The Machine Come Back for Thirds on Drie

Dutch heavy psych jammers The Machine make a dense run on their aptly-titled third album, Drie. The full-length, their Elektrohasch debut, follows on the heels of two strong LPs, 2007’s self-released Shadow of the Machine and 2009’s Solar Corona (Nasoni), and while both of those were over an hour long, Drie goes about as far as you possibly can on an album and still stay on a single disc, clocking in at a whopping 79:23. It is jam packed with packed jams. The Rotterdam power trio make their winding way through cuts ranging from the straightforward to the ultra-extended, giving the album a varied feel despite The Machine’s not changing much tonally throughout. The vibe is live, the flow is easy and the groove is distinctly European, right in line with fellow Elektrohasch newcomers Sungrazer, but still discernable from them and still imbued with a personality and playing style mostly their own.

I was fortunate enough to see The Machine at the 2010 Roadburn Afterburner (they’ll play 2011’s as well) and I picked up their albums after that, eager to discover how their set’s spontaneity translated to plastic. Sure enough, the tonal warmth present in David Eering’s guitar live comes across on both prior The Machine albums, but perhaps most so on Drie, where Eering sounds more comfortable and assured of his playing than ever before, unafraid to add a little Hendrix or mid-‘90s Josh Homme-style whimsy to the central riff of “Sunbow” before the song branches out into one of Drie’s several massive jams. Kyuss is a central influence, specifically And the Circus Leaves Town on that early track and “Gardenia” from Welcome to Sky Valley in the chorus of “Medulla,” which follows. Where The Machine shows their unique edge is mostly in the flourishes of their jams, and on that level, a headphone listen to Drie is a more rewarding experience, giving the soft, Colour Haze-esque lines from Eering extra push beyond that of drummer Davy Boogaard’s ride cymbal.

Another characteristic that stands the three-piece out not necessarily in terms of what they’re doing but how they do it is bassist Hans van Heemst, whose low end perfectly captures the essence of ‘90s stoner rock in a way American bands either simply can’t or flat-out refuse to acknowledge. On the more straightforward opener “Pyro” and during the midsection of the three-part, 15:50 “Tsiolkovsky’s Budget” (the subtitles being “S-IC,” “S-II” and “S-IVB”), van Heemst inserts casual runs beneath Eering’s guitar that both keep the rhythm moving and make the song all the richer and more complex, wonderfully complementing both the warmth of the guitar and the cut-through of Boogaard’s drums. On the preceding briefer acoustic interlude “Aurora,” it’s Eering front and center with some building and fading noise behind (another spot on Drie justifying the headphone listen), but although both Boogaard and Eering are already playing by then, it’s not until van Heemst comes in during the intro of “Tsiolkovsky’s Budget” that the song has actually started. He’s not overly technical or showy in his playing, but his tone is essential to what The Machine are doing here, and a big part of the hypnotic effect they’re able to do so well.

After the reaches “Tsiolkovsky’s Budget” climbs, The Machine are right not to go that far out again immediately. Instead, they insert a break in the form of the 1:55 “Paradox,” a fast-moving (helped by Boogaard’s hi-hat) and straightforward track based on a simple structure and about as vocally centric as the band gets. Eering takes that role as well, working subtly in multiple layers with a kind of mellowed-out Alice in Chains vibe that fits the psychedelic undertones of the music well. Drie is mostly-instrumental, as it would have to be, going so far out into jam territory and musical exploration. “First Unique Prime” and “Jam No. Phi” (written as the symbol on the disc but spelled out here because the character won’t show up) comprise the last 28 minutes of Drie proper, and they’re completely instrumental and based only loosely around structured parts, but there’s still a more thickly-toned, roughly-vocalized secret track to cover about another nine minutes before the album is finished. “Jam No. Phi” was on Solar Corona as well, but obviously in a different iteration. Paired here next to “First Unique Prime,” it’s less definitively stoner and bluesier – less space and more humid air. If you’re still conscious enough to realize it, the change in atmosphere is a last-minute highlight from The Machine.

They’re asking a lot of their audience on Drie, and for that, it might be best to take the record on in varying sessions, or at least halves, splitting around “Tsiolkovsky’s Budget” one way or the other. In any case, The Machine’s heady payoff is worth the attention it requires, but it might take a couple listens before the album just sounds like a wash of riffs, solos and jams with occasional and largely incidental vocals. Its tonal presence and European psychedelic feel make a persuasive case for the strength of that scene at this time, and if Eering, van Heemst and Boogaard are here representing what the next generation of psychedelic stoner rockers have to offer, it’s an offer I’ll gladly take. The mood is light and the lyrics spaced, both without being foolish, and there’s an element of worship to their jamming out that justifies making the trip with them. Provided they can hold up, it’s going to be something to hear these guys come into their own over the next couple records.

The Machine’s website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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4 Responses to “The Machine Come Back for Thirds on Drie

  1. Mathieu says:

    I enjoy this album, more then i enjoyed the live setting during their album presentation. The guitar was (is) too much on the forefront. I hope the drums and bass will grow in the coming years. But in their defense they are young and will get enough possibilities and time to grow. I hope to see a little of this on roadburn.

  2. paulg says:

    Elektrohasch is an amazing label! The Machine kicks ass, something to fill the time while i wait for the new colour haze a little longer.

  3. StevhanTI says:

    being a little geeky here: it’s Psi not Phi

    also hasn’t annyone else noticed that EH relased 3 albums named 3 in 12 months time?

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