The Angel Esmeralda). Face à cette vraie réussite, on conseillera simplement aux auditeurs d’interrompre leur écoute avant le dernier morceau, « reprise » du premier auquel Tucker Sferro adjoint une voix parlée, des granulosités sur certaines notes et des pulsations plus appuyées tout à fait dispensables.

    Translation into English:

    With its numerous releases (mainly in digital form, like this one, Audiobulb has proven itself to be an organization that can make new discoveries and find new faces. So it is that now, at the beginning of fall, we meet The Tin Box, a project created by a musician who, we are told, started his career as a jazz trumpeter before turning his attention to electronic music and, more specifically, towards an especially graceful and sensitive melodic electronica.

    With his refreshing and instantly catchy colors, his strongly felt, precisely measured rhythms and his ability to work in long format (each of the ten pieces averaging more than six minutes), the New Yorker has all the qualities that made (and still make) us love this musical style. The Tin Box’s beats, while at once quite direct (those in Voyage Immeasurable, for example) without assuming a harsh register, occasionally allow certain sounds to break through which the artist’s trajectory causes us to compare to a be-bop cymbal. You find the same connections with the tessitura of certain melodies, which one could link with that of a vibraphone (Life Aquatic).

    The overall airy quality (listening to Invisible Kin, one is almost tempted to imagine a journey among the stars, a feeling that is strengthened by the titles of the pieces Far Away Spaces and Voyage Immeasurable) makes the album truly delightful. The album consciously strives for very dreamlike, colorful and shimmering tones (like the cover, with its richly colored trees), but also for more urban idioms (the very fragmented rhythms of The Angel Esmeralda). In the face of this fine achievement, we would simply advise listeners t stop listening before the last piece, a reprise of the first piece, of which Tucker Sferro adds a spoken voice, a bit of graininess to some notes and more sustained beats, all of which is quite superfluous.

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