nedjelja, 30. prosinca 2012.

Tin Hat - the rain is a handsome animal (2012)

Elementi klezmera, tanga, jazza, bluesa.  
Obrade pjesama e. e. cummingsa.
Balade o oblacima na lišću. Teatralne, melankolične sahrane malih životnih stvari koje su nam preblizu da bi bile naše.


San Francisco-based quartet Tin Hat will release their sixth studio album, the rain is a handsome animal, August 28th on New Amsterdam Records. The 17-track song cycle is based on the visionary modernist poetry of American poet E.E. Cummings and, for the first time in the band’s history, centers largely around the remarkable singing of Tin Hat violinist Carla Kihlstedt. Each of the group’s members channeled their relationship with Cummings’ work to contribute their own unique pieces for the project, showcasing themselves as both imaginative composers as well as riveting performers. The resulting work is at once universally accessible and hard-to-define–drawing from both high and low art forms such as folk, classical, Americana, and countless other traditions–which, in essence, is exactly what makes the project emblematic of Tin Hat as well as Cummings’ work itself. The music of Tin Hat is born of the long-standing friendships and deep musical connections of members Carla Kihlstedt (violins, viola, voice), Mark Orton (acoustic guitar, dobro), Ben Goldberg (clarinets), and Rob Reich (accordion, piano). This sacred kinship is the reason handsome animal feels organically cohesive despite that each member took turns separately with the pen; each peice was collaboratively refined over the course of two years while the ensemble was on tour before being taken into the studio in May 2011. Although this isn’t Tin Hat’s first album featuring vocals (past vocalists have included Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, and Mike Patton in addition to Kihlstedt), it does mark the first time the group has focused a project almost entirely on Carla’s moving singing. Intimate, warm, and robust, her voice perfectly complements Cumming’s tough-minded words, all set to some of the most beautiful and ambitious compositions in the group’s history.
Cummings’ poetic language is a natural fit for Tin Hat’s aesthetic; some of his poems read like lyrics to folk songs, while others are spare and abstract, leaving ample room for musical interpretation. As such, some of the album’s pieces explore his poetic phrasing (such as Reich’s art-song so shy shy shy, which is written around a melodic transcription of Cummings’ own reading), or the way in which the lyrics display on the page (such as Goldberg’s stirring unchanging), while some are less direct meditations, such as the three instrumental works including Orton’s up beat, jazz-tinged title track. The album sways different ways, from Orton’s plaintive cry on buffalo bill and Reich’s catchy folk on if up’s the word, to the surreal setting made by Kihlstedt’s e-string violin on little i and Goldberg’s cinematic closer now (more near ourselves than we). But no matter where it turns, at its core the rain is a handsome animal resounds with the profoundly perfect union of these inspired minds, blurring the lines between composition and poem. -

While new to New Amsterdam Records, the San Francisco-based quartet Tin Hat isn't in itself a new project. Formed in in 1997 as Tin Hat Trio and then rechristened Tin Hat in 2004, the outfit had five albums under its collective belts prior to recording the song cycle the rain is a handsome animal. What separates the new release from the others, however, is that it's the first time a Tin Hat recording has largely oriented itself around the singing of violinist Carla Kihlstedt (even if past recordings have included vocals by Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, and Mike Patton in addition to Kihlstedt). The album's lyrics are derived from the poetry of e.e. cummings (yes, the famously lower-case poet), but there's no need to be scared off by the recording's literary connection.
cummings' words act as perfect springboards for the quartet's marvelous flights of fancy and invention. Four would appear to be the perfect number for this outfit, too: enough voices are present to produce a rich chamber sound—Kihlstedt, Mark Orton (acoustic guitar, dobro), Ben Goldberg (clarinets), and Rob Reich (accordion, piano) make up the outfit—but enough space is left to accommodate a clear separation between their individual sounds. Though guest horns and strings musicians appear on the recording (most conspicuously during “buffalo bill”), Tin Hat's quartet sound is a thing of beauty, combining as it does Kihlstedt's luscious strings with Orton's guitar, Goldberg's clarinet, and Reich's accordion. The elegant interplay between the instruments and vocals in “unchanging” makes it one of the album's most arresting moments, something helped along by the prominent role accorded Goldberg's contralto clarinet.
Elements of klezmer, tango, jazz, and even blues inform Tin Hat's music. Reich's playing on “a cloud on a leaf” calls to mind Piazzolla, while the interplay between Kihlstedt's strings and Goldberg's clarinets reveals Tin Hat's connection to klezmer and related musical forms. The intimate tone of the album is established at the outset when “a cloud on a leaf” presents a samba-slash-tango of the kind one would more likely encounter in a small cafe than formal concert hall. Kihlstedt's voice also humanizes the material by being less operatic and conservatory-like and more natural in its delivery, and she's certainly up to the vocal challenge, too, as the upward ascent she effortlessly scales in “2 little whos” makes clear.
The album ranges between dramatic ballads (the lilting “sweet spring,” with its remarkable violin-generated evocation of birdsong, and “human rind”), theatrical set-pieces (one could easily picture the Weill-esque “if up's the word” and “open his head” performed on some off-Broadway stage), a rapturous song of playful character (the charming “2 little whos”), and even a reasonably credible stab at raw country-blues (“anyone lived in a pretty how town”). A particularly beautiful moment emerges during the funereal dirge “buffalo bill” in the vocal line “and what I want to know is / how do you like your blue-boyed boy, Mister Death” that follows the declamatory horns episode.
The group's virtuosic command of their respective instruments is displayed throughout, but perhaps never more thrillingly than in the driving title track when the music fluidly oscillates between solo and ensemble passages. Each musician stands out but special mention must be made of Kihlstedt, given the ferocious violin playing she adds to the extended workout “the enormous room” and “grapefruit.” Anything but precious, the rain is a handsome animal impresses as a riveting and perfectly accessible collection whose seventeen songs reward repeated visits. -

