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Machinefabriek - The Measures Taken [Zoharum - 2015]

Machinefabriek is a musique concrete / avant garde composer that I already hold in high esteem.  He is highly prolific, and yet his work is splendidly rich with detail, gestures layered beneath gestures, variety and precision of sound texture.  His latest work "The Measures Taken" is a score designed to accompany a choreographed stage performance.

While his work is quiet, there is enough change, enough constant introduction of new sonic material, that I wouldn't call it 'minimalist'.  That said, it is designed for the attention spans of those already familiar with musique concrete.  His work contains freeform elements like rustling, wind and static, domestic feeling field recordings ambiguous in origin, and generally takes place in a drifting arrhythmic emptiness.

Gentle, liquified swaths of melodic tone are added as compliment to this, providing a more poetic, emotive and overtly musical dimension to his pieces.  These tones and chords are not dissimilar to the textured e-bow drones and labyrinthine loop pedal symphonies of post rock bands like Larsen.  I would guess they are created by processing real instruments such as guitar, piano and strings, though these timbres rarely become obvious.

The gentle, warm crackle of analog electronics are the focus here.  This particular album shows greater emphasis on loops than other Machinefabriek I've heard, with resonant consonant chords iterating in reassuringly regular squares and grids, embellished with beautiful harmonics through feedback.  It's not unlike some of Biosphere's loop based ambient works, with the same sense of calm predictability found on "N-Plants", like watching a tape of clouds moving in fast forward.  This is pretty great as a chillout album.

The album is divided into 5 songs, but they transition so seamlessly that the transitions between them are totally unnoticable.  The 2 minute "Introduction" is notably sparser than the rest of what we have here, with the remaining 4 tracks, titled "Part I - IV", which are essentially an unbroken swelling drone, continuously evolving but never dissipating, and actually reaching a surprising density in its latter half.

A precise understanding of orchestration and hierarchies of instrumental tone allows Machinefabriek to layer the drone to great effect.  The presence of synthesizers and organs becomes apparent later in the album, and a sense of intense cinematic drama is achieved, a bold sound that is highly contrasted to the introverted musique concrete I have heard on other Machinefabriek albums.  A soft, understated trip hop rhythm even appears at one point, the drum hits sounding like they could have once been accidental breaths into a microphone.

Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by this album, primarily a work of sequenced electronics and textured melodic drones, building with a patient poignancy and dramatic flair into a gushingly emotional climax.  Being that this artist is hugely prolific, he has quite likely explored some of the sounds found here in the past, but I had never heard him do something quite so structured or richly tonal.  Fans of post rock may find this sort of album a great entry point to musique concrete.  Fans of Machinefabriek should not be let down, as his characteristic sophisticated composition style is here in abundance.  I highly recommend this album.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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