Figuring out what the future sounds like is an interesting thought. Many of us think of the future as flying cars and beeps and boops all around, but what if it wasn’t? It could be anything we want it to be, and this duo has an inkling to what it could be.
The M Machine is composed of Ben Swardlick and Eric Luttrell out of the Bay area. They have been on my radar since they signed on to OWSLA records in 2011. Their beginnings were unique, frantic and much heavier than their current incarnation in the album “Glare.” It has been a healthy progression when you look back at their discography. They had their roots firmly placed within the electronic music scene.
This album is a confident step into the alternative for them. They’ve played with hard dance, electro house and even a bit of drum and bass, while still having off-kilter highlights in songs like “Faces” or “Tiny Anthem” from their EPs “Metropolis I” and “Metropolis II” respectively. They showed potential for breaking out of the conventions and repetitiveness that electronic music seemed to be plagued with.
They presented an almost cinematic approach in their music that many fans, including myself, became infatuated with. A well-balanced mix of synthetic and tangible sounds created airy background choruses while the clash of cymbals and ups and downs of electronic keystrokes elevated the tracks from monotony to wonder.
This was the hope I had for their new album “Glare.” I wanted that fusion of man and machine to exist in any sounds or songs they created. This album brings it as close as it can get.
“Blind” featuring Luisa Gerstein is an opening with grace. Ambient noise and ghostly voices are muffled by an ascending bridge of accordion and drone-like chords. They are given structure and pace by a lone cymbal and snare that come in and introduce the song. It’s the kind of start that takes patience and creates curiosity in a phenomenal way.
Ambience is a core strength in The M Machine. The striking synths in the next track “Voyeur” complement the echoey vocals in a way that brings out the best in both. The drawn-out singing takes a getting used to but the way the song is composed gives it enough room to breathe and works for the narrative of the track.
The album isn’t perfect. There are tracks that sadly fall into monotony and sour tones. “We Had It All” creates a dependency in the five-note body it introduces at the start, which gets old fast, and “Honeybucket” has lazy vocals that really don’t favor the glitchy pace of the rest of the song.
There are more highlights than not in “Glare.” From the acoustic and electronic marriage in “Heart Sandwich” to “Some Animal” where the drum kit takes the front seat in a harsh yet soothing song. “Glare” can have a bit of a crazed consistency, but experimentation always comes with kinks, and sometimes, that’s not such a bad thing.