Hearing Aide: Strange Machines ‘Voice of Color’

On the week of their seventh year anniversary, New England quartet Strange Machines released their first ever full length album, Voice of Color. While some of these tracks can be found on the previously released live compilation, Cause and Effect, the crowd funded sessions created the safe space for the band to hone in on the production value at 9B Studio. Voice of Color is an album with an identity crisis, fusing together a plethora of genres and switching focus during each song in an almost schizophrenic manner. Longtime producer and sound engineer, Toft Willingham, utilized every square inch of the disc capacity, capping the album at a whopping 77 minutes and providing space for the extended jams the die-hard fans have come to appreciate.

“Motion Picture” kicks off the album with the original progressive rock/reggae sound that revved up Strange Machines back in 2011.  Veteran keyboardist, Christian Perron, provides a mellow and jazzy foundation throughout the track that blends well with the 311-esque chorus sung by founding member Mike MacDonald.  Where tracks like “Motion Picture” and “Little Monster” will bring fans back to the band’s youth in terms of influence, “Golden Rule” displays the evolution of their sound and brings the listener to a whole different place.  The intro of the second track sounds like the outro of a Dr. Dre produced beat which dives into a catchy electronic composition highlighted by Craig Holland on bass and drummer Issac Civtello.  “Golden Rule” has been used as an improvisational launch pad at live shows for years, and at the 7-minute mark of the studio release, the band showcases some of that on-stage energy by giving MacDonald room to spread his wings on lead guitar. 

Perron wastes no time jumping into a gritty funk groove during the title track, “Voice of Color.”  As the second of three songs in a row that clock in over nine minutes, Strange Machines have already produced a longer album than most bands and we still have a long way to go.  The wordy first half of the track is overshadowed by the prog-rock breakdown in the second half, returning once again to the sound that described the band during their conception.  “Enter the Interceptor” has a Primus-like value and while it is the shortest track on the album, it has the heaviest feel.  The chilling rocker is reminiscent of the type of music Rob Zombie may add to one of his demented movies during the bloody peak of a chainsaw massacre.  Acting as the halfway point on the album, “Enter the Inceptor” is one more example of a band that is traveling many sonic dimensions at the same time. 

“Squid” is another recognizable staple that has legs, or tentacles, when seeing the band in a live setting.  Certain species of squid have the ability to fly out of the water for short distances and Strange Machines have found a way to express this phenomenon in the studio.  The approachable lyrics and hints of tribal percussion creates a smooth island sound that finishes with an unexpected tidal wave guitar solo by MacDonald.  “Armorphous” serves as the final track of the uber-eclectic Voice of Color and begins with a tight and haunting graveyard vibe before transforming into a powerhouse of danceable energy.  Stacked with trippy effects in all the right places, this soaring jamtronic piece finds the foursome momentarily channeling Pink Floyd before blasting off into the exclamation point of the 77-minute debut.    

So welcome to the Machines!  In their rookie album, Strange Machines packed six years of concepts into one piece of art.  While the track placement and flow have some maturing to do, there is no doubt that this multitalented quartet has endless room to grow.   

Key Tracks: Voice of Color, Squid, Amorphous