Many composers have found inspiration in the work of poets, setting verse to music. For Tin Hat, an ensemble with deep Bay Area roots, the elliptical modernist poetry of e.e. cummings has revealed an entirely new side of a band already known for its vast array of influences.
In its first incarnation as Tin Hat Trio, the band experienced a good deal of internal dissension over whether or not to also showcase violinist Carla Kihlstedt as a vocalist. Founded in 1997 as a stylistically expansive instrumental ensemble, the group wasn't entirely averse to singers. Early albums featured guest appearances by the likes of Tom Waits and Willie Nelson. But the fear was that with Kihlstedt's rock star charisma, unleashing her vocals would knock Tin Hat's delicate balance askew.
Those anxieties weren't entirely misplaced. A 17-song cycle based on the syntax-bending poems of e.e. cummings, "the rain is a handsome animal"  (New Amsterdam Records) is Tin Hat's first album of new material in five years, and Kihlstedt's dramatic, profoundly expressive voice often grabs you by the throat.
The album is Tin Hat's latest literary endeavor, following 2007's The Sad Machinery of Spring, a project inspired by the hallucinatory writing of the doomed Polish Jewish artist Bruno Schulz.
"the rain is a handsome animal" features Tin Hat's new lineup, with Kihlstedt and fellow founder, guitarist Mark Orton, Berkeley clarinetist Ben Goldberg and the most recent addition, San Francisco pianist and accordionist Rob Reich. All four musicians contribute compositions, responding with humor, empathy and slippery lyricism to cummings' tricky, idiosyncratic use of language. In Goldberg's hands, the brief poem "2 little whos" feels like a romantic denouement from a Broadway musical that got lost on 52nd Street.
While Kihlstedt's vocals dominate the album, her violin work is as arresting as ever. But then, as a group, Tin Hat's musicianship is masterly throughout. Each piece is full of subtle and telling details, like the ominous rumble of Goldberg's contra alto clarinet on "unchanging," an arrangement that shadows cummings' unorthodox placement of the text on the page.
Tin Hat captures the seismic emotional swings of cummings' verse, delving both into his dark moods and his giddy flights, like "yes is a pleasant country," the album's closest brush with preciousness.
A beautifully constructed album that reveals more with each spin, "the rain" contains art songs and folk ballads, tango flourishes and jazzy grooves. And much like cummings' mercurial verse, it offers a surprise around every corner. - Andrew Gilbert

You be words and I’ll be music
Ain’t you heard that’s how they do it
You’re a poem when you’re on your own
I’ll try not to get in your way
But I’ve all the pretty poems I have known
Baby, you give me something to say

