Tin Man, Perfume

[Salon Records]

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Up until this point it seemed that there were two rather distinct eras of Tin Man’s career, the first consisting of his early odes to acid house and the second of his more recent output of dark, atmospheric, vocal (in his own inimitable way) house. Given the impressive salvo that the man born Johannes Auvinen has already let loose in 2011, it’s safe to say that we’re in a new epoch of Tin Man’s discography; one, however, that lacks the uniformity of the previous two phases. Perfume sounds like nothing released this year nor anything else he’s ever done, yet it makes complete sense, seeming like the kind of music towards which all of his other records were pointing.

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“Burnt Sugar'”s opening piano run establishes Perfume as Tin Man’s ode to that most essential instrument, while creeping David Lynch-alike atmospheres keep things gloomy. If you think that Perfume sees Tin Man play a jazz lounge crooner, well, you’re kind of halfway there. Auvinen’s vocals are a clearer than ever before but still well obscured by either adding levels of grittiness (“Electric Blue”) or just being heavily fed through a vocoder (“Mona Lisa”). Occasionally Perfume goes flat out pop, such as the short, catchy “Good Stuff.” It shouldn’t really work given the bleak atmospheres that have come to define Tin Man’s output, but somehow it does in the context of the album as a whole, where it provides a bit of levity to the gloomy, seedy jazz-club vibes found throughout.

The aforementioned “Electric Blue” stands out as one of the odder cuts on Perfume, but is all the better for it. Vigilant 303 lines keep the groove intact while intimidating swarms of low-end threaten to suck Auvinen’s voice down into a black hole of mucky frequencies. The prize of album centerpiece goes quite rightly to the epic “Lost in LA,” whose subtle acid twinges, commanding piano, and catchy vocal hooks make it, to my ears at least, this year’s most successful experiment in combining subtle pop flourishes with softer acid house.

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But while Tin Man’s sunny(er) side certainly works wonders, Perfume‘s best track is also its most melancholy. “Rockers Ravers” sees Auvinen’s arsenal of Roland machines operate at slow but deliberate house tempos amidst the murkiest and gloomiest atmospheres. When the song’s second act hits, though, it’s a cathartic moment. Bittersweet vocals intertwine with bright, yet despondent piano stabs, while gurgling, somewhat awkward acid lines (the album’s most triumphant) rise above the increasingly jacking 707 percussion. It’s a short, incredibly sweet moment, and soon we’re plunged back into the darkness as the album quickly comes to a close.

Joseph Hallam  on June 3, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Very good indeed. I find nearly every Tin Man release is essential, and this is no different. Great review Chris.

brian  on June 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM

Was looking forward to this hard, but I must say I was really let down :(


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