Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Conceptual Music is Tough, but Tasty

March 25, 2009

There are music albums, and then there are conceptual albums. Hand in the Dark by Tin Veil falls firmly into the second category. The album’s sound is ephemeral, floating; every time you think there’s a pattern emerging, it takes a completely different course. Vocals range from trippy, wordless effusions to a wailing, pseudo-Flyleaf sound. The album is perhaps a bit too long for what it is, occasionally losing focus, but the end result is plenty rewarding even after the slightly-confusing mix. Tin Veil’s instrumentation consists of guitar, a ton of synth, and vocals.

Describing individual songs in detail is a little difficult for this album, perhaps even pointless, because the point isn’t what each song sounds like, but rather the emotional layer it adds to the whole. These tracks aren’t readily accessible by the mainstream public, and there will be peace in the Middle East before any of them breaks into the Top 40. That being said, here’s what I can tell you:

Hand in the Dark opens with “Intro A,” heavy on synth and effects, but light on actual music. Tin Veil’s vocalist erupts with half-uttered phrases and nonsensical ramblings that give the listener a vague idea of something being wrong, but no clear idea of what’s going on. Deeper in, “Dartboard” features light guitar and moaning lyrics; it has an echo-y, melodramatic tone. I could be wrong, but it seems as though the aim of the vocals is more to give an idea of a character and her circumstances than to actually sound good. That may sound harsh, but I want to make it clear that this is a conceptual album – it’s not readily accessible music, and even listeners experienced with this stuff may have a hard time getting into it.

The album swings in a different direction on “Float,” sounding more trippy and strange than the somewhat overdone quality of the earlier track. It starts out dreamy, then gets a bit like a bad trip, anxious and scared.

Near the end, a repetition of ideas from “Dartboard” surfaces in “Intro B.” Concepts come full circle, bringing a new level of understanding. “Intro B” has a different tone than “Dartboard;” it’s lighter, perhaps even hopeful or optimistic.

Honestly? Don’t listen to this album for its musical quality, because it isn’t strong in that area. Listen to it with the intention to do so as a thought exercise, because that’s where it excels. Each song on the album reveals further dimensionality whatever it is that you interpret this album as being representative of. I had a very strong feeling of a single person as I gave the album repeated listens; maybe you’ll get something else entirely out of it. Regardless, if you like conceptual albums and you find appeal in the idea of learning to think differently about what an album can be, Hand in the Dark wouldn’t be a bad choice.

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Comments: (1)

On January 9, 2011 Jason B wrote...

Once found this album on the floor of a sonic youth show at McCarren Park

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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