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District 97

Crossover Prog

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District 97 Trouble With Machines album cover
3.92 | 167 ratings | 9 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Back And Forth (8:43)
2. Open Your Eyes (4:25)
3. The Actual Color (5:47)
4. The Perfect Young Man (10:01)
5. Who Cares? (4:54)
6. Read Your Mind (7:31)
7. The Thief (13:42)

Total Time: 55:03

Bonus DVD from 2012 Limited edition - RosFest 2011 :
1. The Man Who Knows Your Name (9:25)
2. I Can't Take You With Me (6:21)
3. The Actual Color (6:07)
4. Termites (6:42)
5. The Thief (14:09)
6. Presto Vivace (1:39)
7. Back In NYC (6:11)
8. I Don't Wanna Wait Another Day (8:00)
9. The Perfect Young Man (10:01)
10. Back And Forth (9:08)
11. Mindscan VIII, IX And X (8:06)

Total time 85:49

Line-up / Musicians

- Leslie Hunt / lead & backing vocals
- Rob Clearfield / keyboards, guitar
- Jim Tashjian / guitar, backing vocals
- Patrick Mulcahy / bass
- Jonathan Schang / drums, percussion, arrangements (2), co-producer

- John Wetton / co-lead & backing vocals (4)
- Katinka Kleijn / cello (6)

Releases information

Artwork: Björn Gooßes

CD The Laser's Edge ‎- LE1065 (2012, US) First copies came with bonus DVD including concert recorded in 2011 at the Majestic Theater / Rites Of Spring Festival, Gettysburg, PA.

Thanks to Progatron for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DISTRICT 97 Trouble With Machines ratings distribution

(167 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (14%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DISTRICT 97 Trouble With Machines reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
3 stars DISTRICT 97 from Chicago are back with a new album in 2012 and present a crossover of styles on 'Trouble With Machines', featuring melodic rock, symphonic impressions, heavy prog and even metal sentiment. Remarkable of course is female singer Leslie Hunt - American Idol finalist in 2007 to my surprise - and outfitted with an expressive voice. She perfectly fits and varies a lot, inclusive of some uncommon distorted moments. They start off with Back And Forth and it's immediately clear that you'll get way more than straightforward rock music here. Several twists and turns are implemented.The composition shines due to complexity, bears a strong groove as well as metal riffing guitars. Definitely a fine entrance to the album.

The Actual Color is the next to convince me while following this tricky path basically. Both songs do need some attempts to capture the variety. The Perfect Young Man on the other hand seems to peer hard at the charts first. However this one needs more than 10 minutes to play in the end. So when John Wetton comes in with his guest vocals, now then at the latest the song mutates to a (mini) epic ... guitar and organ are duelling each other in between ... and my lines of worry disappeared, nice one! Like on the debut album 'Hybrid Child' they've put Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Katinka Kleijn in charge of opening for one song with her cello. The extended track The Thief offers multiple facets once again, just to remark a groovy instrumental part with quirky keyboard solo.

I fail to detect any trouble with machines, to make it clear. A fantastic female voice, fine melodies and complex arrangements complement each other, another album though where I needed some rounds to come in eventually. Rich Mouser, also working for Spock's Beard respectively Neal Morse, has lend a hand with the production, A recommendable effort, although not every song can thrill me actually ... and please pay attention ... the first 2,000 copies come with a bonus pro-shot live DVD filmed at the band's 2011 performance at the Rites Of Spring Festival in Gettysburg - 3.5 stars finally.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On the first couple of listens, District 97's second album `Trouble With Machines' sounds like a total mess of musical ideas! Schizophrenic vocal melodies that go in all directions and a blur of hard riffs and pounding drumwork. A few spins will reveal it's a very inventive and complex mix of high quality progressive rock, metal, hard/heavy rock, with accessible and commercial pop elements also. Here's a band that could easily tap into a younger (and potentially female) demographic while still offering endless musical virtuosity for more established and older progressive rock fans.

Lead singer and focal point of the band, singer Leslie Hunt is one tough chick! She has a very strong, forceful and original voice and sets her apart from the numerous other more faceless female-fronted prog bands around today, and she shows a level of power and control that is such an asset to the band. On the first few listens, her vocal melodies seem far too twisty and complicated, up and down all the time, changing direction every few seconds. They often come across like they are overthought, the band not realizing that usually `less is more'. However eventually they start to get into a real flow with the music and she shows a lot of variety and real character.

