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Kalin Tonev - Machine Years CD (album) cover

MACHINE YEARS

Kalin Tonev

 

Heavy Prog

3.76 | 13 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Machine Years" is a Heavy Prog instrumental 2017 album from Bulgaria from the multi instrumentalist Kalin Tonev. He is joined by guitarists Nenko Milev, Daniel Eliseev and Biser Ivanov. The album has some striking music that is powered by glorious Hammond organ and strong rhythms throughout. The music is always dynamic and explorative with some infectious hooks that ocasionally wander into ELP or 70s Genesis territory. I am particulary enamoured by the riffs in The Shortcut, that are a throwback to classic 70s rock with some odd percussion thrown in.

Human Not Machine has a heavy guitar driving it with a seriously vicious Hammond sound, followed by a lengthy Minimoog solo; a grand opener. Short Story About Tanks is a keyboard workout par excellence, with layers of bass synth lines and haunting violin pads. An industrial distorted guitar blasts through and more lightning fast keyboard solos. Beings is a synth soaked paradise, with a wash of vibrating Hammond passages. The music has a symphonic quality and is one of the more beautiful melancholy tracks. The lengthy track has an exploratory feel taking us on a journey that has an emotional ethereal atmosphere.

Dust features some haunting synth sounds and beautiful acoustic guitars. The shimering synths are delightful and a wall of keyboards light up the musicsphere. The track is gloriously spacey and so wondrous; one of the definitive highlights.

Mad Dancer opens with electronic effects, strikingly different from the other tracks. The heavy guitar riff that locks in is fabulous with a vintage feel, and then the keyboards dominate as lead instruments. The cool rhythm is fast paced and exciting, and how good are those multi layered synths! This features some of the heavier guitars and really powerful keyboard workouts that soar and descend until it culminates in a gentle vibrating synth-charged atmosphere. Cathedral organ closes this masterful piece.

Late Again is glistening Hammond to the walls grinding with a ferocity until a guitar riff becomes the centrepiece. Hammond staccato stabs jab at the guitar and then it cascades into a spacey outer worldy feel. The bassline is delightful and it moves into some swing rhythms and very retro synth lines.

Human Not Machine II has a steady tempo and Hammond crunches until the fractured melody enters. A symphonic vibe breaks through, and very catchy guitar hooks. The Hammond sound is pure filth as it blasts over the layers of off kilter percussion and synth pads. This is one of the more progressive tracks as far as structure is concerned.

News From Nowhere is the longest piece clocking in at 8 minutes. The Hammond is again omnipresent, and it shimmers with proud relish over the waves of guitars and percussion. A synth solo takes over. Soon a chunky guitar riff with a distorted sound bashes its way through all the keyboards. It is the heaviest section so far, metallic and aggressive, and it gives the music an exciting edge. More synths sparkle over and the tempo switches to a 7/8 feel and a guitar solo follows. The ending is like A Space Odyssey soundtrack; so mesmirising to my ears.

Step 4 blows the cobwebs out with a fiery rhythm; splattered with a Hammond foundation. Garden is a short piece, very pastoral and tranquil. The peaceful atmosphere is striking after the heavier tracks. It allows our ears to calm down into a restful state but one suspects it will be short lived. It makes a nice interlude away from the chaos and overpowering Hammond.

This Empty Space actually features real NASA sound bytes. It is spacey and ethereal, with synth reverberations and African rhythms. The Hammond beast returns like a lion from its cage, and then a pounding drum beat ensues. The synth strings have that Vangelis "Blade Runner" sound and it ends witha NASA byte; "Godspeed" says the astronaut.

Later Than Usual is another short piece to close the album. It has a heavy distorted guitar and synths slice through carving up the atmosphere. This whole album is hypnotic and really captures a very distinct style with powerhouse keyboard playing and some downright infectious riffs.

This bold debut album by Kalin Tonev is a dynamic atmospheric instrumental journey that really struck me for its diversity in heavy guitars and Hammond stabs, through to synthesizer flourishes and a driving rhythm section. The sound generated is at times organic, spacey and symphonic, at other times jarring and fractured. Each track has its own atmosphere and keeps the ear intrigued. It is inventive, complex and innovative, exploring musical styles with passion and vitality. For this reason I can recommend "Machine Years" as one of the better debuts in recent years.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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