Review of Slow Machines [12k2044]

Fluid Radio (UK)

Stephen Vitiello and Michael Grigoni both call the southern mid-Atlantic region of the USA home. The pair met up for this collaboration, in which Grigoni plays guitars and Vitiello takes on electronic and processing duties. The aim was to splice their individual sounds and styles together, and to create something entirely new. Slow Machines is the result.

Vitiello’s speciality is in installation work, and his music often accompanies other forms of art. Here, the music is as bright and open as one might expect, given his areas of expertise.

Using field recordings and recordings from the kinetic sculptures of artist Arthur Ganson, Slow Machinestakes its name from the clicking and whirring sounds of his work. Moving in repeating cycles and using robotic motions, the album is the opposite of clunky, displaying a free, unobscured kinesis. Where field recordings do appear, they’re gently inserted. A feather on one of Ganson’s pieces brushes against the string of a violin – hands-free music via the natural world – while recordings taken in Sheridan, Wyoming provide a firm sense of place, pouring a localised, familiar geography into the record.

Welcome feelings of warmth and comfort are added into their evolving and blossoming musical world. Steel guitars populate the album, bending, curving, and skipping over with intermittent, sun-lined phrases that help to provide a cleansing sound, arching over dense-but-light ambient atmospheres and sitting beside the banks of a clear stream. Bells and chirping birds also appear.

More exotic elements are here, too, thanks to the lilting guitar and a sun-washed atmosphere, which wraps itself around the notes and then stretches out beyond them, sometimes looping, sometimes reversing, the gentle atmosphere resembling a late summer’s evening. Skies are on fire, and the lagging harmonic progressions leave behind sunset colours, remaining there even as the night – and the silence – descends.

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