Machines In Heaven – Phenomenology [Hot Gem]

Bookended by two tracks of lush melody, this second album by Glasgow’s Machines In Heaven is somewhat excellent: both the first and the last are full and warm electronic outings; in between there’s another ten tunes that take several interesting and unexpected turns.

Perhaps things are signposted by the closing bars of ‘Silfra’ giving way from all-enveloping, ‘Sueno Latino’-type vibes into fuzzy guitar: not the plucked variety so beloved in Balearic circles, this is excitingly distorted stuff.

As has been showcased at recent gigs – they are excellent live by the way – there’s a bigger, more expansive and, dare one say, festival-friendly sound on the cards for the threesome: that’s not to say there isn’t pure and shonky techno-tinged production on songs like ‘Let’s Hang Out At Pluto’ but, stage heroics and all, there’s a pleasing lack of stricture about the band.

It’s dance music but they’ll throw whatever into the mix, up to and including lobbing a curve-ball like ‘8034’, which even tiptoes around elements of krautrock; a touch tenuous on your writer’s part perhaps, but it’s damned effective and may be the highlight of the album.

Perhaps hard at times to know if this is a band in transition or simply a band prepared to embrace different aesthetics and put them out there because, well because, why not?

One hopes the latter: the glorious stripped and thumping music these boys can produce is great but there’s also a thrill in the unexpected: whilst a track such as the atmospheric and dubby ‘Ruix Con’, which almost sounds like an early offering from Glasgow’s own Soma Records before they went full on techno, is pretty faultless and a pleasure to hear, there’s also a breadth here, an ambition not to be tied down.

Might make the purists bristle (in the best possible sense), but that has to be half to the point of making music and besides, the shock of the new, even if only within the microcosm of a single album, is always a good thing.

All in, it’s at times gentle and exquisite with the lightest of touches around ambient synths and sounds… and then absolute take me to the dancefloor grooves; eclectic stuff unafraid to turn left where right is the road more travelled.

It may feel a touch all over the place at points, but perhaps that is just about getting one’s head around the unpredictable.

By the time all too short but beautiful closer ‘Ragman Dolls’ rolls into town, sounding like a distantly remembered riff and filtered vocal from a lost dawn somewhere, you realise you’ve been on quite a ride and there’s a lasting impression.

Clever boys, clever record, clever label (the rest of the roster is well worth exploring) and most intriguing to see a sound morphing and evolving like this: it’s what it’s all about after all; never stand still.

Words: Vosne Malconsorts

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