Purely instrumental rock bands possess one clear disadvantage over their more conventional peers: It's difficult to connect with an audience without lyrical or vocal signifiers to convey emotion. Instead, groups like the subtly dazzling Unwed Sailor must generally rely on trickier, less obvious methods of audience manipulation, from tonal shifts to surges in momentum to subtle instrumental shading. That task is formidable enough, but on The Marionette And The Music Box, Unwed Sailor aims even higher, presenting its music as audio accompaniment to Jamie Hunt's short illustrated children's book, which is included in the album's liner notes. Appropriately, the song titles perform double-duty as captions: While it's hard to imagine "Behold! The Unicorn" being anything but parody or comical pretension, here the wonder it conveys effectively sets the stage for the meandering "The Distraction. A Conflict Of Interest. Enchanted By The Unicorn." and the lovely, appropriately forlorn "The Separation. A Hopeless Pursuit." Though Unwed Sailor breaks The Marionette And The Music Box into 17 pieces to match Hunt's visuals, the set works even better as a free-flowing 38-minute piece, flowing seamlessly from emotion to emotion as its story dictates. Like Pinetop Seven without vocals or Godspeed You! Black Emperor without the catharsis of bruising release, the group conveys delicacy and grace whether oozing portent or simply finding and showing off a beautiful melody. And for all its conceptual weightiness and lofty artistic goals, it's sublime and endlessly rewarding as background music, too.