When you run an online music magazine and get perhaps a dozen or so promos emailed to you each day, first impressions count for a lot. I look at the titles of the emails i receive, and take a look first at band names that seem the most interesting. Bands with names that relegate them to one of music's "ghettos" get passed over at the first look. Grand Killa Con is no doubt a hip-hop artist who will have limited appeal to our staff, so he gets skipped over. Meanwhile, Toxic Waltz describe themselves as "thrash metal", which very well might grate on our nerves quickly, so they get skipped over at first.
And, let me be honest here, sometimes the influx of promos to sort through is such that i never take a second pass. Sometimes i do. I try to. I intend to, but if i have been really busy at work for a few weeks, i might just glance over the promo folder once again and delete the unopened press releases.
So, to sum up, band names count. Really.
Consider the band that is the subject of this review: Dying Machines. I hear that, and i think "Autechre meets Skinny Puppy", something which i might enjoy, but i suspect would have limited appeal. So, to be honest, i skipped over this one based on the name.
However, they were lucky and got a second pass, where i opened the press release and saw that the artists has "influences that range from minimalist and experimental acts like Arvo Part and Autechre to modern neo-classical and film composers such as Stars Of The Lid and Hans Zimmer". Well, there is the Autechre comparison. But mentioning Stars of the Lid? That piques my interest.
So i downloaded it. And, to be honest, there isn't really any kind of Autechre influence that i can detect here. I know that is a relief to many of you. And the comparison to Stars of the Lid? That is spot on. Dying Machines make cinematic, ambient, droning pop with layers of synths and strings. There is no real percussion of any kind, which i know will irk some listeners. But honestly, what is going on here does not require a drum beat in order to have rhythm and progression. This is far into the classical end of the spectrum, so be forewarned.
It's not industrial noise music, despite them name. Dying Machines is a one-man act, the project of Thomas Buschbach, from New Orleans. There are five songs in a little less than half an hour.
The first one is called So We Lived. Synths burble and something moans, lightly, far in the distance. A cello wanders by, and the synths swell. It is a lovely intro that fades into Prisoner's Cinema. Here, a faint piano tinkles, the notes echoing for miles, while synths drone and a deep cello saws away. Then the synths brighten, become more expansive, and the whole song just soars, the soaring drone fading out slowly.
Then strings swell up and dominate None Of That Matters Now, accompanied by just a hint of piano playing a lovely little melody deep in the drone. This tune gets really dense and lovely, with the synths pulsing like Vangelis's work on Blade Runner. Stunning.
The strings are still upfront on It Has Been here, burying the drones. Eventually a sound like an e-bowed guitar comes in, and suddenly the song reminds me of Hammock. That is not a bad comparison to make.
And finally we wrap things up with What I Have Not Forgotten. This is a more piano based tune, with strings droning to accompany the slow, insistent piano riff. This is very Stars of the Lid, and rather pretty.
The whole record sort of blurs together into a lovely ambient mush of ebbing and flowing strings and synths and piano. It's really pretty, if you like that sort of thing. And i do. This is great ambient music to have on in the background, either to accompany life's actions or to drown out the noise of the office. It is good for sitting on the couch with a cat and a cup of decaf after a long day, and good as a droning accompaniment to making breakfast on lazy weekend mornings. I find that it works in a lot of situations. And i am really glad that i went back and gave a second pass to my promo emails. It would have been a shame to pass over something this good.
Also please note that Mush is selling a download for a measly $3! That is insanely cheap for something this cool.