|The Machine in the Garden|
Composed of members Roger Frace and Summer Bowman, The Machine in the Garden is a gothic/darkwave duo to keep your eye on. Originally created as a solo work by Roger in 1994, he released the EP Veils and Shadows. Some time after this he was joined by the talented vocalist and musician Summer Bowman which added a whole new quality to the music. Together they've released 6 more albums and an EP which have all received positive reviews and critical acclaim. Their latest album, Before and After the Storm continues to show this duo at their greatest and pushing the limits of genre boundaries and showing what they're capable of.
The name "The Machine in the Garden" refers to the progress of technology and its relationship with nature. Each release explores this relationship between the mechanical, natural, and spiritual worlds and further elucidates the philosophy behind the band. Their style expresses this philosophy and is an excellent rendition of Ethereal/Darkwave music. Combining ethereal vocals, synthesizers, guitar, various percussion and other classical instruments, the music is beautiful and haunting. There are definitely gems on each of their releases that the Darkwave fan can enjoy.
Before and After the Storm - Review
Though it's been a while since Shadow Puppets, the band has kept busy over the years with an album in 2007 (containing both remixes and some new original tracks) and a single in 2010. This album is mainly only available as a digital-only release available on the various music download sites, but for the true fans, collectors and stereofiles there is a limited special edition physical version available for purchase from the band. On the album we have a nice collection of seven original new tracks as well as four alternate remixes.
This album starts great and ends great, it's powerful, haunting and mesmerizing... everything you could possibly hope for from this group and more as they expand on their normal haunting mix of darkwave, goth and ethereal styles. It all starts off with a heavy tribal rhythm with layers of percussion and Summer's haunting vocals on "Cimmerian". This haunting minimalistic approach gives way to a building climax and we get a taste of the harder edge introduced on this album as the grinding guitars join in with the mix of heavy percussion as Summer's heavenly vocals infuse the soft touch of humanity through it all. As the album moves along we are presented with varying degrees of intensity, leading the user into something of an emotional and sonic roller coaster. "Scathefire" presents another fairly edgy mid-tempo piece fusing electronics, grinding guitar and heavy percussion as the underlying backdrop for the siren-like vocals. "Metallic" and "In The Vanir" lend something of a status quo style, bringing out the more tried and true styles from this band. "The Piano" stands out as a favorite of mine as a fan of classical piano. This piece includes a beautiful mix of piano and subtle strings allowing Summer's vocals to really stand out and shine. This is a sharp contrast with the following piece "Power and Prophesy" with it's harsh, driving gothic-rock style guitar. While I really enjoy the intro to this piece with that classic goth sound, along with the driving beat and rock style, as the track moves along it's a piece you have to be in the mood for as the guitar does drag on a become a bit oppressive. Once again we have a huge contrast in style as we move to the finale of the album with "Mending the Sky". This heavenly voices piece is another classic for this band's ethereal side, melding ambient soundscapes with subtle beats and various layers of electronics, gradually building and flowing smoothly along and finally fading to a close.
At the close of these seven pieces we definitely have a great short album or EP, so the remixes are a nice bonus for fans. Many remixes are hit and miss, but I think we have some great alternate versions here. "Cimmerian (reprise)" kicks it all off with a softer, more ethereal version of the piece, with the driving percussion noticeably missing while the heavy synths move it all along. The "Fire Mix" of "Scathefire" presents a fast-driving dance-friendly remix that might make a splash in the club scene for the more electro-friendly venues, while the original is perfect for the black-clad goths. The "Metal Below Mix" remix of "Power and Prophesy" takes an entirely different direction from the original, while guitar is still present and at the forefront, it seems only guitar and percussion provide the music backing this version for the first half, then it gradually gives way to a mix of sci-fi style electronics and guitar mixed. And finally, in great style the "Slf Mix" of "Mending the Sky" wraps it all up, in very similar fashion to the original with the vocals taking the forefront while subtle electronic layers back it all.
I have one complaint about this album, only seven new tracks! I want more, their music is great and so diverse, it would be nice to have a few more original tracks and I'm sure other fans will agree, though we're happy to get the little bit that we can, I certainly understand how busy life can be when music isn't your full-time life and job. So regardless, it's still a great album and is highly recommended, so go pick it up (or download it at one of the many online shops).
Shadow Puppets - Review
Once again we've been looking forward to the latest release from this band and once again fans will not be disappointed. With each release it's great to just dive in and start listening to hear where the band is going to take us. With this album, like the many pieces before, they continue to lead the listener down a mysterious and eerie path through the thoughts and music from this duo.
Roger and Summer follow a tried and true pattern that they have established with their past releases with a great combination of gothic, darkwave and ethereal elements. From the very first eerie guitar notes and somber beat of "Silence" as the opening track to the final closing tones of "Goodbye" the music is captivating and really holds the listener's attention throughout the duration of the album. The variety of this album is a real plus and something that also helps to capture the listener so well. Each track contains it's own signature sound while fitting into a perfect mold or just like all the necessary unique ingredients for a great recipe. With each new release from this band I've felt it was the best work they have done to date. And so it goes also with this release, their sound is mature and this album really is possibly the best we've heard from this band so far.
After the powerful introductory track "Silence" the album moves along steadily with that excellent variety mentioned above. "The Inside World" picks right up with a similar moving beat and Summer's haunting vocals. The beauty in these haunting pieces are just the beginning as the ethereal tracks really bring it out in full force. "Winter Fell" is a perfect example as the beat is subdued and the music becomes more and more somber through this track and other beautiful pieces including the finale "Goodbye". However beautiful or captivating these pieces may be, the track that really stands out as a possible club piece and hit for this band is "Spider's Bride". The tone of this track perfectly matches the style from this band, the pace is quicker and the music a bit more aggressive as the dark and moody vocals match the even darker and moodier music. "Suspend" is easily another great piece that really stands out on this album, while starting out smooth and with an ethereal style it gradually builds up to a powerful crescendo.
That just about wraps it up, with eleven solid tracks this band has pulled off another great album. While they've always been excellent, this one really proves what this band can do. If you're a fan of past works or just finding out about this band and enjoy other gothic-oriented or ethereal music you'll really want to pick this album up.
Asphodel - Review
This is another album that I've been looking forward to for some time from this great Gothic/Darkwave band. And believe me, this is probably their best and most mature work to date. They continue with their classic Gothic/Darkwave style, combining guitar, dark synths and female vocals, but add a very mature and full sound to it all.
I think what diferentiates this darkwave band from so many others is the resonant guitar that's not too harsh mixed with a prominant mixture of electronics and Summer's solemn vocals. This album portrays each of these elements very well from the very beginning with the eerie "Masks" to the final track "Photographic" with it's more downtempo rhythm and smooth acoustic sound. Just the fact that there are 14 beautifully haunting tracks on this album make it a treat to have.
These two tracks are just a shell of what is found on the rest of the album. Fluctuating from dark and brooding to more romantic and flowing, the songs mix well and provide something of an insight to this beautiful duo. Some elements really bring out the moody feeling like "Outside" with the prominant guitars and the next track "Time" with more percussion and dark ambient elements.
It's hard to nail down a favorite track on this album, as they all vary slightly but are all comparably well performed and written. "Wonderland" is probably the track that stands out the most in my mind with more of a beat and bass that really stand out and bring out that angst filled feeling. But there are many others that are easily comparable and just as nice. So while it lacks anything that jumps out and grabs you, the album as a whole is very nicely done.