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Speech Machine - 2012 - "III"

(54:34, ‘Speech Machine’)


1.  Missed All Your Love 4:32
2.  Drainfilled Hole 4:53
3.  Come On On 3:11
4.  Gone Too Far 3:11
5.  Song Five 5:17
6.  Insta Pleased 3:13
7.  Sweetest of Lies 5:39
8.  Crooked Process 5:40
9.  You Seem Annoyed 3:13
10. All That Was Ours 3:17
11. Mother Whore 2:00
12. A Simple Fool 6:32
13. Changes 3:56

Martin Charlebois – vocals; bass, guitars
Jonathan Obien – keyboards; b/v 
Marcel Helland – saxophones 
Eddie Miles – guitars, dobro
Ellen Bean Pew – cello 
Paul Woltz – bassoon 
Bob Merrihew – drums 

Prolusion. The US based project SPEECH MACHINE is the creative vehicle of Canada-born composer and musician Martin Charlebois. He started releasing material under this moniker in 2006, and "III" from 2012 is, obviously, the third CD to be released by Charlebois under that moniker.

Analysis. Whether Speech Machine is a band or solo project is difficult to get a feel for. For some reason or other this is an album that fails to communicate with my emotions, and my subjective experience of this production is one of music that is emotionally detached. Which isn't necessarily a negative description, as there are many who listen to music without involving their emotions as much as a person like me does, but for my personal experience this feeling obviously had a detrimental effect on how I perceived this album. Musically we're dealing with an artist who works with semi-acoustic material, or, rather, songs revolving partially around the use of the acoustic guitar. The majority of the compositions come across as rather typical singer/songwriter material that has been given expanded arrangements, with dampened guitar riffs utilized for contrasts and a somewhat harder edged delivery on select occasions, while cello, bassoon and keyboards cater for mood enhancements and lighter toned melodic colorization. In the case of the rather anonymous sounding piece Song Five these elements blend together very well too, a cleverly constructed piece of music that, for me, appears to be the artistic highlight of this disc, the inclusion and elegant use of the bassoon the detail that elevates this composition to a somewhat higher plane. Otherwise this is a rather anonymous production for me. The songs are generally slow, and lacking the finer details needed to make me take a particular interest in them. Many of these compositions have pleasant moments and fascinating details, but by and large this is a case of compositions adding up to be less than the sum of their parts. The detached vocal delivery is a detrimental factor for me as well; those who enjoy Charlebois particular vocal style should find this album much more entertaining due to that. His voice and delivery is of a rather distinct nature, and one of the details that will make or break this disc as far as the listening experience is concerned. Grunge is a style that merits mentioning in this context too. That the artist now has Seattle as his base of operations is one fact, but quite a few of the tracks at hand do incorporate elements that will sound familiar to those who enjoyed grunge in its heyday. Very much dampened in expression and in no way approaching the realms of hard rock and metal as the grunge bands did themselves way back when, but there's a certain style of delivery present that can be traced back to this alternative rock and metal movement of the 90's.

Conclusion. Compositions with an acoustic guitar based core and semi-acoustic mode of delivery is what Speech Machine provides on its third CD "III", occasionally flavoured with cello, bassoon and keyboards, and with half a foot or so placed on the borderland of grunge. An album to seek out for those who enjoy grunge just as much as acoustic rock, I assume, especially if you find music with somewhat of a detached mode of delivery to be fascinating.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 15, 2012
The Rating Room

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