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(60:00, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Inti 7:27 2. Centipede 4:41 3. Lloyd 6:24 4. In A Silent Way 6:29 5. A Sight 6:37 6. Utoma 6:09 7. The Secret Place 4:33 8. Elisabeth 12:46 9. Voice 4:53 LINEUP: Michel Delville – guitars; keyboards, electronics Tony Bianco – drums, percussion Dave Liebman – sax, flute With: Saba Tewelde – vocals
Prolusion. The multinational project MACHINE MASS, also known as Machine Mass Trio, is a venture that started out back in 2010 and released their first full length production back in 2011. While this project has the duo of Delville and Bianco as core members they are at their best when working in a trio formation, and for the recording of their second album they invited veteran saxophonist Dave Liebman to contribute. The end result was the album "Inti", released through Moonjune Records at the start of 2014.
Analysis. Jazz Fusion in its many different guises and expressions is a field of music where I'm still trying to navigate my way through changing waters. It's fairly easy to place most music of this kind into a generic fusion box, but then deciding whether it is primarily jazz fusion or jazz rock can be a challenge. I understand that there's a fair selection of additional sub-genres and relates expressions those with a deep interest in this kind of music operate with as well, and I'll readily admit that these are territories I'll leave to those with a much deeper involvement in this kind of music than what I have. I bring this point up because Machine Mass comes across as a band that, while undeniably belonging inside a fusion context, may be placed within many different contexts within this landscape. Personally I'd describe the music they explore on this production as a fusion between rock and jazz, but staying well away from the traditional jazz-rock sound of the 1970's. The main emphasis is on jazz, but with a core undercurrent of instrument details clearly originating within the world of rock music, primarily revolving around the manner in which the electric guitar is used throughout. The core element throughout are the drum patterns provided by Tony Bianco however. He's a tremendously skilled drummer, expertly providing detailed, elaborate drum patterns of the energetic kind, rhythmic fireworks if you like. He does showcase his abilities to provide patterns of a more careful and delicate nature as well, but it is the most elaborate and intense ones that stick most clearly to mind due to their expressive and dramatic nature. Delville shows himself as a versatile guitarist, with frail plucked light toned guitar details, elegant solo runs and textured subservient riff undercurrents added to the songs with ease, and when these presumably improvised runs allow for it, he will gleefully shift the emphasis to expressions of a distinctly more twisted nature, subtle tortured guitar sounds a fairly frequent detail of note throughout due to that. Liebman is a high quality saxophonist and uses his skills to do what he does best by adding saxophone soloing in a manner that fits the nature of whatever mood and atmosphere are explored at the time: Mournful and melancholic solo runs here, harmony sections in tight interplay with the guitar solo there, and with quite a few runs through improvisational and more freely improvised sections too. As with Delville's guitar work Liebman doesn't appear to have much against sounds of a more experimental nature, so those who enjoy the saxophone providing sounds of a more twisted and non-harmonic nature should find quite a bit to enjoy here due to that. This is an energetic and often elegant production, where the quality of the performers is of the highest standard. How enticing the end result is will come down to individual taste though, tastes differ after all. Personally I found the more free form oriented parts of this CD to be not all that interesting really. The musicianship was impressive, the performances too, but I'm one of those people who want more than abilities, and I'm not as taken as many others by instruments used in expressive manners, nor am I all that intrigued by free form oriented escapades in general. It all depends on how the end result sounds of course. On the other hand, this is a production that features plenty of material of a more reigned nature. Perhaps improvised, perhaps not, but where the performances come across as controlled, planned and calculated, yet still maintaining the vitality and energetic spirit present in the more free form oriented excursions. And it is at the meeting point between the controlled harmony and melody based and the wild and untamed I find Machine Mass to be most intriguing. With a positive nod also to the two exceptions at hand, the exotic sounding landscapes of In a Silent Way and the superficially similar composition The Secret Place, the latter of these featuring the soulful lead vocals of Saba Tewelde.
Conclusion. High quality musicianship defines this sophomore production from Machine Mass, a vital and energetic production that balances back and forth between fusion and jazz fusion, between the controlled and the untamed, between the planned and composed and improvisations of a more liberal nature. Enticing melodies and harmony based undercurrents coexist with atonal details and twisted instrument sounds, in an often intense and impressive manner. There's a certain emphasis on jazz over rock throughout, but all in all, this is a high quality (mostly) instrumental production that merits a check by those who have an interest in fusion of a fairly expressive nature.
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