The Maschine Made Flesh
~review by Kevin Filan
Pittsburgh multimedia artist Jacob Ross combines his love for industrial music, anime and science fiction in one slick and disturbing package. Order is the first chapter of "SubTerra," a novel-length animated project which features music from his experimental-electronic outfit The Maschine Made Flesh and shockwave animations. Alas, I was unable to open the animations on either my Windoze machine or my PowerMac... and so I'm forced to judge Mr. Ross's musical efforts on their own. Thankfully, this was a pleasant task: this maiden voyage of The Maschine Made Flesh is promising and shows real talent, albeit with some room for improvement.
Ross lists bands like Frontline Assembly, Skinny Puppy, and NIN as major influences. This helps to explain the distorted screams underlying "Deformist" and "Defective." Alas, all these electronic treatments are more bug than feature. Ross is obviously a creative individual who enjoys working with synthesizers and graphic design programs: I'd like to hear what he has to say, and suspect his words are interesting enough to stand on their own without electronic aid.
I'd also like to see Ross edit his work a bit more. Many of these songs are a bit overlong. At 5'54", "Omen" might have worked better at 5' or even at 4'30". The songs frequently have powerful openings (I particularly liked the skewed Asianesque introduction to "Defective") and strong closings, but sag a bit in the middle. Noise artists must edit their work ruthlessly, lest they land on the wrong side of the fine line between "challenging" and "self-indulgent." Ross has a solid, if twisted, sense of melodic hooks, and should have no problem with this in later releases.
This is not your standard 4/4 industrial/EBM release. Ross's creative use of beat boxes shines throughout this EP. The interesting syncopations of "Omen" and "Deformist" pave the way for the closing track, "Recombine." Jangly blips and bleeps join together in a tenuous circus rhythm, which gains in intensity until it becomes a powerful noise track which sounds like something out of a childhood nightmare. Ross also shows some skill with a keyboard. The smooth-with-a-twist dance cut "This Revelation" reminded me of Mahavishnu-era Jan Hammer.
As he matures as an artist, I suspect Ross will gain greater confidence in his abilities. At present, he occasionally relies on unnecessary studio trickery. "This Revelation" is quite strong enough as a keyboard track; the standard-issue distorted vocals and faster-than-light beatbox don't really add anything. I'd also like to see him expand his horizons. On his webpage, he says he wants to create music which bears "little resemblence to the "Four on the floor" techno-industrial heard in danceclubs." Yet much of this EP is standard EBM/industrial, stuff that NIN and Skinny Puppy did a decade ago. Looking at his illustrations, I'm guessing that Ross is familiar with Japanese Anime. I'd recommend he start checking out some of the Japanese noise bands, like Merzbow or the work of Keiji Haino.
Overall, Order is a solid EBM/industrial release, and The Maschine Made Flesh is a solid EBM/industrial unit. I'm hoping that "Chaos," Ross's second release, will fulfill the promise I've seen here. If this review has appeared critical, it's only because there's room for improvement AND the potential for improvement. This release is good: I'm hoping that five years from now Ross is going to be making stuff that's great.
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