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Kalin Tonev - Machine Years CD (album) cover


Kalin Tonev


Heavy Prog

3.75 | 15 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Having previously been the main force behind Bulgarian instrumental prog outfit TravelHouse, keyboardist Kalin Tonev recorded Machine Years as his first solo album, which I find to be a very impressive effort.

Machine Years is an instrumental prog album, the only vocals present being in the form of short samples. The album's cover is indicative of its retro-futuristic sound, blending 70s style riffing with electronic and contemporary influences. Kalin has developed a style of his own and the compositions' style is very cohesive, while also showcasing variety. The entire album is drenched in Hammond organ, drenched I say! However that is not to say that the album is dominated by the organ, which is often relegated to the background. Kalin also uses Mellotron string samples on several tracks in a sparse, but effective manner.

In addition to Kalin, who is responsible for keyboards, samples and programming as well as composing the music, the album notes credit three guitarists. Two of them, Biser Ivanov and Daniel Eliseev, had previously played with Tonev in TravelHouse. However, it is Nenko Milev who plays guitar for the bulk of the album. The bass and drums are programmed, but this is no slight on the quality of the album, as they sound real and they're played in a very natural manner, so that I didn't even notice until I read the album credits.

I'm not going to describe every single track, since there are thirteen of them, but rather cover a subset to provide an idea of the album's sound.

Human Not Machine sets the tone for the album, a heavy but joyous track loaded with Hammond organ, guitar riffs, and Minimoog.

Beings is the only track that features contributions from two different guitarists, namely Milev and Eliseev. The track alternates between heavier guitar-dominated sections and spacier synth sections.

Eliseev also appears on the next track, Dust, which abandons the heaviness of the previous tracks and is a spacy and mellow instrumental featuring an ethereal synth pad accompanied by acoustic guitar. A lovely composition.

Mad Dancer is the album's most diverse track, featuring an electronic intro and outro, wordless female chanting samples, distorted guitar riffs, frantic organ solos, and even Baroque organ fugues.

I particularly enjoy Kalin's Minimoog solos on on News from Nowhere, the album's longest track.

Garden is a introspective track, centered on a melancholy bass line and electric piano.

I must say that I enjoy Tonev's organ playing very much and that he has developed his own unique style that does not bring up comparisons with Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, Tony Banks, Ken Hensley, David Sinclair, Peter Bardens or other notable rock organists I'm familiar with.

As a side note, I was offered a free review copy of this album. However, upon listening to the first track, Human Not Machine, on Bandcamp, I immediately decided to buy the album on the opening track's strength alone. It's albums such as these that make me optimistic about the future of prog and remind me that it's still alive and kicking. 4.5 stars rounded up.

Replayer | 5/5 |


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