CD Review

The Machine in the Garden - Live And Two

By JohnnyB

The Machine In The Garden have been a premier dark ambient musical endeavor for a half decade now, stepping slowly and tentatively onto the scene with their release of the Veils and Shadows EP. They've moved across a spectrum of moody industrial dance to a more soundscape-like and captivating sound since then with full length releases of Underworld and One Winter's Night… Founder of the Machine In The Garden, Roger Fracé, has found a beautiful partner in Summer Bowman. In their latest release, only the second CD from the new Middle Pillar Presents label, their sound shows a stronger maturity and growing quality. (--Pan--)

With the addition of Summer Bowman to the one-man line-up of Roger Fracé, The Machine In The Garden's second album takes on a more ethereal and darker side, departing from Fracé's more metallic past. Songs like Dreams Of The Absent and Words In Heaven Lost set quiet moody backgrounds against Bowman's vocal talents. It's a good formula, but it seems over-used. Fortunately, in Corpus Christi (Love Will Die) Fracé adds his deep voice to the mix, making a much more interesting vocal arrangement. They keep that interest going with some percussive help in Shadowy Depths, and then a faster paced Spiritus Ex Obitus Sanctus, but the real shocker is Dark Splintered Heart - it harks back to sounds like My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. A remix, it's the kind of song you'd buy the album for, and then gain an appreciation of the rest of the album afterwards.

Overall the album seems like a bit of Bowman here, then some Fracé there, while the group tries to find the right blend of both. It's not a spectacular album, but a good transitional one for a band still searching for "their sound."

One Winter's Night...One Winter's Night…:
This is the first album of theirs I heard, and the one that led me to delve deeper into the group's works. Creatively a powerhouse, it's not the kind that will keep the goth clubs jumping. Instead it is ambient and ethereal enough to be almost New Age. Their first release with Middle Pillar Presents, it also seems like they've found "their sound."

It leads off with Summer's self-declared favorite Falling, Too, a complex background mix and some outstanding vocal work by Bowman. Control is less ambient, and probably more the goth-club danceable type of song, again containing great background work set against excellent vocals. It only gets better when Fracé adds his bass voice to The Sleep Of Angels.

The Machine in the GardenThey're expanding their range also, putting Shakespeare to music in Fear No More and then doing the same with Aeschylus in Io's Departure, which also has a powerful drum-based ending. This is the kind of album that previous fans of tMitG have been waiting for, and one to generate a lot of new fans in the future.

Live at QXT's, Newark, NJ
Pan and I had the pleasure of seeing them live at a club called QXT's in Newark, New Jersey. Their stage presence matches their musical style - low-keyed (where some groups are SO goth it's almost kitsch!) but intense, well-crafted music. I was enjoying myself too much to write down the whole playlist, but they did start off with a number of selections from Underworld, and then continued into One Winter's Night. Afterwards, while a local group set up, Pan and I got to talk with both Roger and Summer (who made Pan's evening by accepting the offer of a drink). Unfortunately, we couldn't talk long, as they had flown up from Texas that day and were set to do a show in NYC the next night before returning there, but they seemed as pleased to talk to us as we were to talk to them.

I just had to put up with Pan all night after that: "Oi. Mang! She let me buy her a drink!"

Contact Information:
Post: the Machine in the Garden, PMB 234, 4815 W. Braker Lane, Suite 502, Austin, TX, 78759
Phone: (888) 763-2323, (212) 378-2922

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