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CD REVIEW: The Machine That Made Us by Flotation Toy Warning

Let’s indulge in some standard cliché – there’s really no artist or band working on the indie or mainstream music scene who approach listeners like Flotation Toy Warning. Sometimes a seemingly clichéd statement hits the mark. The English band’s second full length album The Machine That Made Us has a clear bent towards electronica, but they stitch together ten distinctive musical landscapes peppered with a mix of traditional and unusual instrumentation. Discernible structures and a satisfying amount of melody are defining qualities of many songs on The Machine That Made Us, but these are arrangements crackling with dynamics and a near symphonic swell that’s difficult to resist. This isn’t a band, either, afraid to stretch out while still making their extended compositions worth every second of the listener’s time.

Not every track on The Machine That Made Us embraces melodic virtues, but the album’s first song “Controlling the Sea” illustrates the band’s oddly alluring penchant for melodies. These certainly aren’t your typical forays into indie rock and dubbing them art rock of some sort misses the point because Flotation Toy Warning, if they do nothing else, subverts your expectations. The organ in “Due to Adverse Weather Conditions, All of My Heroes Have Surrendered” recalls Radiohead in some ways with more of emphasis on traditional textures during a number of passages while other portions of the song, like its first half, is mid-tempo electro pop with idiosyncratic touches like occasional flashes of brass sounds in the arrangement. Carter’s vocal versatility should be apparent to novice listeners by the end of this song, but further songs will only underline his range with this material.

“A Season Underground” is one of the album’s more conventionally structured tracks and among its shorter tunes. The band, unusually for them in light of the previous tunes, maintains a consistent line of attack from the opening notes and still manages to strike a highly individual note. It’s interesting to contrast the optimistic implications of the title “I Quite Like It When He Sings” with its musical character. The arrangement and sound has an intense, nearly claustrophobic quality while the lyrical content doesn’t veer so far into moodiness, but nonetheless operates on more than one layer. This isn’t an album of tone poems set to often experimental or unusual arrangements, but there’s no doubt that Paul Carter and his cohorts are aspiring to more than just the usual pop song sentiments. “The King of Foxgloves” opens with a brief swell of keyboards and soon turns into one of the album’s more surreal gems with a lightly apocalyptic lyric and a great rhythm track while the memorably titled “Driving Under the Influence of Loneliness”, the album’s shortest song at under three minutes, shows how much of an effect that retain even when they focus on maintaining a concise song length. The album’s final curtain of “The Moongoose Analogue”, going well past the ten minute mark might signal the moment when the band bites off more than it chew but, instead, the extended piece allows them to fully develop their musical dramatics in a way that even the longer earlier tracks did not offer. Attentiveness to the lyrics, plus at least a little imagination, will reveal the title’s meaning and it’s one of the better marriages of vocal and music on The Machine That Made Us despite the length. It’s impossible to not be impressed by the band’s ambition and intelligence, but it’s even harder to not be left a little spellbound by their near flawless ability to bring off a release with such scope.

BUY CD: http://www.talitres.com/en/releases/the-machine-that-made-us.html

by William Elgin

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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