Monday, July 10, 2017

Machine Mass - Plays Hendrix (MoonJune, 2017)

Falling neatly between progressive rock and jazz fusion, Machine Mass is in a good position to re-imagine selections from the Jimi Hendrix catalog in a predominantly instrumental context. This current iteration the band consists of Michel Delville on guitar and electronics, Tony Bianco on drums and percussion and Antoine Guenet on keyboards. All of these musicians have deep roots in the progressive music scene and they bring that experience to the fore here, developing a music that is less pyrotechnical than you would expect, although there is enough of that the keep rock fans focused. Instead the trio focuses on the textures and possibilities inherent in Hendrix's music that are available for an improvising unit. "Third Stone From the Sun" opens the album with a space rock vibe that uses the song as a jumping off point for some interesting colors and hues to be developed. The wide range of instruments and technology that the band brings to the project are used judiciously, allowing the music to swing thoughtfully will encompassing some more muscular moments like the strident riffing on "Purple Haze." There is subtlety at play in much of the music like their approach to one the honoree's most enduring melodies, "Little Wing." The sound the band creates are sampled and returned allowing them to build further structure upon them. Henrdix's voice itself is sampled and then presented within the track as the group reverently plays around it, creating textures that weave in the words that are buried within the music. "Fire" allows them to circle around the theme, gaining speed and intensity, which is released with the eruption of strong drumming and snarling guitar and keyboards taking the music into overdrive, stretching it out into a powerful and fast paced performance. They play with "Voodo Chile" in a similar fashion, teasing at the well known theme, with electronic bursts and blasts, before jumping into the melody and allowing some hot drums and guitar to carry the trio into the meat of the song. There is acoustic piano incorporated into "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" that builds an unexpected new twist on this song, before bursting into full electrically infected bloom. The longest track of the album is "You Got Me Floatin'" re-arranged from its pop roots into a progressive ten minute blowout that takes the driving rhythm and blues riff of the original and blasts it off into the stratosphere. The band wraps up the album nicely with another sample of Hendrix's words, juxtaposed by their interpretation of "The Wind Cries Mary" which is presented in a respectful manner framed by piano and percussion. This album worked well, with the music clearly indebted to its subject while never lapsing into hagiography. This might be a good "gateway album" to entice classic rock listeners into more progressive music like fusion and jazz. Plays Hendrix -

Send comments to Tim.