—Sondre Lerche, “Words and Music”
Poetry and music can be used as two different ways of saying the same thing. When I read a poem about any given topic—say, heartache—my reaction is usually different then when I listen to a song or album on the same topic. This may have to do with the different physiological processes involved in each activity, but attempting to reduce emotional events to biology is almost always unsatisfactory. If I feel like listening to a record as opposed to reading a book (I find it difficult to do both at times), I just feel it. There’s no real reason why.
Unlike me, some particularly deft composers (in this case Tin Hat) have a unique ability to merge these two art forms. Of course, poetry and vocal music aren’t far apart to begin with. The great epic poems were almost always accompanied by song when read in their time. Some of contemporary music’s best lyricists have the skills of great poets. In reading lyrics, they often only work as a part of a song rather than as standalone works of poetry, but even in those cases there is a natural poetic rhythm to lyrics that, when done right, carries a seriousness that’s wholly literary. For the rain is a handsome animal, Tin Hat have taken on a very serious literary challenge of their own: crafting 17 musical adaptations of the poetry of E. E. Cummings. Tin Hat, a group known for musical skill both virtuosic and organic, face a pretty lofty obstacle right from the get-go: How can they express their instrumental prowess without drowning out Cummings’ poetic language?
The success of the rain is a handsome animal is that they avoid that problem entirely. Most of these songs feel so natural that it’s hard to believe they weren’t written as lyrics first. One of the most memorable moments here is “buffalo bill,” where one of Cummings’ most wry lines (“Jesus he was a handsome man / And what I want to know is / How do you like your blueeyed boy Mr. Death?”) takes on an entirely different life. Very wisely, the musicians here decided not to handcuff themselves to the text. None of these songs read like a predictable take on the source poems; the music flows naturally with the words. The only real flaw with these interpretations is how many there are; at 17 tracks, this runs a little long, and while there’s little here that’s bad, some editorial oversight could have made this a more powerful listen. As it stands, the album tends to require you come back to it in several different listens. By making Cummings’ poetry the primary subject, Tin Hat necessarily require the listener to do some reading, whether to see how they came up with these compositions or if the listener could see a different musical interpretation for the words. the rain is a handsome animal is a feat in its successful union of poetry and music without the dilution of either one, but since the source material comes from such a well-respected poet, one must also look outward to the primary sources.

As far as virtuosity is concerned, Tin Hat continue to impress. With this being their sixth studio effort, they’ve had plenty of room to mature as performers, and this is undoubtedly their most assured work yet. A refined, beautiful Parisian quality underlies many of the songs; the two openers, “a cloud on a leaf” and the title track, are intricate, jazz-inflected pieces that carry all the grace associated with the City of Lights. The latter song is especially impressive, and in a surprising turn it’s the best song here despite its wordlessness (It’s one of the few instrumental cuts present). Tin Hat’s style is like the union of a classical chamber quartet and a jazz-fusion group: elegant, technically uncompromising, and at times blistering in its fret-burning. This incredible skill alone, however, isn’t what makes this their best recording yet. The fact that I came away from the rain is a handsome animal both impressed by the musicianship I just heard and with a deeper understanding of a great poet is a testament to the high quality of this release. Cummings may be a great who can stand alone on the merit of his words, but Tin Hat have given him incredible things to say. - Brice Ezell

Ten years ago, whilst sitting in my cold and leaky garden flat by the sea, I switched on the radio and heard what sounded like a violin dancing with a broken mattress. The sound turned out to be a tune entitled Fountain of Youth by the Tin Hat Trio. I was hooked and, over the next decade, I stuffed my record collection with everything the trio released; from the eerie chamber music of MEMORY IS AN ELEPHANT and HELIUM, via the malformed western swing of THE RODEO ERODED, to the haunting insert-genre-here of BOOK OF SILK and THE SAD MACHINERY OF SPRING.
Surreal, otherworldly, usually instrumental though often accompanied by the vocals of violinist Carla Kihlstedt or such eminent guests as Tom Waits and Willie Nelson, the Tin Hat Trio – known as Tin Hat since the departure of accordionist Rob Burger – have been defying categorisation for fifteen years with a steady stream of weirdly unique, though always exquisite, records.
Billing the project as their most ambitious to date, Tin Hat have just released THE RAIN IS A HANDSOME ANIMAL – a seventeen movement song-cycle using as lyrics the poetry of e.e.cummings.
Employing the usual, spine-tingling blend of accordion, clarinet, guitar and violin, the band have, once again, tinkered with the mechanisms of jazz, classical and European folk to produce the usual captivating monster that is their unparalleled brand of chamber music. This time, however, Carla Kihlstedt breathes life into the deformed marionette with her wispy, ethereal vocals and the unpredictable modernist poetry of the perpetually lower case e.e. cummings.
Like their 2007 outing THE SAD MACHINERY OF SPRING, which was inspired by the writings of Bruno Shulz, Tin Hat's THE RAIN IS A HANDSOME ANIMAL presents another perfect marriage – that of the band's dark and chilling acoustic sound with the words of a troubled artist. And whether you're approaching this album as a Tin Hat devotee, a cummings reader or someone with a penchant for the musically extraordinary, you'll be thoroughly entertained and nourished by the record's spirited inventiveness and mischievous charm. - Liam Wilkinson

