Review: Voltage Controlled EP - The Emperor Machine
I prefer records. Not because they sound better (they don’t), not because I think there’s anything inherently better about them – more real. No, I prefer them because they’re what I’ve always used as my primary music delivery system and I’m resistant to change. I know where I am with a record, they put me at ease. I’m also a hugely materialistic dickhead and can’t quite get over the feeling that unless I have a song on vinyl, I don’t really own it.
So Record Store Day should be a nailed-on winner for me, right? Well, no. Not really. It’s great for some retailers and parties like the one Love Vinyl are holding this Saturday look absolutely amazing, but I just can’t quite make that leap to get on board. There are many reasons – most of which I’ve documented elsewhere and I’m not keen to repeat myself, but ultimately the ridiculous bunfight for needless Fleetwood Mac represses and Springsteen splatter vinyl leaves me feeling like an alcoholic trying to get a drink in a Weatherspoons on Paddy’s Day.
Small labels whose lives depend on sticking to schedules and ensuring cashflow, find their records stuck at the back of the queue while major labels strut in like playground bullies, throwing their weight around to ensure the public aren’t deprived of another overpriced way to hear Beatles tracks they already own. Although they won’t hear them, they won’t even break the seal. They’ll either file them away or stick them straight on eBay just like the bankers they are.
And anyway, it’s Record bloody Shop Day.
Of course, for all my moaning, there are some amazing releases about and that makes it even more sickening as I won’t stand a chance of getting them. Antoni Maovvi’s Abdullah film score is unlikely to make it to the Kent backwater I call home, And neither is the Klauss Johann Grobe/Odd Couple 12” (although, to be fair, that’s a Germany only release).
Sitting alongside these at the top of the pile marked “Shabby’s wishlist” is the Voltage Controlled EP by The Emperor Machine (the nom de plume of producer Andrew Meecham, who is, I presume, well known to those who frequent this online organ), released on his own Vertical Tones label. Four tracks of carefully crafted electronic grooves that feel so solid it’s like they’re hewn from rock.
We Play Perfect is first up, jacking its way out of the speakers with a knowing wink and a cheeky grin. Synthesised shards spike their way up from the undertow of bass and provide clearly defined relief and an imagination that’s often missing from similarly heads-down dance.
Dry Down the Middle, meanwhile, ebbs and throbs and rolls and bobs. It’s music for strobe filled dancefloors that give snapshotted slides of friends trying to eat their own jaw. At seven minutes long, it feels about a quarter of an hour too short.
Got to Warm Ride is a gentler affair, but no less involving. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to make and, indeed, there’s a sense that Mr Meecham threw everything into this. That he manages to make so many sounds work in such close harmony is testament to his extraordinary talent and touch.
Leggwork closes proceedings by picking up the pace and leaving us on a high. In equal parts soundtrack, disco and electronic funk, this is the territory that Meecham occupies with complete confidence. It’s the pick of the bunch: knowing without being arch; playful without being throwaway; fun minus flippancy.
So, if you can fight your way through the eBay flippers and once-a-year dippers, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a record that you actually want to play rather than keep on a shelf.