Tin Man 'Scared' LP
Following his masterpieces 'Wasteland' and 'Cool Wave', 'Scared' is Tin Man's latest foray into the realm of cold,
mechanical, sensual darkness. This brand of narcoleptic techno is entirely his own, pushing true emotion and anomie
through wires and electronics. Too pop for techno heads, too dancefloor-ready for ambient lovers, too weird for hipsters,
too creepy for children, the eight songs on Tin Man's 'Scared' are unlike anything else you'll hear this year.
There are 550 copies pressed, each on black vinyl with printed cardstock jackets. There are 5 test pressings
on black vinyl with plain white sleeves and stamped center stickers.
01 - Scared
02 - Stand By Me
03 - Space Case
04 - Birds
05 - Fish
06 - Zone Unknown
07 - Self Help
08 - Defendents
On his new track "Space Case," Johannes Auvinen, AKA Tin Man, drawls the following line through a vocoder: "You've got your head in the clouds, touch your feet down to the ground, we miss you here..." After hearing his latest record, fans of Tin Man's early work might find that line weirdly poignant; the Finnish-born, California-raised and Vienna-based artist was once a champion of DJ-friendly acid house, but his last few records have slipped further and further into leftfield. Much like Wasteland, his mini-album from 2008, Scared shows him slinking through one eerie dreamscape after another, with nothing as danceable as last year's "Constant Confusion" in sight. Barring his one full-on drone record, it's probably Tin Man's most challenging effort yet, and also his most daring.
The most immediately grabbing tune on Scared is without a doubt the title track (which, if you're interested, is available for free with the artist's permission on Little White Earbuds). Tin Man is a master of noir-ish suspense, and this one shows his talents at full tilt: from beginning to end, he flirts with a punchy minimal beat that never quite delivers, clicking into place for one bar and falling apart the next, over and over again. This tension is enhanced by some sleep-deprived chords and murky background sounds, and somewhere, very far back, one of his old acid synth lines.
As on the rest of the record, Auvinen sounds cool and calm, but also in the furthest reach of exhaustion, slurring each half-sung line as if with heavy eyelids. His lyrics are haunting and poetic, and provided you can deal with their broodiness, very impressive. "Zone Unknown" sounds a bit like Soul Capsule's "Waiting 4 a Way," but with lyrics that sound totally oblivious to dance music's usual tropes ("We don't ever really lose ourselves, now do we?") "Birds" ticks along with an eerie lullaby-like quality, while "Self Help" feeds a litany of oblique advice through a vocoder, conjuring Kubrick-esque discomfort. On "Defendant," the record's most austere track, Auvinen repeats the line "defendant� please rise" over a menacing drone and distant pulse.
These deep and dark musings are balanced out (somewhat) by tracks like "Fish," a languid but groovy breakbeat number. "Stand by Me" is the most grounded tune here, with a fairly normal techno beat and romantic lyrics, but it's also by far the weakest. Though the results can be quite drab and depressing, Auvinen is at his best when following his oddest impulses.
Tin Man goes straight for the gut. From his booming 808 kick drums to his viscous midrange, his music is a visceral presence, one that at times seems to be rumbling deep inside you. But that physicality doesn't negate its decidedly ethereal side. Tin Man's is also head music, from its psychoacoustic timbres to muttered vocals that play out like a stoned interior monologue.
This is the seventh record from Tin Man, aka Johannes Auvinen, a Californian musician of Finnish descent who keeps quarters in Vienna. Beginning in 2004, he has released records on S�hko's Keys of Life sub-label, Patrick Pulsinger's Cheap, and his own Global A imprint; Scared turns up on White Denim, a Pennsylvania label that's home to an eclectic set of acts like Nice Nice, Mi Ami, and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
It might seem like an odd fit for an artist whose core aesthetic principles stem mostly from Chicago house and Hamburg's ambient house, but then, Tin Man has never really made "straight" dance music. He frequently dials his 808 back to a slow-motion crawl, and he suffuses most of his songs with a vocal delivery that sounds like Leonard Cohen on codeine. Unlike herky-jerky "mnml" house, this is truly minimalist stuff, content to leave the rhythmic grid riddled with empty space.
True to its title, Scared is also plenty spooky, although, like most gothic music, it doesn't mind straddling camp. Some of his lyrics-- "The whole world is just dragging me down/ Destroying me/ 'Til there's just a bad feeling left"-- might be mistaken for the writing of Swans' M. Gira, sung in an intonation that borders on the morose. But it's hard not to hear a glimmer of good humor behind even his bleakest lines, as if this were a kind of parody of numbness, a deadpan autism.
Mastered by Dubplates & Mastering's Rashad Becker, Scared luxuriates in sound at its most liquid: Rarely do you hear bass frequencies vibrate the way they do in the title track's opening passage, striking up a seasick harmony against muted electronic tones. Vocoder effects, paired with blurred, swirling synthesizers, similarly evoke underwater sensations, an almost amniotic sense of suspended animation.
It's not hard to spot the influences informing Scared. The reductionist house productions bear comparison to Dial Records' Pantha du Prince and Lawrence; the vocoders immediately recall Ricardo Villalobos' "Easy Lee", while the nimble 808 programming is similar to that of Non Standard Institute's Tobias Freund. But Tin Man doesn't only pull from dance music. His ruminative mood and gravelly Sprechstimme are both anticipated by the Australian band Flash & the Pan's 1978 recording of "Walking in the Rain". I wouldn't be surprised if Auvinen himself didn't know that; it's not a terribly common recording. But the more distant reference points reinforce the sense that Tin Man's talent, beyond songwriting and sonics, has a lot to do with the way he filters far-flung ideas into a unique, unexpected, and almost claustrophobically personal sound.
For all its idiosyncrasies, Scared also feels uncannily current, playing with the same kinds of overcast moods and broken-down tempos, the same K-hole stasis and feel-good bum-out, that you might find running through the music of the xx, Fever Ray, witch house, or Sunn 0))). But Tin Man is also very much different, and seven records later, he sounds more and more like no one except himself. An album perfectly suited to a crash-and-burn era, Scared is an ode to depleted serotonin whose very ambiguity makes it all the more addictive.
Techno is not my area of expertise. I am not like my friend Fred who discusses countries in terms of BPM. Of course I am a huge fan of Wolfgang Voigt �s Gas, which I saw live last spring, but I can not write a review of this new Tin Man record, Scared, and reference eight other techno records, sorry. So why write about a genre that I know minimal (get it?) about? Well, Tin Man, the moniker of one Johannes Auvinen, is contradictory and disorienting enough to keep my interest. Auvinen�s vocals are unsettling, soothing, and uncomfortable all at the same time. From track to track, he offers the listener big questions to ponder about life��We ask ourselves can we really lose ourselves?� on standout track �Zone Unknown��while also creepily fondling listeners� ears with odd instructions like, �You could join us, you could join us.� The beats linger in the background. At times they sound like they could soundtrack a rave if they were louder or, in the case of side B opener, �Fish,� a softcore cinematic feature but like�a really sophisticated and classy one. It is all about the vocals and Tin Man is a fascinating guide to follow for forty minutes and unending repeat listens after that. Auvinen has the kind of voice that could lull you into a deep hypnotic sleep or trance, where the end result is a dream in which something humiliating yet slightly arousing happens and you wake up confused, unsure if you are relieved or disappointed that it was all a dream. Listening to Tin Man is guaranteed to amplify any and all experiences.
Released May 2010