Watching a program on TV, set in the 1990s, the other day I noted a poster for Pink Floyd’s “The Division Bell,” on the wall of the teenage protagonist. If it wasn’t for that, it’s an album I’d have long forgotten.
Without Waters (who had strong words to say of it) but tipped to be a return to traditional Floyd, I never got on with this release of vacuous glib, despite its popularity. Maybe after 14 albums the band just went through the motions for avarice, Gilmour sang like he didn’t give a toss.
In 1994, with trance and ambient house forerunning The Division Bell was the final nail in the coffin for mainstream prog-rock, a detachment indeed. Farcical to call it thus, mundane rock would’ve been apt. For example, The Ozric Tentacles were Frome guys actually progressing the genre, but in underground circles it was techno offspring, Eat Static which really pulled advances in music.
Times had changed by 94, never dreaming I’d be here in 2018 listening once again to space-rock like a Hawkwind throwback. But here in our humble Devizes is a band which had so far escaped my attention. It’s a sound worthy of attention though, for Cracked Machine’s debut album released on PsyKa Records in May, “I, Cosmonaut,” is the album I’d have wanted to hear when I clicked play on that Division Bell CD.
Whaa, I hear you cry, wait just a cotton-picking minute here. Yes, I did say that. As they play the Lamb’s Fold next Friday (21st September,) I wanted to check this album out, despite knowing Pete and Jacki of Vinyl Realm wouldn’t muck about with Sheer Music’s treasure, still I was left surprised and overwhelmed at how good this band are.
Self-described as “an exciting four-piece band who weave together hypnotic grooves, infectious riffs and layers of sonic texture to create compelling and original soundscapes,” Cracked Machine was formed in 2015 by skilled musicians, and it shows. Introducing then, Bill Denton on guitar, Chris Sutton on bass, Clive Noyes on keys/vocals and Blazej Gradziel on drums, Friday night at the Lamb is set to sooth, with support from Sally Dobson aka the Salamander and The Compact Pussycat too.
From the off, the opening track, “Twin Suns Rising,” akin to a fantasy book’s introduction, lets you know what to expect. Lucid free flowing rock, restful and spellbinding.
Ingeniously composed, aforementioned Floyd springs to mind, from the slant of “Echoes” from the “Meddle” album. Despite this comparison, these otherworldly sounds are contemporary rather than archaic, or retrospective of a psychedelic era of heavy Hawkwind, Tolkienesque interpretations, hand-made bongs and Gilbert Shelton comix, but with a pinch of trance, replacing Tangerine Dream synths with sublime space-rock guitar riffs and solid basslines, it takes you on a journey few albums do these days.
There’s even a spoken sample akin to ambient house opening “Svetlana,” but again with wailing guitar it’s mellow driving rock for a twilight ride. Again, with the final song, “Transorbital,” shards of dance music’s side of mellow repaid me a call, almost the trip-hop of Nightmares on Wax, least The Orb’s trance method. But by the time it’s done, the wailing guitar riff returns you it’s space-rock predominance, gorgeously.
We wait until the 4th tune, the title track, for vocals but it doesn’t matter, it’s the soundscapes which you’ll blanket you and submerge you into pillows of fluffy ambiance. While there’s these clear influences of prog rock classics, the Ozric and Cream, to name but a few, it’s undeniably unique and a double thumbs-up from me. You can get it at Vinyl Realm, even on vinyl, naturally!