Maschine is a relatively new band, formed in 2008 by Luke Machin (who the band is sort of named after). It consists of the aforementioned Luke Machin (guitars and vocals), Daniel Mash (bass and vocals), Georgia Lewis (keyboards and vocals), Elliot Fuller (also on guitar), and James Stewart (drums).
Machin’s main influence comes from guitarist Francis Dunnery (of the band It Bites), but he also takes influence from groups such as Dream Theater and other guitarists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.
This album, Rubidium, was written over five years, which seems like a lengthy amount of time, but can be usual for debut albums. The album, while not a concept record, contains tracks that lyrically tell about events and issues in Machin’s life, such as his relationships, and even health issues.
Rubidium is perfect for reviewing track-by-track, as the variety and intricacies of each piece of music cannot simply be glossed over.
The album opens with an amazing keyboard intro, which slowly fades to the back as the rest of the instruments move their way to the front of the music. This keyboard section, which seems over too soon, is a reoccurring element of the song, helping to tie it together. This is the type of album opener that gives you good vibes and makes you want to keep listening. Jazz and progressive music sometimes go hand and hand, and it is apparent early on that this jazz influence will be playing a critical role in both this song and the entire album. The superb instrumental section of this track contains keyboard parts that may remind some of old videogame soundtracks from the 90s. There is a beautiful section starting at the 8 minute mark, again with a heavy jazz influence. This will make for a great moment at a live venue, as I can just picture a blueish-white spotlight shining down, throwing light on Luke, and finally switching over to Georgia on keyboards to end the song.
The title track of this album opens up and throws you into what would be a perfect soundtrack for walking through a scorching desert. The vocals sound otherworldly with the help of an effect. The song kicks into gear with another keyboard part which has a very 80s sound to it. The harmonized vocals provide a very nice contrast, as the lead vocals have a slight bass tone, while the backing vocals soar. Gruff, darker, vocals make another brief reappearance, but they don’t overstay their welcome. It helps provide yet another contrast with the short, calming bridge that directly follows. Jazz, which is fast becoming a keyword for this album, dominates from the 6:00-7:00 mark, with another grouping of intricate instrumentation, with some bright and lively tapping on the guitar.
Never before has a progressive rock/metal song made me want to get up and dance like the first minute of Cubixstro. Reminiscent of samba music, it makes for one of the most interesting song intros I’ve ever heard. It then slows down for a moment, but picks right back up with a cool groove. This song makes for an excellent third track, as just when you think you start to understand what this brand new band is all about, everything is switched up. The vocals are really well designed for this song, keeping with the slightly “poppy” tone set by the instrumentation. However, starting at 5:25, there is a brief syncopated vocal section where the lead and backup vocals alternate that I’m not particularly fond of, as the vocals don’t sound quite as on point as the rest of the album. What follows, on the other hand, is the most intriguing section of the entire song, with Georgia singing in an almost R&B style to close out the song. It is unusual, but makes perfect sense in such a unique song as Cubixstro.
Okay, another keyword for the album – beautiful. A flowing, peaceful intro with soothing guitar makes way for another light section, accented by an occasional flute. I have to single out the flute sound, as it is terrifically peppered throughout the first six minutes in a way that makes me smile every time I hear it. At the 6:00 point, a slightly heavier, but not out of touch with the feel of the song, section begins. After a solo and some progressive moments, everything calms down again. Finally, to end the song, a bass solo. This last minute is very paradisial, sounding like something you would want to listen to while on a white sand beach, relaxing with the wind blowing and the sun shining.
Now we’re rockin’ again. Machin says this “goes down really well” live, and I have a feeling that I would agree. A nice, steady tempo outlines the beginning of the track, with a pretty cool guitar riff. The vocals really rock here, with some very nice harmonies. A nice calm chorus serves as a break in between the action. There are some screams and gruff vocals here that I believe the song could do without. Another otherworldly section with soaring vocals is a true highlight of the song, however brief it may be. Then comes an interesting, and very progressive, alternation between a nice mellow section with some heavy guitar, and straight metal riffing, before ending the song as a blend between the two.
Eyes Pt. 1
An attention-grabbing intro consisting of piano, guitar, and vocals all playing/singing the same notes leads into one of the craziest instrumental sections on the entire album, with some drums that, while interesting, could deserve to be brought forward in the mix a little more. A quick riff at 1:50 reminds me of the instrumental progressive band An Endless Sporadic. Some of the jazz influence resurfaces at 2:25, which is actually the first truly jazzy section in a while. The vocals are at their best during these sections. I love the slimy, snarly keyboard patch starting at 4:00. This seems to be the song that reminds me of everything, as I hear The Whirlwind (by the band Transatlantic) at 4:34. It transitions into another mesmerizing interlude between the guitars.
Eyes Pt. 2
As expected, Eyes Pt. 1 flawlessly moves right into Pt. 2, and although repeating a section of music from Pt. 1, manages to make it sound even more somber before truly exploding into a heavy section filled with sadness, and anger. You can just feel the emotion flowing through the instruments. In fact, the depressive nature of the first two minutes is made even more present considering the happiness and brightness of previous songs like Cubixstro. This slowly resolves into a calm section that, unfortunately, has some vocals that are not delivered quite up to par with previous songs. The harmonies here are gorgeous, however. Another extremely progressive instrumental section begins that lives up to the bar set by the beginning of Eyes Pt. 1. The album closes out with more harmonies and a calm, jazz section. Nothing could be more appropriate for this diverse album.
Overall, this was a wonderful surprise, as it is impossible to know exactly what to expect with a brand new debut album. My favorite songs are definitely Cubixstro and both the Eyes Pt.1 and Pt. 2. The first two songs may create a false view that this is a simple prog metal album with some interesting jazz elements. While there would be nothing wrong with that, as the first two songs are very good, it would be a huge disservice to dismiss the album as such, since there is so much more to it. Some of the most beautiful music, combined with just the right amount of jazz, makes for a unique sound that I do believe the band can call their own. It isn’t a perfect record, as there are times the mix could be slightly better, and the vocals could use some improvement, but overall, this is a terrific record that is one of the best debut albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. You will want to keep an eye on Maschine as they continue to grow as a band.
You can check Maschine out on their official website.
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