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The Electronic Harshness of Northern Machine

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Northern Machine exemplifies an electronic band that refuses to be ignored, surviving from their indie cassette origins to flourish in the modern realm with CD reissues of their earlier recordings.

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NORTHERN MACHINE: The Sleeper Dislodged (CD on Hoffman Cleaner Cathode Company)

Originally released as a cassette tape in 1989, this music has been remastered and applied to CD in 2003, featuring 42 minutes that blend the harsh and dreamy sides of electronic music.

For this release, Northern Machine is: P. Gillis and C. Sobas, with D. Skigen providing vocals for one track.

Hostile electronics form a savage rhythm that resounds with metallic sensibilities and achieves quite an insectoid demeanor with its attack. Auxiliary E-perc joins in to create a dense nest of harsh beats, interweaving and pounding away at your frontal lobes.

From there, things turn into a duel of surging electronic hisses, each defined in alternate pitches to generate a pulsating clash.

The next track unites the metallic E-perc with a candified keyboard sibilance. Spoken words filter through this ascending march.

Then some eerie electronics intermingle with distant rhythms, generating a lurking tension that promises dark events.

A short piece explores the use of tortured sounds as heard through a church tunnel of winds.

Tinkling icicles usher in the CD's longest track ("October's Root Cellar" at nearly 10 minutes). While a soft chaos chitters away, spoken words whisper in the background, providing a verbal account of the cellar's dark contents. As the voice fades, "things" begin to gnaw at the growling, atonal soundscape.

The next piece continues this slow-grind motif, with whining electronics and crunching battleship hulls and a remote, mechanical heartbeat.

An assortment of spacey sounds drift in a fog of wobbling electronics.

And the CD ends with a short ambient piece comprised of haunting tonalities and the breathing of a pulsar.

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NORTHERN MACHINE: A Broken Mold (CD on Hoffman Cleaner Cathode Company)

Originally released as a cassette tape in 1992, this music has been remastered and consigned to CD in 2003, offering 40 minutes of more genetically spliced electronics.

For this release, Northern Machine is: P. Gillis and C. Ginsberg.

Muffled percussives usher you into this recording, beats that ricochet and recombine amid vocal snippets and grinding electronics. The synthis rise to control the flow, exerting a surf-like effect on the hissing patter.

Then things take a softer route, with cosmically sedate tonalities and a staccato of metal percussives that establish the present of a steam-driven spacecraft traveling through the void. Emerging bell-tones attribute a Golden Age demeanor to the tune.

The next track explores a variety of insectoid noises, orchestrated to create an arid journey through dusty weeds. The view from here is quite wobbly, as reality towers above the music. Keyboards lends a flea circus flair to the piece, with crystalline tones that drift with pulsating lassitude.

"Krelltones" is exactly that: a homage to the unearthly sounds created by Louis and Bebe Baron for their "Forbidden Planet" soundtrack from the Fifties. Here, though, the alien noises are arranged to achieve a dreamy tune that evokes a pleasant interplanetary voyage.

In "Wasteland", Northern Machine exert a darker persona with gothic keyboards that sigh and forlorn riffs that loop into a desolate sequence of colorful skies over a sterile countryside. The melody plods along, traversing this barren landscape with the stoic determination of long-term survivors out to reach a better place. Their trek is accompanied by growling machinery that remains at the periphery, pacing the troupe but never interfering with the journey.

The next track is livelier, with peppy rhythms and a melody that is full of joyful expression. Shrill electronics delineate these sonic patterns over a steadfast pulse tempo. Synthesized guitar emerges, growling and breaking the cloudcover with its aerial ascent.

The temperament becomes ominous ambience for the next track. Grinding electronics meander alongside a host of pulsating tonalities that define "Voltage and Flux" with their drunken stagger. Gradually, a melody rises from the growling pitches to establish a tune filled with inquisitive promise and synthetic tenacity. When eerie sounds overwhelm the piece, the dark ambience returns.

Bubbling synthis and underwater E-perc set the stage for the CD's final track. Sweeping keyboards and whispering strangers enhance the tune, generating a lush trip to "The Old Neighborhood".

Not many bands achieve such a industrial take on ambient electronics, only to pepper their music with highly melodic content.

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Reviews of other Northern Machine realeases can be found here.

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