The appropriately titled `Back and Forth' is probably not the best track to start the album off with, a bit of a mess of Jim Tashjian's pummeling guitar riffs, punishing drums and very busy over-the-top vocal melodies. Although the track itself goes in a number of different directions, the plodding guitar riffs seem to dominate the piece and take away the attention from the more interesting musical elements. It takes a few listens to notice the flow and groove of the track, so it's more interesting on repeated tries. Probably the least interesting track on the album, but don't be put off by it! I do think it has very good lyrics if you take the time to read them in the CD booklet, too.

`Open Your Eyes' would make an ideal radio-single for the band - put a good promo video together, guys and gal! It's heavy but accessible hard-rock/pop married to a catchy melody and a deal-sealing chorus. I think a track like this could bring in lots of female fans to the band, with Leslie's powerful voice, not to mention her `strong independent female/take no crap' lyrics would appeal to younger fans of tough female pop singers like Pink. At least it would be a welcome remedy from the `dear diary, princess-music fantasy' rubbish of Taylor Swift. Girls, there are alternatives!

Dancing riffs and drums, strange electronics and groovy bass highlight the start of the mysterious `The Actual Colour'. The main vocal melody is a little plodding, but it has an energetic instrumental middle section, with a lovely brief piano interlude. Probably not the best track on the album, but full of nice little touches. It's great on the live DVD thatr comes with the album!

Despite a seemingly schmaltzy lyric (at first), the darkly troubling ten minute `The Perfect Young Man' is a scathing and worrying semi-epic filled with contrasting styles and emotions. Featuring guest vocals in the second half from UK/Asia main-man John Wetton, the track is filled with 70's Genesis like organ, and even that same galloping rhythm they so frequently used. Reflective but dark ballad moments, lovely melodic guitar solos, neo-prog keyboard snaps, with an angry and grand finale. The track has very clever but unpleasant lyrics filled with predatory and innocent insecurity and spitefulness. This bleak track is a total knockout.

`Who Cares?' has a bouncy bass/heavy drum combination, warm Hammond organs and a sprightly and playful middle section with clever vocal scatting from Hunt and cool electric piano. Not the best vocal melody of the album, but the interesting musical arrangement always keeps it interesting.

There's gorgeous weeping cello from Katinka Kleijn throughout `Read Your Mind' (the only track she appears on for this album), with strangely middle-eastern sounding guitar riffs, clever vocal phrasings, atmospheric electric piano and epic Dream Theater-like synth solos. The finale has some messy and interesting instrumental moments around the vocals, pity they weren't a bit longer. It's still a very complex and busy piece for a fairly short running time.

13 minute finale `The Thief' is an urgent Haken-like rocker than slows up and speeds down throughout, with longer instrumental stretches highlighted by low-key hard riffs behind a number of different keyboard solos and sounds. Patrick Mulcahy's bass playing is all over this one, grumbling away in the background, it's not surprising as he wrote the piece. Terrific varied and forceful drum- work ensures Jonathan Schang gets a real workout too. There's crazy and noisy keyboard solos throughout the whole track that really go off! Leslie gets a lot of interesting vocal moments on this one, plenty of commanding and alternatively restrained spots for her. Lots going on in this dramatic track, and it finishes the album off in a typically proggy and epic manner.

Sadly I have to point out that it's a real shame that the endless heavier guitar riffs constantly drown out Patrick Mulachy's bass playing totally. It seems to be frequently mixed far too low throughout most of the album. Having seen the live DVD that comes with the album, you see just what a great player he is, so it's disappointing he's not mixed up a lot louder and more prominent. The loss of cello player Katinka Kleijn from the first album is a shame too, as she gave the debut a very distinct sound.

Special mention must be made to the high quality of the lyrics. Strong and defiant, frequently bitter and sarcastic, spiteful and bating. Lots of depth and interesting observations in them.

