Way Out West – We Love Machine

There’s something about the energy of Way Out West‘s music that always makes them particularly compelling. We Love Machine may be exactly ten years old today, and it may not have performed particularly well on the commercial stage a decade ago, but it’s still a driven, and memorable album.

It opens with title track We Love Machine, an electronic dance piece with occasional broad guitar strokes and atmospheric electro sounds. The strumming and tribal drum interludes are spaced perfectly apart among synth swirls and feedback-laden squelches. It may seem a little aimless, but it’s also beautiful in its way.

In spite of that, it doesn’t really prepare you for the second track, One Bright Night. There’s a sparkling, starry background, with melodic chimes playing in the foreground, before it grows into a hint of a tantalisingly beautiful song. Choral echoes gradually build towards something quite exceptional. Bluntly, I’m not sure it ever quite fulfills its promise, but it’s still an extremely good, sweet and gentle piece.

This is not, in a way, a style of dance music that you really hear much now – and it probably wasn’t around much in 2009 either, which may explain why this album didn’t perform too well. Only Love was actually the lead single, but despite a few disco elements now and then, it has relatively little to offer. Bizarrely, this is not a particularly commercial album, in spite of having all the right sounds and beats – but it is a delicate honing of Way Out West‘s sound, that’s more polished than most of the albums they released in the 1990s.

So the punchy, somewhat crunchy sound of Bodymotion does help, and while it isn’t perhaps as soft and gentle to listen to, at least as the first two tracks, it is a fun, bouncy, electronic track, for the most part. The vocals are a little lacklustre though, to be fair – it sounds like a less good version of Moby‘s Bodyrock. The panpipe breakdown is fun, if nothing else.

Pleasure Control is a pleasant, beatsy instrumental, which, while it doesn’t have a lot to offer by itself, makes for a nice inbetween moment, steering the album back onto course. It would probably sound amazing on a small-press acetate 12″, played in a club, and sounds good here too, but somehow doesn’t quite seem to meet its full potential.

That’s a bit of a theme here, actually. Future Perfect was another single, and again feels like a case where maybe the single would have worked better than the album. Its deep, hypnotic beats are great, but do seem to be screaming out to be heard in a particular environment, where sitting down, listening to the music in its raw state, and trying to write a review, turns out not to be particularly easy. It’s not at all that this is a bad album – just that it maybe requires a certain state of mind before the listener turns it on, which isn’t necessarily entirely fair on the reviewer.

There are more accessible moments, of course – Survival is more of a dance-pop crossover track, with huge organ pads. It’s good enough to make it worthwhile to buy this album, although somehow I’m finding that it seems to mean a lot less to me now than it did when I first heard it.

Even the longer instrumentals aren’t too dull – Ultra Violet is a deeper house track but has some punchy and atmospheric synth work, and rippling bass parts that lift it up from just being another house track. Tales of the Rabid Monks is catchy, if somewhat forgettable.

But every so often, there is a track that makes you prick up your ears. Final single Surrender is one of these – the understated vocal is good, but nothing special – it’s really just an accompaniment to the huge house beats, but the phased lead synth lines that drift in and out are brilliant. If slightly chilled out, trippy house music is your thing, this is a great example.

Of course, not everything can stand out like this. The Doors Are Where the Windows Should Be is an entirely competent instrumental, and Tierra Del Fuego is a sweet, dreamy piece, also free of vocals, but honestly it’s difficult to keep focus at this end of the album. It’s good, and it definitely has its moments, but some of them seem best kept in 2009 now.

You can still find We Love Machine at all regular retailers.

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