The Marionette and the Music Box is certainly a concept album. Recorded in late 2001 in Arkansas, the music and the accompanying artwork tell the story of a marionette puppet searching for a magical music box, complete with fairy tale-like imagery. Marking a significant departure from their earlier recordings, Unwed Sailor's instrumental brand of delicately-arranged orchestration blends eloquently with the tale, which has to be pieced together by the listener with only the help of the 17 drawings for the album's 17 mini-epics. Jamie Hunt's illustrations serve as the visual accompaniment to the music, and vice versa. Luckily, the song titles serve as captions to each illustration, adding substance and meaning to each listener's interpretation. Surprisingly, the band is able to remain focused on the story at hand, communicating emotion through warm tones and selective instruments to convey powerful and convoluted overtones. Not surprisingly, though, is the quick realization that, although the songs are arranged to relate to each illustration, there are no radio-ready singles in the bunch. The Marionette and the Music Box is a 38-minute platter meant to be enjoyed in one sitting, instilling calm and grace with the band's instrumental subtleties. The crux of the music lies at the union of the marionette and the music box, the separation, the resulting despair, and the eventual reconciliation. Johnathan Ford and Nick Tse lead the way in Unwed Sailor's effort to tell the story with music. Matt Putman, Matt Depper, Tristan Putman, Adam Putman, and James Mcalister combine to add even more instrumental texture to the pot. Assorted percussion, unique guitar schemes, keyboards, and samples result in an elegantly impressive instrumental disc.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cramer