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(128:02; Progressive Gears)
TRACK LIST: 1. Immunity 25:22 2. Trading Stars for Solitude 5:58 3. Broken Door 6:02 4. My Ocean Is Electric 4:11 5. A Poor Turn for the Soul 5:42 6. Jupiter 3:37 7. Battersea Transcendental 7:33 8. A Stones Throw 4:03 9. Boundaries 4:48 10. Toronto Skyline 7:59 11. London by Night 4:54 12. Unarmed at Sea 7:38 13. Mad for All Seasons 10:31 14. Stop Waiting for Miracles 4:14 15. Locusts 4:23 16. Colder Rain 5:22 17. Everyone Says Goodbye 3:58 18. The Session 11:47 LINEUP: Ken Coulter - drums Brian Holmes - keyboards, bass Craig West - vocals, guitars, bass, programming with: Rob Coleman - guitars Jake Rendell - backing vocals Josh Norling - saxophone Jennifer Gavreau - backing vocals Keith Conway - guitars Ed Young - drums
Prolusion. Canadian band MACHINES DREAM started out just about a decade ago, a more or less incidental band formation if I have read their history correctly. Following two live albums and three studio albums, the band have now released their first compilation album, which consists of reworked, rearranged and remastered editions of their first two studio albums. This double CD was issued through Irish label Progressive Gears in the spring of 2019.
Analysis. When listening to a band's first two albums back to back, and in reverse order in this specific case, it is always interesting to see how much or not the music actually changes. For some bands it will be a case of getting better at the niche they have decided to explore, for others it may be a case of finding it difficult to write new material when they used all their best efforts the first way around, for others again it will be a case of witnessing a band that develops their craft and expanding their boundaries. As far as Machines Dream is concerned, my impression is that they reside within the third and final of these segments. The reworked version of their second album "Immunity" is the first part of this package. And here the bands comes across as one of the many modern progressive rock bands, taking their cues from Gilmour-era Pink Floyd as well as bands such as Porcupine Tree, nods towards the former present here and there while the latter is arguably more of a subtle red thread throughout with similar elements used but mainly in a slightly different manner. Hence we do get our fair share of calmer and harder passages alternating with each other, a perhaps more distanced expression at times, elements bordering metal popping up for added dramatic impact, and quite a few instances with a groove-oriented backbone. We also catch glimpses of a band well aware of 90's era neo-progressive rock of course. The dividing line between that and the aforementioned possible sources of influence can be a thin one at times, as the core elements are often similar but they may well be applied in a subtly different manner. Machines Dream excel in creating and exploring moods and atmospheres that suck you in and manage to keep your attention, and I guess that is rather more important than the probable sources of their music and details of how it is built up. This isn't a band of instrumentalists keen to show off virtuous instrument details, but rather to build soundscapes, invest emotions into the words and the music and engage the listener on emotional grounds. Hence the vocals may not be stellar, the rhythm section may be a few leagues removed from the Peart's of this world, but in the given context it is functional and it works really well. Personally I'd argue that the keyboards are perhaps the most impressive standalone element, but then in the context of how they are arranged and used rather than for individual technical aspect. Those familiar with this second album of this band might also note that they have assembled two of the epic length excursions from the original release into a single mammoth length creation that clocks in at just over 25 minutes on this revised version of it. A composition to take note of for those who know and love their elongated neo-progressive epic material. And neo-progressive rock is something of a key word for the band's debut album, which makes out the second half of this double CD compilation. On this first outing, we hear that they are creating material much closer to the classic neo-progressive bands of both the 1980's and 1990's, using careful instrument details alongside firm riffs, majestic keyboards and emotional guitar soloing, taking care to change pace and intensity, and more often than not with a structure pairing off parts and passages that contrast each other on one or more levels. Always with a keen focus on moods and melodies, and mainly creating music with an emotional rather than technical overall appeal. Some tracks are rather closer to Gilmour-era Pink Floyd in style, at times perhaps a bit too close to comfort for some, but the material is explored in a good manner as far as I am concerned. Similarities noted, but the execution is still an engaging and compelling one. It is easy to hear the differences between those two albums, that the newer is more developed in general and in terms of style in particular, but both share many similar characteristics as well. Especially the focus on strong and distinct moods, melodies and harmonies, and that the material appears to be made with a strong focus and intent to appeal to the listeners emotions. Hence there isn't all that much to fancy for those that gets a thrill from listening to technically challenging endeavors.
Conclusion. Machines Dream is a fine band for those who love and treasure bands that explore the legacy of neo-progressive rock and segues it over to the more modern traditions of bands inspired by the likes of Porcupine Tree. Atmospheric laden compositions with a strong focus on moods and melodies is the order of the day here, and expressed in anything from sparse and delicate passages to intense parts bordering progressive metal. It is emotional rather than technically oriented music, at least from what I can hear, and a key audience in my mind are fans of 90's era neo-progressive rock that also has a warm heart for more recent bands that will often be described as contemporary progressive rock.
Progmessor: July 15th 2019
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