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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Machine Mass - Inti (Moonjune, 2014) ***½

By Chris Haines

Inti is Machine Mass’ follow-up to their debut As Real As Thinking released in 2011.  This time around the line-up is Michel Delville (guitar, guitar synth & electronics), Tony Bianco (drums, percussion) with David Liebman replacing Jordi Grognard on saxophones.

They make a full sound for a trio of sax, guitar & drums particularly as they employ loops that predominantly flesh out the bass end of the music, whilst Delville introduces washes of colour through the guitar synth.  Before you think that this is all becoming rather electronic, it’s not, the loops for example aren’t overused and are deployed carefully so that the music doesn’t become too predictable or monotonous.  The use of these electronic sounds, including guitar synth textures, colour the music rather than dominate it and allow the group a full and powerful sound, which at times is more akin to a progressive rock group such as on the piece ‘A Sight’ with it’s Gong-fuelled guitar riff.  The music for the album has been recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, so the fullness of sound that they produce can be reproduced in a live setting without any detrimental affect.

The title track sets out the stall for the album with it’s melodic line being interspersed with much freer material that is shared between the saxophone and an overdriven guitar, whilst the funky drum patterns drive the piece forward and lock into a groove with the carefully tailored bass loop.  ‘In a Silent Way’ appears to be a meditation on the spirit of the Miles Davis tune of the same name having been expanded upon and coloured with an Eastern flavour, where Dave Liebman breaks out his wooden flute over the sitar-like drones of the musical backdrop.  ‘The Secret Place’ is a song with guest vocal by Saba Tewelde.  I’m not convinced by how this sits within the album, and although it’s quite pleasant it seems a little out of place with the rest of the music.  Also, because of this sudden departure in direction the album seems to lose a bit of it’s consistency and momentum, which isn’t helped by the stark contrast of the following track ‘Elisabeth’ consisting of thirteen minutes of improv.

What I like about this album is that there is a ‘looseness’ of feel, particularly around the melodic lines, so that the transitions between written material and the improvised sections are more natural sounding.  This is an interesting album that I found to be quite immediate on first listen, however it does not diminish on further explorations where there is plenty more to discover.