The Machine, Faceshift: Finding a New Norm

Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine faceshift

Six full-lengths in, Rotterdam’s The Machine are not only veterans with more than a decade of work behind their 2007’debut, Shadow of the Machine, but participating in an ongoing sonic development that seems to be playing out in real-time on each of their records. Their earliest work — the just-mentioned debut, as well as 2009’s Solar Corona, 2011’s way-jammed-out Drie (review here) — was square in the vein of heavy psychedelic rock, rife with longform jams led by the warm fuzz tone of guitarist/vocalist David Eering and backed by the rhythmic fluidity of bassist Hans van Heemst and drummer Davy Boogaard. With 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) and their 2013 split with Sungrazer (review here), The Machine began a process of solidifying their songwriting, condensing ideas into tighter structures. They still had a propensity to jam out, and that continued onto their fifth LP, Offblast! (review here), which tipped the balance even further, showing a budding affinity for noise rock.

To listen to Shadow of the Machine and the band’s latest work, Faceshift, one would hardly recognize it’s the same outfit. At 40 minutes, the eight-track collection is a full 10 shorter than its predecessor, and it’s the tightest collection of songs the band has yet produced. Eering‘s vocals still have a watery effect on them, and he still breaks out a longer solo on the 11-minute title-track, but that’s the only song not in the three-to-five-minute range, and from the 5:50 opener “Crack You” onward, there’s a predilection toward noise rock that makes its way in amid the heavy and desert influences that comes even more forward on songs like the subsequent “Agitate” and the later “The Norm,” “Kick It” and the closing duo of “Zeroten” and “Kamikaze.” Faceshift still has its foundation in heavy rock, but it’s clear the band has grown into something else and are still growing into something else in these tracks. Something all the more their own.

If one were to think of it as a new era for The Machine, I don’t think that would be wrong. And it goes further than just their sound. Faceshift is their first record since Solar Corona not to be released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten, and instead it finds them self-releasing through their own newly-started imprint, Awe Records. Not only that, but it marks van Heemst‘s last performance with the band, and he’s been replaced for live shows, maybe more, by Sander Haagmans (The Whims of the Great Magnet, ex-Sungrazer). That’s The Machine‘s first lineup change in memory, and to listen to anything the band has done is to realize it’s not a minor one; even on Faceshift, the bass makes significant contributions to the overall effectiveness of the tracks. It’s still something of a mystery as to what the future holds, whether Haagmans will join full-time (one hopes), but the point is that the sonic turns made throughout are only part of the story.

They’re a crucial part, of course, with “Crack You” giving way to the punkish “Agitate,” with Boogaard‘s raw snare cutting through Eering‘s solo en route to a cold finish and a bass-led intro to “Heads Up.” Not necessarily as sharp edged as some of what surrounds, “Heads Up” still offers plenty of bite as it works what turns out to be a linear building path of dynamic ebbs and flows headed to a brash final payoff. Their turns are deceptively smooth as they make their way through verses and choruses with guitar at the top of the mix riding the groove of the bass and drums. They finish with a solo that cuts back to the central riff at the end, almost making the listener wish for one more run through the hook, but there’s no time, especially with the 2:41 crasher “The Norm” immediately following. It’s arguably the most singularly intense moment on Faceshift, with a searing lead of wah capping after an assault of drums and sheer rhythmic thrust buries the vocals beneath such that they seem to simply disappear as the song plays out.

the machine

Stop for a beat and “Kick It” begins the presumed end of side A, with a chunkier riff at its core and Eering‘s vocals tapping grunge melodies at around the first-minute mark. Boogaard‘s drums bring a steady bombast to the recording, but he’s never actually out of control; just insanely talented. “Kick It” also has a payoff at the end, but it’s longer after the solo than that of “Heads Up” and it leads to the smoother-edged, fuzzy start of the title-track, which one half expects to be a jam given its extended length and The Machine‘s past patterning, and it is one after a fashion, but here too the “face” of the band’s approach has shifted. They bounce easily through the first four minutes of the song, adding a bit of lumber to the final hook, then crash out on a wash of cymbals and bring the song down to nothing but residual amp hum and dead space only to have the guitar return alone with a line at 4:32. It’s the beginning point for an instrumental freakout that consumes the rest of “Face Shift,” building over the few minutes that follow not to a psychedelic spaciousness, but to an absolute cacophony of guitar, bass and drums all working together in power trio fashion.