A poet since the age of 8‚ Edward Estlin Cummings literally made his name by eschewing standard forms of syntax‚ grammar‚ and even authorship. He was imprisoned for suspicion of treason in World War I -- essentially because he preferred hanging out with French soldiers instead of the other members of his ambulance unit. Although perceived as a radical and a bohemian‚ he became a Republican in later life and supported Joe McCarthy's witch hunts. In short‚ Cummings did what he wanted‚ said what he wanted‚ and wrote what (and how) he wanted. Tin Hat and e.e. cummings were made for each other.
Cummings loved Paris‚ living there for two years and returning many times afterwards. As such‚ Paris is where Tin Hat starts‚ infusing the opener "a cloud on a leaf" with the unmistakable sound of Django Reinhardt's legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France. Although Carla Kihlstedt's violin work is utterly different from Stéphane Grappelli‚ her unique vocal style actually dovetails with the Hot Club sound on Ben Goldberg's deconstruction of Cummings' "speaking of love." That sound makes frequent appearances throughout the rain is a handsome animal: Mark Orton's guitar and Rob Reich's accordion drive the title track down the same road Reinhardt's classic "Rhythm Futur" traveled‚ with Goldberg's romping clarinet acting as a whimsical‚ wailing car horn. Reich also adds a touch of Parisian romance to "two little who's." However‚ Goldberg's "unchanging" turns the lights down on the Club‚ going deeper and darker than Reinhardt ever went.
Because she literally brings Cummings' verse to life‚ Kihlstedt is the de facto star of this riveting date. Her voice floats about on "unchanging" like the falling snowflake that inspired the poem‚ and her interpretation of the verse "this is a girl who died in her mind" sets the haunting tone for the dystopian "human rind." Although every player comes strong throughout the disc‚ Kihlstedt's violin is a huge presence‚ whether she's painting a screen of soft rain on "diminutive" or literally making her instrument cry on the mournful "grapefruit."
Tin Hat is pigeonholed as an avant-classical outfit‚ and there are strong aspects of that sub-genre in the frightening free sections of Reich's "the enormous room." But Tin Hat's got big ears‚ and they listen to a lot of stuff. Kihlstedt's unconventional love song "sweet spring" has elements of Coldplay and Joni Mitchell; the funereal brass choir on Orton's "buffalo bill" evokes recent recordings by David Binney and John Scofield; Orton's dobro makes "anyone lived in a pretty how town" into an alt-country song‚ and if Tin Hat played the two-note vamp on "enormous" through a stack of Marshall amps‚ they'd have heavy-metal fans screaming their lungs out.
Tin Hat doesn't do background music‚ just like e.e. cummings didn't write nursery rhymes. Both the group and the poet should be viewed head-on and digested at length. Like I said: A match made in heaven… or France‚ whichever. And if the lower-case titles disturb you‚ just pretend Cummings' caps-lock is broken. - J Hunter

Foreign Legion (BAG Production)

Tin Hat
Ara Anderson – trumpet, pump organ, piano, glockenspiel
Ben Goldberg – clarinet, contralto clarinet
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, voice
Mark Orton – guitar, dobro
With Special Guests:
Matthias Bossi – percussion

The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal/Rykodisc)

Tin Hat
Ara Anderson – trumpet, baritone horn, pump organ, toy piano, celeste
Ben Goldberg – clarinet, alto clarinet, contralto clarinet
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, viola, trumpet violin, voice, celeste, bowed vibes
Mark Orton – guitar, dobro, banjo, pump organ, prepared piano, percussion, bass harmonica
Zeena Parkins – harp
Featuring Marika Hughes on cello (tr. 5)

Book of Silk (Ropeadope)

Tin Hat Trio
Rob Burger – accordion, piano, prepared piano, toy piano, field organ, celesete
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, viola, trumpet violin, voice
Mark Orton – guitar, prepared guitar, dobro, banjo
With Special Guests:
Matthias Bossi – percussion
Amanda Lawrence – viola
Jill McClelland Coykendall – clarinets
Lori Presthus – cello

The Rodeo Eroded (Ropeadope)

