Bedroom Community

Without a doubt the impact of Theory Of Machines at a first listening is a powerful one: it’s almost impeccable in its computerized imperfection. Digital bliss vs crunchy distortion is the order of the day here, in five tracks whose influences have been thoroughly absorbed and well defined (one of them is called “We Love You Michael Gira”, and a Swans segment is sampled and modified somewhere in there), yet despite the presence of striking explosions of overdriven fury and shattered recollections bathed in currents of dejection, I’m not completely sold on it: I can’t really find anything that sounds especially innovative. Maybe it’s not intended to be, and perhaps Daniel Johnson’s liners quoting Alvin Lucier and Arvo Pärt deceived me. “Coda” is a nice glimpse of odd-metred drum’n’bass’n’post-rock, but is disappointingly short, and the final and longest track, “Forgetting You Is Like Breathing Water”, an endless intersection of electronic scalar figurations gradually evolving into a wobbling chamber-music pastel, is based on an idea that, repeated for about 11 minutes, is too simplistic to raise the hair on the back of the neck. Some of the concepts are nice – the insistent beeping sample morphing into a dropping piano note and the constant stereo shift of a synthetic pulse in “We Love You Michael Gira”, or the beautiful bass line of “Stomp” – but I’ve heard better things on Peter Gabriel’s Up. (Don’t scoff at the comparison: listen to that album very carefully and you’ll find stronger compositional ideas behind the electronica.) The truly splendid title track remains the best thing on Theory Of Machines, sounding like Fennesz and his laptop nostalgia immersed in a bowl of sulphuric acid, slowly disintegrating amidst huge bubbles and thick fumes.. But you may get the feeling – as CSN&Y would have it – of having all been here before, too.

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