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20 Jun 2017

Machines Dream "Black Science" 2017 Canada Prog Rock











Machines Dream "Black Science" 2017  Canada Prog Rock

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About the band:
It can take a while for a band to find just the right combination of people in just the right roles. And so it has been with Machines Dream. The starting point was 2009 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada when some friends began free-jamming for fun. However, the chemistry was right and things soon started to take off.

In 2011 the band released their self titled debut, which paid homage to progressive bands of the past and showcased the group’s talent for writing memorable songs. In 2012 the band signed to British label Sonic Vista/Aurovine and, in 2013, was taken on by Irish management company Progressive Gears.

Their sophomore album – Immunity (released December 2014) – saw a band in transition, searching for its own voice and experimenting in the recording studio with a new line-up.

2017 finds a band that has become confident, relaxed and focused on their new music, with a third album – Black Science – due for release on June 12th via Progressive Gears Records. Machines Dream now sounds like a group that knows who and what they want to be.

The band is built on the powerful rhythm section of drummer Ken Coulter and bassist Craig West. They push hard and fill space, with West also handling lead vocals and production. This gives the rest of the band the freedom to create layers of interlocking harmony and melody. Keyboard player Brian Holmes defines much of the bands sound, style and character as – both sonically and compositionally – he is a powerhouse and plays a lead role in the group. Lead guitarist Rob Coleman stretches and extends the group’s sound, blending virtuosity with impeccable taste. He compliments the sound happening around him, sometimes with blazing speed and sometimes with just one perfect note. Acoustic multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Jake Rendell provides the finishing touches, adding just what each moment needs to somehow feel like it shouldn’t sound any other way.

Their songs create atmosphere and tell stories with honesty, passion, and the occasional harpsichord. Progressive rock means many things to many people. To Machines Dream it means being themselves..................

War, as Edwin Starr noted pretty sagely, is good for absolutely nothin’ (say it again) and yet we find ourselves in a war of one kind or another every single day. You don’t need me to discuss the full horror of what is happening in all areas of the world, but nonetheless, we live in a brutal moment.

It is fitting that some of the best songwriters of the times reflect the society, and as such, on “Black Science” Canada’s Machines Dream find themselves in much more political mood than on 2014’s “Immunity.”

On that record MD – the band that wasn’t supposed to be a band – proved themselves to perhaps the finest purveyors of modern prog and if that might sound like the type of hyperbole and froth that should usually be ignored, then listen to the first track proper here “Weimar” and tell us that it doesn’t better anything Marillion did on “F.E.A.R” say, inside its 10 minutes.

Conflict of one type or another permeates every pore here. “A gentleman takes what a gentlemen wants, and a gentlemen will rewrite the truth” offers singer and band leader Craig West here and in so doing offers his world view over a typically classy and ambitious soundscape, and we can probably say without being too wide of the mark that the target of his ire is the man in the White House right now.

The weight of history is all around this. Never more explicitly than on the album highlight “The Cannons Cry” which samples directly from Dwight D Eisenhower’s farewell speech and offers the thought that we are again lurching back into being divided: “black shirts, back in fashion” sings West and there is a dark feel about the guitar work here too.

To listen to these songs is to go on a journey, “Heavy Water” is an exercise in light and shade, and its hook is one that could conceivably shake arenas in some parallel universe, and the guitar work here from Rob Coleman is particularly stunning.

“Airfield On Sunwick” is a wonderful tale dealing with conscripted prisoners, and its psychedelic tone is topped off by some fine vocals courtesy of Jakub Olejnik (from the Polish band Maze of Sound).

The title track is one of many to make superb use of keyboards and orchestration, and its outro is a quite wonderful saxophone solo, as if to emphasise that this is a record that knows no boundaries. To that end, there is an eastern flavour to “UXB”.

The closing “Noise To Signal” is another that makes use of old newsreel to make its modern point. Edward R Murrow (a prominent US radio journalist who helped censure President McCarthy) is the unlikely hero of a track that dismisses the modern media, and does so by just about containing itself when you know it just wants nothing more than to seethe with rage.

