Inspired by classical pianist Felix Mendelssohn’s compositional series, “Lieder ohne Worte (songs without words)”, the latest album from London based melancholic, cinematic, instrumental post rock trio Immortal Machinery dares to wander through a range of moods and emotions, unravelling rare expressions and lead melodic possibilities of piano and strings. With influences include Pink Floyd, Bohren & Der Club Of Gore and the later works of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen (e.g. Blackstar, You Want it Darker albums respectively), the trio comes playful and powerful in its delivery that makes you stop and reflect on your life and emotions.
Inspired by classical pianist Felix Mendelssohn’s compositional series of the same name, the band paints a bleak soundscape powered by the dark tones of the electric organ and melodic lines carried by piano instead of the human voice. With the aim to give the listener space for their own thoughts and reflection, the trio came up with an interesting idea to deliver “lyrics” that follow the cadence of the instrumental melodies, but are intended to be read rather than sung.
“The band started life in the winter of 2013 – we met at a university jam night in London and began slowly refining our sound from rough, garagey hard rock into a more symphonic sound with our second album. Now, we find ourselves drifting in an increasingly experimental direction.” – comments the band.
ASked about more details behind this unique concept, they continued: “This project has turned out somewhat different to the traditional album format, but it wasn’t always intended this way. From the start, we had a clear plan of what we wanted musically: something melancholic and brooding, that explored the possibilities of our unusual instrument choices (violin, upright bass, electric organ). As the work progressed, two questions emerged:
1) Although the music is instrumental, why shouldn’t we explain the story behind each track?
2) Why should the creative process end when we release the album? What if we asked for something back from our audience?
Thus we ended up with two non-musical additions to the album. The first is a piece of written word for each song – “lyrics” that follow the cadence of the music but are intended to be read rather than sung. In separating music and lyrics, the aim is to give the listener space for their own thoughts and reflection.
The second is a gallery of artwork submitted to us by listeners in response to the music. We want to provide a collaborative experience that is more engaging than simply listening. We are fortunate to have quite a creative audience: notable contributions include a drawing from up-and-coming Carnaby Street fashion designer Sarah Hollebon and a series of images from conceptual artist Laura Hepworth.”
Find both the lyrics and the gallery at this location.
Track by track reflections
Universe in My Hand
Inspired by an article in an online magazine – the story of a mathematical savant and how he struggles with basic human interaction. We thought it was so beautiful to contrast this with the depth of theoretical ideas that he worked with on a daily basis.
What if I’m Wrong
Delving into the mind of a religious extremist, who has a brief moment of doubt before embarking upon an act of violence. One of the darker tracks on the album, but it’s a topic that we feel shouldn’t be off-limits for artistic exploration.
What Nightmares are Made Of
Again inspired by a news article, this time the story of a young lady who fled an arranged marriage to be with the man she truly loved. She would drive around the streets of her old home town at night, and would even watch her father walk to work in the early morning, just to not feel totally cut off from her former life.
Kohelet Parts I – IV
A musical retelling of the Hebrew book of Ecclesiastes. Each track roughly represents three of its twelve chapters. The anonymous narrator – the Preacher – contemplates the life he has led and goes through phases of cynicism and despair, but ultimately concludes with hope.
Thoughts on the resulting sound
“The recording and mixing was 100% DIY – no professional studios or engineers were harmed in the process. Bassist Mateusz lives in quite isolated conditions in the English countryside, so we’re fortunate that his place provided the perfect desolate hideout to make music from scratch.
Since we’re currently a duo, we asked two drummers to guest on the album. On the first three tracks is Jamie Parker, who’s done many shows with us in the past. He hits hard and always brings rock’n’roll energy, but we’ve also found him to be a deeply thoughtful and creative player. On the next four tracks (Kohelet I – IV) is local session musician James Wise, who really impressed us with his ability to balance heavy metal aggression with intricate jazz chops.
