James Edge and the Mindstep‘s first full-length album has some interesting aspects with several strong elements. Most notable is the lead singer’s powerful, plaintive tenor vocal, which adds an urgency to his lyrics. These are often contemplative and heavily employ symbolism and metaphors, although often to the extent of wrapping layer upon layer of obscurity to such an extent that potentially interesting concepts become too contrived.
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Instrumentally, the lynchpin of each track is Edge’s folky plucked guitar playing. While undoubtedly good at a technical level, sometimes it feels as though it is slightly overused – the more exciting parts of the album come when there’s a greater diversity of rhythmical changes. Notably ‘On A Red Horse’ (which, although good in parts, isn’t perfect – see below), which starts a trifle slowly before really kicking into gear, and ‘Four Two Four’, which has a neat rockabilly boom-chicka-boom sound.
Some odd choices have been made. Often, tracks lapse into long, drawn-out instrumentals where it occasionally feels as though there are too many independent melodies clashing and vying for attention. There may be one particular sound in there that could really shine, but it’s drowned out by others refusing to give it the necessary space. Additionally, some of the production in general leaves something to be desired – for example, there’s an odd and jarring cello line in ‘On A Red Horse’, and the drums on ‘Cryptid’ sound peculiarly separate from everything else in the track.
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Overall, ‘Machines He Made’ makes for easy enough listening and is a decent album within its genre. However, the majority of the tracks tend to tread the same ground, and even when there’s some invigorating changes made to the style they are often undermined. It’s not quite enough to be a convincing effort that lives up to being as progressive as this band may want to be.
‘Machines He Made’ is out now on Slanting Mounted Head Records.