Don’t make the mistake, though of thinking you need a degree in history and an interest in current affairs to enjoy “Black Science”. Quite simply, it is a stunning work. Challenging, yes, thought provoking, of course, but then shouldn’t progressive music be exactly that? Shouldn’t it push the boundaries?

The answer of course is yes to all those questions. And no one is better at doing that right now than Machine Dream......by.....Andy Thorley.......... 

Not having the time pressures of a “proper music journalist” means that I have the opportunity to mull and digest an album I am given for review as I’m not on a specific dead line most times. Occasionally I am asked to get one done quickly but thankfully I am not on this album. I have played this one through a couple of times a night through headphones while reading since it was sent to me. You could call it a longevity test or the fact It makes great night time listening while immersed in a novel. Both are true in this case as the album will take repeated listening and doesn’t become tiresome in any way.

Most people who know me are aware I am fascinated by the human condition and people politics and this album ticks those boxes and then some. The band describe the album thus;

“Black Science is a musically powerful progressive rock album that thematically explores the dark side of humanity and technology.”

I would agree that it is thematic rather than a concept as the songs do connect and flow excellently and explore modern life and the challenges that are very prescient in the minds of many. Yet I would say it will not become dated in any way.

Opening with a short track Armistice Day, highly reminiscent of a Roger Waters’ vocal style, it’s a doom laden post apocalypse electronic minute and a half that drops straight into Weimar, with a truly ‘Prog’ keyboards, piano and guitar symphonic introduction followed by a very open vocal . It’s very odd as I read this as a narrative close to the series “Handmaidens Tale” currently unsettling the public on Channel 4. There are musical hints of a backward baroque Harpsichord in the vocal breaks then a huge rocking out of synths and general guitar indulgence. Time and key changes rip through this 10 minute mini-epic, a treatise on society’s misogyny and patriarchal dominance. One caveat with this is my reading of the song and I may be off the mark and seeing something that the band don’t.
Cannons Cry opens with a heavy riff and a martial theme that warns of the rise of fascism and the use of propaganda to drive towards an oncoming war of the destruction of common values and principles. These guys are fans of classic Waters/Gilmour Floyd and though this is obvious but not in any way that is derogatory, only complimentary, to the music.
Airfield on Sunwick is very very English despite these guys being Ontario based. Fans of Big Big Train will find solace in a track that is very spartan in structure with lots of space in the music. Guesting on vocals on this, Jakub Olejnik (of band Sound Of Maze) adds real authenticity. This is a song of tragic conscription and the loss of country by Polish refugees in the post 1939 invasion period. Referencing Wojtek, a bear adopted and given a rank of private in the forces in World War two. It has a beautiful tone and quality about it.

Black Science is a real homage to the 70s if ever I heard one. A warning of the darker side of the misuse of science, a very simple tune and the use of the saxophone solo at the end literally took straight back to 1973 as Josh Norling superbly channels the spirit of the use of the instrument so effectively, deliberately referencing our nostalgia for a supposedly better time.

Noise to Signal, the closer on the album, is a real standout track for me combining doom chords and huge sounds to scare the pants of you in a treatise on how social media has filled our lives with noise over substance. Not a second is wasted on this track and it’s as tight as you could possibly get in a studio recording.

The eight tracks on this, their third album, show huge maturity and discipline in writing and production. It is crafted excellently and thoughtfully and fans of music in general will find much to enjoy in this album. Fans of the progressive genre particularly should lap it up as it carries a sense of the past while being still relevant to the early 21st century. These Canadians have a touch and an ear for music that needs to be shared..............by Emma Roebuck......................

Line-up / Musicians
- Brian Holmes / Keyboards
- Craig West / Bass, vocals
- Jake Rendell / Acoustic instruments, backing vocals
- Ken Coulter / Drums
- Rob Coleman / Lead guitar
With:
- Josh Norling / Saxophone
- Jakub Olejnik (Maze of Sound) / Vocals
- Jennifer Gauvreau / Backing vocals
- Chris Belsito / Backing vocals


Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Armistice Day
2. Weimar
3. The Cannons Cry
4. Heavy Water
5. Airfield on Sunwick
6. Black Science
7. UXB
8. Noise to Signal

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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