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Brian Malone - The Mechanical Voices CD (album) cover


Brian Malone


Prog Folk

4.02 | 5 ratings

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4 stars From the eerie cover to the off-kilter music box sounds within, "Mechanical Voices" conjures the workings of a group of toys that have meandered irrevocably off course. Their manufacturers swear they are built to look pretty, ok, maybe walk and even utter a few words, but not to square off in an inanimate version of "Battle of the Bands" as soon as the lights go out. As theatrical as musical, with allusions to MIKE OLDFIELD and PINK FLOYD thru DETEKTIVBYRAN and IN THE LABYRINTH, BRIAN MALONE's debut is an audio visual indulgence that is more than worth the diversion.

It's an all instrumental work other than the choral styled "voices" on several tracks, with a variety of styles blended effortlessly, more from song to song than within the rather minimalist compositions. Some of the best tracks are in fact those with a distinct ethnic bent, be it the goth of "Spiritus Domini", the Slavic "Scaramuzzi" or the continental "Welcome to Nancy". But where Malone goes more pure prog, as in the title cut, he practically forges a new path in the well trodden genre, and the influences become superfluous. It is a much more deliberate and measured piece than most, even if it does return to the main theme often enough.

My favourite is the exceptional "The Nolly", although I must explain the nostalgia factor here. In my childhood, the government run Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would fill the couple of minutes between programming with seasonal scenes set to music, often with children and adults alike frolicking in snow or water as the setting dictated. The accompanying music was uplifting and became synonymous with the visuals for a generation, even when interpreting well known material like "A Whiter Shade of Pale". "The Nolly" is a ringer for this type of interlude.

A few weaknesses surface here and there, particularly in "Sparkle" and "Second Last", where the "orchestration" and "vocals" supplant any effort at worthwhile melody. "the Elf" represents a much creepier and more effective manner of marshaling the disparate machinations at play.

One gets the feeling that Malone's voyage has but begun, and that the album in question represents the artistic floating of an idea. But in the meantime, listen to that mechanical voice inside your head and give his sole production a chance, preferably with the lights dimmed or even..shudder...extinguished. 3.5 stars and only one way to go.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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