One of the most thrilling things about Glasgow trio Machines In Heaven is the near relentless way in which they develop. Never shy to push their own boundaries, the band have moved on quickly from their debut album bordersbreakdown, altering shapes and styles through the superb Hindu Milk and Displacer releases and now we find them at Phenomenology. As second albums go, it's hugely ambitious, mixing styles, jumping around here and there and sending you deep into a world of electronics. Happily though, it's wonderful album. There's none of the Machines do pop of Displacer or Feel Slow here but this band are all about development and trying new things so that's fine. Welcome to an entirely different world.
On first listen the album can seem a bit challenging. There's a lot going on all over the place and it's probably not designed to be taken in in one fell swoop. Once you've absorbed the whole thing though, you're hooked and each listen reveals further delights. Let's Hang Out At Pluto for example is a wonderful track built around a vocal that's distorted and treated, with electronic sounds and guitars bounding around either side of it, taking you on a cosmic journey. Logarithm is my personal favourite, a wonderful electro symphony that stands up easily with the band's best work. It's a joyous track, bursting with synthy delights. The heavily vocodered vocals only add to the experience. A must hear.
Elsewhere on the album, you dip your toe into dark electronic waters with Ruix Con with its despairing lyrics ("I wish I'd known you/I wish I'd never known you") set against a background of the kind of chilling noises that strike an immediate chord with you. Davey's vocals are really impressive here too, showing a real depth that matches the song. 8034 sees the band produce one of their heaviest sounds yet, as the track explodes into life in the last few minutes with the mix of electronics giving way to a full on post punk explosion of guitars and bass. It's exhilarating. Dr Whit follows a similar plan, but instead it's proggy, meandering electronics drag you in, before a burst of noisy but uplifting melody takes you home. Again, it's another track you want to here. The band even dabble in cosmic dicso with 20-XX and that too works beautifully.
Elsewhere, you'll find tracks with a space jazz feel to them, tracks with a Krautrock feel in places and, as you'd hope, scorching electronica.
There aren't many bands like Machines In Heaven really. Their ability to make experimental music whilst simultaneously keeping it melodic enough to grab the ear and refusing to compromise on anything is quite brilliant. Phenomenology is yet another step forward for the Machines and they show no signs of slowing down or doing anything other than continuing to boldy go where very few other artists are brave enough to go. This is a proper, full on magnum opus of an album and, once you crack Phenomenology's code, you are going to be hooked.
Phenomenology by Machines In Heaven is out now on Hot Gem Tunes and is available in all the usual digital places.
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