by Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire
I've read the liner notes about four times for this album and I still don't know what the hell Steve and Vir are talking about when they describe the term "elegant futurism" or when they recount how this album was made. No matter. This album kicks serious ass and there's no two ways about it. One of the most exciting and ground-breaking CDs of recent years, BLOOD MACHINE is positively thrilling, exhilarating and breathtaking as it lays out its cyber-electro-organic psychodrama track after track after track. What a rush this album is!
Using the metaphor of blending the human anatomical/biological system with some sort of cyber-futurism as a starting point for the project (if I'm interpreting the liner notes correctly), BLOOD MACHINE is, speaking in my own metaphor-laden manner, a sonic version of a 21st century Fantastic Voyage. Beginning with the blistering pace of the rhythms and fractal grooves (a term that, I believe, is used to describe the hyper-speed beats that pepper most of the album) of "Dissolving the Code," the listener is transported into an ultra-fast-paced pulsing soundscape of hummingbird wing-beat-intensity, lush cyber washes of synthesizers, and kinetic electro-rhythms. Wow! This is as invigorating a piece of music as I've heard in a long time.
Yet, the organic/electronic nature of the underlying washes is what sets the hook for me. Mesmerizing is the best word to describe it, or maybe even hypnotic. The ambient bliss of the opening of "Evolution," with its beautiful drones and organ-like chords, is soon submerged under some exciting rhythms which are quite unlike the opening track's beats. Steve and Vir totally nailed infusing this music with a bio-organic quality while still keeping it rooted completely in 21st century cyber-music technology. I continue (even after my fifth or sixth listening) to be stunned by how cool this album is.
Steve Roach has always been a genius at evolving his long tracks, taking what seems like simple ambient music and shape-shifting it so slowly that only later does the listener realize that the ending point is light years removed from the beginning. On this recording, he and Vir demonstrate time and time again that slow movement through subtle changes can accomplish as much drama as rapid course corrections.
I could go on and on describing the other six tracks on BLOOD MACHINE. I could wax eloquently about the tribal qualities of "Impulse," (which in its early parts reminded me of the superlative SOMA that Steve recorded with Robert Rich) or the cyber-cool "Neurotropic" which counterpoints exotic percussive effects against those hyper-kinetic fractal grooves while spacy washes float above it all. I could also rave about the way classic spacemusic washes caress the air underneath the cosmic funky beats of "Mindheart Infusion." I could write about how I marvel at the wonderful closing cut, "In the Marrow," wherein fractal grooves cruising at an almost light-speed pace are held in check by long washes of warm spacy ambience.
But instead, I'll just say that BLOOD MACHINE is a truly amazing album. It manages to break new ground and stake out new territory where I didn't even know the landscape existed. While I know this recording is, at least partially, an evolution of Steve and Vir's earlier collaboration, BODY ELECTRIC, I think this is a far better album. It's use of rhythms (and those fractal grooves) is jaw-dropping. It's engineered to literal perfection. And it's so much fun to become absorbed in that if I weren't such a motor-mouth, I'd be speechless. Obviously, it merits my highest recommendation!