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Speech Machine - 2016 - "Speech Machine 5"

(55:46, Speech Machine)



1. We'll Be Around 5:40
2. No One Knows 2:52
3. Only You 3:54
4. Lost Situation 4:32
5. Slurred Euphoria 3:50
6. Burnt Out Sun 4:09
7. Souliers 3:02
8. Bleedin' Love 3:42
9. Scrupulous 3:52
10. And I Will 4:14
11. Soapcan 5:04
12. Seldom 3:28
13. Alarms 2:22
14. Song Two 5:05


Martin Charlebois - vocals, guitars
Jonathan Obien - keyboards
Ellen Jeanne Kilcup - cello
Christopher Briden - gamba

Prolusion. US based project SPEECH MACHINE is the creative vehicle of Canada-born composer and musician Martin Charlebois. The project was instigated in 2005, and one year later the first Speech machine album appeared. A grand total of five studio albums have been published under the Speech Machine moniker to date, and "Speech Machine 5" from 2016 is the most resent of these.

Analysis. Speech Machine is a venture of the kind that apparently never stops up in terms of moving on to new landscapes to explore, and for the fifth album Charlebois and their helpers try out one of the more difficult genres to explore: Namely singer/songwriter. Music that is easy to create, perform and record, but extremely difficult to maneuver in if you desire to make a strong impact. This is also the kind of music that tends to focus a lot on lyrics and not quite as much on music as such, and as such I'm perhaps not the best choice to describe it as I tend to focus on the music first and foremost. While I do see this album as one with an audience in mind, I dare say that those with an interest in progressive rock may not find this production to be all that interesting. Few of the compositions comes with structures or arrangement of the kind that would intrigue a dedicated progressive rock fan, and the overall feel of the album is on the lo-fi and jangly side of things. Mainly slow paced, plucked or wandering acoustic guitars dominate alongside Charlebois vocals, with liberal amount of percussion and occasional piano details expanding the canvas ever so slightly. For the more sophisticated excursions, strings are brought in to add a dark and mournful sheen to the proceedings, with wisps of 60's pop music and arguably faint shades of The Beatles in effect on some of these creations. Many of the songs do rely on Charlebois' vocals to carry them, and while he does have a distinct enough voice to do that, his vocals will also be divisive. He is not too far away from the likes of Bob Dylan in that department, hence he isn't what one might describe as a traditional nor even a conventional singer. In sum this makes for an album that doesn't really manage to make an impact, sporting details that will be detrimental when explored in a context that contains other weak aspects as well. On a couple of occasions there's still a wee bit of magic to be found. The more distinctly Americana-oriented 'Souliers' being one of those, and the concluding instrumental 'Son Two' the other. In the case of the latter not because this is an instrumental in itself, but because the arrangements were more sophisticated and the song in general had a lot more going for it in the manner in which it had been set up.

Conclusion. Speech Machine's fifth full length production is one that to my ears comes across as a singer/songwriter oriented production first and foremost, and then towards the more lo-fi and jangly parts of those landscapes in particular. Those with a strong affection for that kind of material, that also finds distinct vocals operating a bit outside of the more conventional norms to be charming, appears to me to be the primary audience for this production.

Progmessor: July 21st 2018
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Speech Machine


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