The touchstone comparison for it would be Earthless, but really what’s happening is The Machine are building a bridge between their former style and their new one. They push it until shortly before 10 minutes in and then crash out once more, and Eering holds out a guitar line on a long fade that brings it to a close. A stretch of actual silence follows before “Zeroten” bursts in with its own noisy starts and stops, Helmet-style, some highlight basswork from van Heemst and drawling vocals for an extra ’90s-style touch. Using feedback as a weapon, it pulls and careens through a solo in its second half before dipping back to the central riff for a last verse and then caps with harsh noise en route to the finale of “Kamikaze,” which holds a similar riff structure but more of a nodding groove and an open chorus that’s among the most satisfyingly Alice in Chains-y throughout. “Face Shift” was a pretty grand finale in itself, but neither “Zeroten” nor “Kamikaze” feels tacked on, and the latter has a raucous ending of its own to cap the record, returning at the last minute to underscore just how skilled songwriters The Machine have become.

It’s important to highlight the creative growth The Machine have undertaken on Faceshift, but it’s not as if it’s come out of nowhere and all of a sudden they decided to be different-sounding band. They’ve never put out the same record twice, and Faceshift is a step forward from Offblast! much as that record was a step forward from Calmer than You Are and so on through their back catalog. And in much the same way one expects their next one will progress from where they are now. Nonetheless, it’s striking how they bring the diversity of their influences together in an aesthetic they’ve so much made their own, and how they seem to set up yet another avenue of pursuit for their ongoing sonic progression.

The Machine, Faceshift (2018)

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The Machine Post “Crack You” Video; Faceshift Preorders Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine

Based on what I read in the band’s announcement for their new video and first public audio from their sixth full-length, I’m going to guess that ‘Crack You’ doesn’t necessarily speak for the entirety of The Machine‘s Faceshift from whence it comes. Because they say it doesn’t, and six records in, one can generally trust a band to know the difference. The Netherlands-based three-piece are set to release Faceshift next month through new imprint Awe Records — they were formerly on Elektrohasch — and though “Crack You” features a warm, heavy/desert rock tonality, The Machine over the years have moved beyond their initial post-Colour Haze jammy beginnings and, while still retaining some of that in their sound, have pushed into a more noise-rocking direction. Certainly that was the case on their fifth LP, 2015’s Offblast! (review here), and 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) might be the root of that change, coming as it did just a year after 2011’s Drie (review here). Each of their records, from 2007’s debut Shadow of the Machine and 2009’s Solar Corona onward, has been a clear step in their growth. No doubt the same holds true of Faceshift as well.

And though one would hardly listen to Shadow of the Machine and guess where the band would wind up 11 years later, The Machine have yet to release an outing that doesn’t make sense to their progressive arc. That is, especially with songs like “Crack You” at their disposal, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist/engineer David Eering, bassist Hans van Heemst — since out of the band and replaced for shows by Sander Haagmans, formerly of Sungrazer, who out out a split with The Machine in 2013 (review here) — and drummer Davy Boogaard are able to tie their noisier proclivities to the naturalist psychedelia of their earlier days. Offblast! did so with tracks like “Coda Sun” and “Dry End” and the stretched-out “Chrysalis (J.A.M.).” And while in their album announcement they said it would be their noisiest and harshest offering yet, “Crack You” features an accessible groove and little of the punk-derived duderism that one might expect. Presumably, they get there later on.

Preorders for Faceshift are up now — right now — via Awe Records ahead of the July 13 release date. CD and limited vinyl. The video for “Crack You” features footage in the studio and out, some of it new, with Haagmans on bass, some of it older, with van Heemst, who appears on the record. I’ll hope to have more to come ahead of the release, but you can check out the “Crack You” clip below, followed by the band’s announcement of it and the preorder link courtesy of the social medias.