As a band, we’ve always loved the electric organ and we started to view it as an alternative to guitar for creating dark and heavy musical textures. So, we decided to build one ourselves, complete with foot pedals that would allow me to play the violin at the same time live.
It was around this time that Mateusz also branched into playing the upright bass from previously being a more conventional electric player.”
Regarding their future future plans, Immortal Machinery have been working on some unconventional reinterpretations of classical pieces, which they hope to release as a Youtube series over the coming months.
As far as gigs go, they add: “we have to wait and see given the Covid situation. We’ve spent the past few years gigging across Europe (and occasionally Scandinavia), and we are very keen to play this new material live a whole lot more.”
London alt, experimental & jazz music scene
“For a while now we’ve had a foot both in London’s rock/metal scene and also its jazz community. Both have been hit pretty hard by Covid, but we are seeing flagship metal venues like the Devonshire Arms in Camden tentatively start to reopen. The Dev was very kind to us in our early days, giving us a lot of stage experience which we’ll always be grateful for.
East London is home to a lot of emerging jazz/soul/hip hop talent, many of whom gather on Wednesday nights at Hoxton’s Troy Bar to jam. Pre-lockdown, Mateusz was fast becoming a regular at these events, and we can’t wait for them to start up again.”
Speaking of London jazz, we’d highly recommend keyboard whizz Kamaal Williams‘ new album Wu Hen which recently got released.
We also keep a close eye on Swedish fusion virtuosos Dirty Loops, who have been putting material out sporadically throughout this year. Anytime you want to feel inspired, energised and just a little bit inadequate on your instrument, Dirty Loops is the band for you!
Extra: Top ten things for a productive home recording session
1. A plan – do you know what you want to get done? The task will seem overwhelming if you don’t have a clear goal for today’s session
2. A convenient setup – it doesn’t have to be the best in the world, but it’s got to work for you. Set it up the night before, make sure everything’s ready to go, and come recording time life should seem a lot easier
3. Reference tracks – something to aim for and aspire to. Essential if you’re noobs like us.
4. Notepad – take systematic notes of your sessions. Is there something you’ll want to fix later on? Jot it down. Something you want to try but don’t have time right now? Jot that down too.
5. Something to back up your work – don’t play hard drive roulette, seriously. Your art is too important to fall victim to an IT disaster.
6. Self-awareness – try to be mindful of when you’re starting to lose it and perform less than optimally. Do you need a short break? A snack? Or maybe it’s time to call it a day. Only you can decide.
7. Fresh air – you’d be surprised how stale it can get when you’ve shut yourself away for hours. Stick your head out of the window and take a big breath every now and again.
8. Another human – if you don’t have to do it all yourself, so much the better. Someone else to hit record, give a second opinion etc. can make a big difference.
9. Snacks – keep that brain of yours fuelled!
10. Caffeine – see above. Unless of course, it makes you jittery and messes up your timing.
Extra: Spotify playlist with tracks from particular albums and bands that inspired Immortal Machinery while writing:
• David Bowie’s Blackstar album – a chilling, eerie soundscape that served as a perfect swansong for a legend
• Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker album – similarly, a farewell record from a musical giant; executed with the grace and sombre dignity of a funeral procession.
• Mehliana – a collaboration between pianist Brad Mehldau and drummer Mike Guiliana (who also appears on Blackstar). A groovy, electronica-tinged fever dream of an album. Jazz can be cool and smooth, but it can also be fuel for your nightmares
• Exivious – short-lived jazz/metal fusion band. Many have tried to merge these two genres together, none have pulled it off like Exivious.
• Pink Floyd – if you even vaguely consider yourself an experimental band and don’t pay homage to the mighty Floyd, you’re doing it wrong…
• Bohren & der Club of Gore – pure mood music. Gloomy and sorrowful, just the way we like it Ulver – their transformation from black metal screechers into refined synth pop merchants