Tin Hat Trio
Rob Burger – accordion, piano, prepared piano, toy piano, field organ, celesete, harmonicas
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, viola, trumpet violin, voice
Mark Orton – guitar, prepared guitar, dobro, banjo
With Special Guests:
Willie Nelson – vocals
Jon Fishman – drums, percussion
Billy Martin – percussion
Bryan Smith – tuba
Zeena Parkins – harp
Jill McClelland – coykendall – clarinet
Ben Goldberg – base clarinet
Marika Hughes – cello
Todd Sikafoose – bass
Pat Campbell – drums

Helium (Angel/EMI)

Tin Hat Trio
Rob Burger – accordion, pump organ, prepared piano, base harmonica, marxophone
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, viola
Mark Orton – guitar, dobro, banjo
With Special Guests:
Tom Waits – vocals
Trevor Dunn – bass
Jon Evans – bass
Tom Yoder – trombone
Marika Hughes – cello
Pat Campbell – percussion, trombone
Andy Borger – drums
Beverly Wachtel – saw

Memory is an Elephant (Angel/EMI)

Tin Hat Trio
Rob Burger – accordion, pump organ, toy piano
Carla Kihlstedt – violin, viola
Mark Orton – guitar, banjo, mandolin
With Special Guests:
Mike Patton – vocals
Trevor Dunn – bass
Ben Goldberg – clarinets


“Modern melancholy, modern jubilation, modern swagger and modern volatility – for the last few years Tin Hat has reminded us that things aren’t exactly as they used to be.  Tin Hat makes it up as it goes, and dodges the commonplace like the plague.  Call them wordless torch songs for the new millennium, and hold out your hand.  They’ll introduce you to an emotion or two you’ve yet to experience.” Downbeat

“It’s an all-encompassing American tableau with melodies both strange and beautiful.” ~Associated Press

“…integrates all manner of music, tango to rural Americana to European chamber–by now a too-familiar move. But what makes them so appealing is the way they find deeper connections in all the sounds, rather than opting for the usual post-mod avoidance of meaning; their eclecticism draws you in instead of pushing you away.” Seattle Weekly

“Their haunting and strangely familiar music…is a soundtrack for the kind of puzzling dream which leaves you sitting awake in the middle of the night…” ~The New Yorker

“Dreamily eclectic, the music is a deft soup of American folk melodies with middle-European hamishness, the high modernism of Stravinsky and Schoenberg with the brash, wise-guy jazz of Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott. Familiar sounds bubble up and tickle the ear, then transmute into something witty, rich and strange.” Variety

“… strikes a perfect balance between antiquated and avant-garde. It defies classification on literally every level, sounding at once like the lost music of the late 1800s and like the pending music of the next millennium. It is erudite and timeless, inviting and elusive, unsettling and comforting, challenging and familiar.” Jambands .com

The Sad Machinery of Spring [is] their deepest, most beguiling work… amazingly accomplished and beautifully recorded… from a group of preternaturally talented musicians. Record of the year material, and it’s only January…” BBC

“Tin Hat Trio seem to exist on a plane far removed from the rest of modern music. Heedless of genre, era, and trend, the Trio have patiently spun their creaking, cinematic yarns… a sepia-toned, still-life dream that whispers with secretive, mournful passion.” Pitchfork Media

“…the evocative pleasures of a music that seems as if it lives – and has forever – down deep in the marrow of our bones, coaxed out in its haunting and ethereal glory via accordion, piano, pump organ, marxophone, harmonica, violin, viola, guitar, dobro, and banjo, by these inspired musicians… Listen to this CD three times through; in your sleep you’ll have dreams strange and old and wondrous … an odd, affecting, wonderful musical night.” The American Reporter

“(They) have created something warm, welcoming and entirely unique through their melding of the avant-garde with something much more familiar…”Rolling Stone

“…crackles with the improvisational savvy of jazz, but it is unclassifiable – like notes from some dusty heartland attic, restored and polished to a high sheen…a marvel of intimate chemistry and resourceful orchestration.” The Philadelphia Inquirer

“…this remarkable quintet of multi-instrumentalists create a series of measured vignettes that brilliantly mix the familiar with the bizarre. Founder members Carla Kihlstedt – fulsomely melodic on violin – and ultra-sharp rhythm guitarist Mark Orton are here augmented by harp and an instrumental assortment that includes wheezy harmoniums, querulous trumpets and plaintive clarinets. Unhurried tempos add to an underlying feeling of uncertainty, creating a genuinely surrealist musical soundscape.” Financial Times, London

“Forget the definitions, and simply think of the music of the Tin Hat Trio as compelling entertainment, rich with whimsy, imagination and intelligence.” The Los Angeles Times

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