Although the album is full of variety and originality, I think the band would work even better were they to tone down the constant hard riffs. Tracks like `Perfect Young Man' and `Read Your Mind' are more interesting for allowing all the players to be heard better without as many riffs drowning them out. However, District 97 understands what it takes to make a modern prog album that will appeal to a younger crowd, while being intelligent and interesting to established prog oldies - exactly what we need to keep this genre fresh and interesting. It could even encourage young fans to look further into the band's influences, to discover a musical world of endless varied and exciting progressive artists, which can only be a good thing. For now, though, `Trouble With Machines' is an excellent modern progressive album that will surely win them even more fans, and only bigger and better things await the band.

Four stars!

Please note - The first run of this CD comes with an excellent 90 minute live DVD of the band's performance at the 2011 Rites Of Spring festival. With a good mix of tracks from both of their albums, keyboard player Rob Clearfield dominates the entire show, his effortless playing is amazing to watch. The guitar/bass combo of Jim and Patrick is first-rate, and drummer Jonathon Schang is like a robot - totally focused, mechanical and powerful! But the show belongs to Leslie Hunt. She shows a real joy with her terrific varied singing, and a cheeky sense of humour! I probably should add an extra star for her outstanding wonky dancing that has to be seen to be believed!

Review by b_olariu
4 stars District 97 is one of the most intresting and original bands I've ever come across, really. Born in 2006 in USA, around the excellent drumer Jonathan Schang (who was aplused big time by the famous Bill Bruford declared officialy a fan of his drum playing). The band released so far two albums one in 2010 and second in 2012 named Trouble with machines. Well, I might say this album really kick ass from start to finish. Unusual type of prog rock/metal with slighty a jazz feel, specially in vocal department. This is very demanding music, many changes in tempo, very solid musicianship, lenghty pieces with very nice instrumental sections. On top of this spectacular instrumental parts , where each musician shines is the voice of Leslie Hunt who really breaking many grounds and her prestation here is jaw dropping. Her style is very much into jazz realm but adding a very powerful range and in combination with prog metal/rock instrumetal parts, the result is quite awesome for sure. Very elastic voice has this girl, managing to create some really not of this earth passages, she goes very easy from calmer moments to more dynamic one is only few seconds, fantastic voice. Now, the highlights for me are the opening Back and forth, The Perfect Young Man hre featuring as guest the legend John Wetton on duet with Leslie, very nice tune and the ending top notch The thief. All in all, this band is extremely well crafted musicaly speaking with an spectacular voice on top, this second offer Trouble with machines is something worth to be investigated. Easy 4 stars and recommended.

Latest members reviews

5 stars When I entered the page of one of my top one favourite bands, District 97, I noticed immediately the sad trail of two star ratings, all given shortly one after another by a number of silly persons with strange names (probably one and the same person), like daemacho, purplefloydfish, marfish, waeguk, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1253696) | Posted by progpig66 (arnold) | Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Aggressive and super dynamic are words that could well describe this brilliant album by the American District 97. Dissonant and virtuoso vocal parts by super talented singer leslie Hunt over very complex structured songs perfectly executed by a band of freaks who all are absolute masters on thei ... (read more)

Report this review (#874765) | Posted by Dutchman | Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Last week I visited my favourite cd-shop to upgrade my collection and one of the albums I bought was "Trouble With Machines" by District 97, a real fantastic band from Chicago. I played it over and over again and at every new listening I grew more convinced of the qualities of this album. I thin ... (read more)

Report this review (#874453) | Posted by Life Line Project | Monday, December 10, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is the 2nd album by the young US outfit, featuring as lead vocalist the beautiful Leslie Hunt. After a stunning debut album, they're back with a second opus presenting quite a few changes; the cello is nearly gone (only appearing on one track), the metal edge gains a stronger presence, re ... (read more)

Report this review (#803754) | Posted by Music By Mail | Monday, August 13, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars District 97, from Chicago, was formed in the fall of 2006 by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Sam Krahn (who was eventually replaced by the current guitarist Jim Tashijian). This foursome started out playing instrumental rock, which was h ... (read more)

Report this review (#802844) | Posted by dtguitarfan | Friday, August 10, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In the two years or so since District 97 first sprang upon the progressive rock scene, they've quickly (and rightfully) earned themselves a spot as one of the genre's bright new stars. A great debut album, some high-profile endorsements, crowd-winning festival performances, chart-topping fan supp ... (read more)

Report this review (#784630) | Posted by djfake | Sunday, July 8, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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