Dig it:

The Machine, “Crack You” official video

We present you Crack You, the first track of our sixth album Faceshift. The album will be released on July 13 on CD and LP (180gr black and limited transparent magenta). To warm you up we’re starting out with the most easy listening and catchy track on the album.

Pre sale just started, the store is open. Go to www.awe-records.com and visit the shop to make a reservation.

Faceshift will be available on CD and 180gr vinyl (black/transparent magenta).

Orders will be shipped out starting from Monday July 16.

First gigs will be at ‘t Keldertje (event The Machine & Walden & Junkfood Lunchbox) on July 13 (release day) and Stoned From The Underground 2018 on July 14.

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The Machine to Release Faceshift July 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine

Rotterdam-based psych-jammers-turned-noise-rockers-and-sometimes-still-psych-jammers The Machine have a new album, a new bassist, and a new label. The record, which has been dubbed Faceshift, speaks to the ongoing change in the veteran three-piece’s sound even unto its artwork, and as they passed the decade mark late last year, early in 2018 guitarist/vocalist David Eering and drummer Davy Boogaard bid farewell to bassist Hans van Heemst. I’m not sure if van Heemst plays on the album — given the timing, I think so, but I’m not 100 percent — but with his maybe-temporary-maybe-permanent replacement being none other than Sander Haagmans, formerly of The Machine‘s tour, split and once-labelmates Sungrazer and currently also making music under the guise of The Whims of the Great Magnet, one could hardly argue for a more fitting replacement. That is, it’s not the original lineup of the band anymore, but it’s about as close as they were going to get.

The Machine feature in the lineup for this year’s Stoned from the Underground in Germany. Actually, it was seeing them listed as a part of that bill that made me hit up their Thee Facebooks to find out what they were up to. And if you’re curious, yeah, I’m a little bummed that’s how I’m finding out about their new record nearly a month after it was first announced, but hey, it’s still one to look forward to, as these guys always deliver.

The following is culled together from their social medias and that of Awe Records, their aforementioned new label:

the machine faceshift

Friday the 13th, July. Save the date.

We have a new album coming up! Our new one, “Faceshift” will be released at Awe Records, worldwide distribution by Cargo Records. Click and follow the Awe page to be kept updated about this and potential other future releases.

Tracklist:
01 – Crack You
02 – Agitate
03 – Heads Up
04 – The Norm
05 – Kick It
06 – Face Shift
07 – Zeroten
08 – Kamikaze

Other info will follow soon. There will be a pre-sale and some other funky stuff. The record will be available on CD/LP/Digital. As a limited edition, we’ll have transparent magenta for all the vinyl collectors out there. We will also put some new music online any time soon.

Anyway, we think Faceshift kicks ass and we will play some new tunes at the handful of shows we’ll do during the summer to support this release. We’ll have the very first copies with us on the road by then, some new design t-shirts as well to top if off. A couple of additional summer dates to follow asap. Since Hans left, we’ll have Sander with us to do these gigs.

From Awe Records:

The Machine is back! Heavier than ever before, their sixth full length album Faceshift sees them further carving out their own sonic identity. The successor to 2015’s Offblast! is the band’s most noisy and melodic effort to date. After an existence of over a decade, The Machine digs more into their grunge and noise rock side, without sacrificing any trademarks.

Faceshift was recorded live at Studio De Zolder (as always), with The Machine’s own David Eering at the helm. The outcome is a more focused and punchy album, straying further and further from the stoner and psych jams of the early years. A maturation of the trio’s song writing results in memorable hooks, more room to breathe for the rhythm section and punishing riffs smashing you in the face with a hammer. Album highlight and title track “Face Shift” offers all of these ingredients, while the long instrumental section is a reminder that The Machine is not completely ignoring their heritage. Clocking in at 11:11, it is by far the longest track on the record.

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The Machine, “Coda Sun” official video

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