Machinist – Of What Once Was

03/07/2011 § Leave a comment

In 1960, one hundred people were invited to the Galerie International d’Art Contemporie in Paris to witness a surreal piece of aural and visual modern art. On offer was the new performance by Yves Klein, the Monotone Symphony. This presentation consisted of twenty minutes of a ten piece orchestra playing a single note, then a further twenty minutes of silence. How can you keep an audience’s interest for twenty minutes when they’re doing nothing but listening to one note? Good question. The answer is simple: by getting three naked girls up on a stage and telling them to roll around in blue paint. It would certainly work for me. And this – the aural aspect anyway – has been the inspiration for the first track of Machinist’s “Of What Once Was” release, Mono Tone In D.

Surprisingly, this homage works works rather well. What Mono Tone in D doesn’t try to do is be cleverer or better than us right off the bat. The first three minutes of the track are indeed its namesake, little more than an unadventurous, plain D monotone, but then the subtleties begin to come in. Other notes start to dance around the piece’s main tone, playing with it and lightening its stale, stolid heaviness; then the darker, heavier rushes of some unseen metallic machinery begin to whirr somewhere off in the background. Dark drones move somewhere far underneath, and chains clank on disused metal drums. Plucked guitar harmonics surround us while the drones squirm alongside, intensifying an increasingly dark experience until an ethereal spirit raises us up above the darkness and we drift away into a calmer, stiller ether.

The second piece of the album is the longer, and arguably more intricate Of What Once Was. This 30 minute improvised track concentrates more on guitar drones, but they’re never too heavy or suffocating to detract from the lighter ambience of the album’s atmosphere. The track opens with a slowly enveloping thick hum which rises and subsides and demands our attention before warping into a melodic, otherwordly stellar euphony, but which still retains its own sinister edge. Slowly, eventually, further droning melodies accompany the euphony like voices, singing and heightening the experience into a chorus. However, soon enough, the beatified voices succumb to an unspoken pain, and groaning into a dull dirge, drift far off into the infinite as we are left with the crashing of waves and the sound of falling water.

The album clocks in at 52 minutes, a respectable amount for a two track offering, but not an unusual length for the drone world. Of What Once Was is all about the subtleties: subtleties which you must allow it to give to you. Repeated concentration is really the way forward here, since this album does demand you to respect it with the same degree of concentration as the finesse with which it was created. Of What Once Was may still be a fledgling when compared against greats such as Maeror Tri or Troum, but there are flashes or brilliance here which at least put it in the same race. There’s a lot to be discovered within its layers: a lot of mystery and a lot interpretation. The myth, as Klein said, is in art.

Rating: 4/5

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