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)