June 12 2024

The work of Montreal’s Enigmatic Sound Machines is a wonderful new discovery for us, and one that we just couldn’t help but share!

In this review I’ll be referring to the Bandcamp version of the release, which differs a little from Spotify in the manner in which the tracks are organised. The band states that the Bandcamp flow is a little more “progressive rock inclined”, which certainly sounds more like the way we’d prefer to ingest it. Honestly, there’s something more satisfying about sitting back to listen to WAV files anyway, hearing the subtleties they were intended to be, and for this release’s deeper listening it feels almost essential.

Without digging too deep into the preambles, the band comprises of one Thomas Szirmay, a musicologist among other things, and the crafter of the work’s “sound machines”. Jeremie Arrobas is the man behind the synths, drums and vocals. Generally, I like to read a band’s EPK after a few listenings, lest it contain any spoilers or alter the way I prefer to listen… without prejudice. In the case of Enigmatic Sound Machines though, I’ll confess to having a sneaky look! Why? Because there are so many instruments used that I wanted to see who else they worked with for the album’s recording. Indeed, the collaborators and guest talents are many, covering additional guitars by Shane Hoy and Alain Roig, plus bass from Hansford Rowe, as well as vocals from one Anna Arrobas. Why is this relevant? Well, the album is far-reaching in style, and there is a lot to cover here. It effortlessly pulls together a lot of different moods and methods in its unique and quite beautiful blendings of themes set both past and future. So let’s dive in!

Ah, the title track The Hierarchies Of Angels. There is an 80’s feel to the bass synth that ushers us in, soon layered with beats and a cymbal’s whooshes. String sections pay short visitations, delightful small flourishes to culminate in the arrival of garbled voices and melodic tickity-tick. Still the bass synth goes on, giving the piece the feel of an extended intro, until around 4 minutes in. Its space is replaced by a gentle choir, added complexity in the drums, and a touch of world music charm. At 6 minutes in things really sweeten up via a poppy bass line, deep pads and a feeling of weightlessness. Everything lifts… until the bell tolls, and a few seconds of silence leaves you to ponder.

A gentle, thoughtful mood now firmly established, I was extremely curious to see where this would all lead. The mixing and production by the way, is top-notch. Every instrument perfectly placed exactly where it needs to go in the introspective landscape.

Inside Nowhere brings spoken-word to the table, gentle yet definite and clear in delivery. There is darkness here, pianos growing to glide above strange lower samplings, light drum touches, and then an abrupt transition. We’re back in synth-land now with arpeggiated melodies and… and… now there’s some harder drum hits! We’re off into prog-land now! Bass punch, guitar chords, high-pitched synths twirling in the overhead sky, when down below a guitar solo is unleased. In closure, the voices return, as though to remind us where this little journey started.

Ok, the moths on the album cover. So, not always does artwork have to match an artist’s intent, but in this case the visuals surely complement what the ears do so very much enjoy. Darkness. Light. Above and beyond all that, these artists really know how to get music to “float”. They seem to be untied by a drummer’s kick, or a bassist’s choice of pattern. Their feet aren’t embedded in the ground, awaiting a fellow performer’s cue. No. Instead, they choose to “drift”. They move in and out, near and far, as though things both meaningful and ambiguously ambient have been sprinkled into the very air. One has to ask then, what these “moths” destiny shall be? Will light attract them towards something dangerous and intoxicating? Or has the time come to retreat into places dark and quiet? Either way, I already feel refreshed! Too much of today’s music is focused on low frequencies, pulsating beats, and soul-destroying compression. An evolution to the previous era of “loudness wars” perhaps. Well, Enigmatic Sound Machines proves that you can sound great, balanced and cohesive without any of that. I really appreciated that my ears could simply enjoy the music without being pounded at like a salesperson’s fist upon a potential customer’s door. Subtlety, these days, is something to appreciate and nod one’s head in respect to. This is music that lets you think. Lets you translate. Lets you conjure thoughts along the way, as the artists have kindly left you space to do such a thing. In-depth listening with the analyst hat on? Tick. Music to play in the background whilst trying to accomplish a task that requires thought and commitment? Tick. It sits right at home, in either instance.

Blurred gets off to a creepy start reminiscent of a haunted scene, with delayed vocals entering to recount moments of meaning. Then, a favorite section of mine, strings bow their way into the mix, and almost without realising it, the tone has entered a less darkened vibe. The contrast between the words themselves and the music beneath is very well done here. Dripping pianos, some high female-sounding vocal notes of extended length join in, and then most gracefully, the pace slows and we quietly fade away.

After The Flood enters with a droney tune-up kind of vibe, prior to the addition of classic organ sounds. Bang! Drums, bass and piano enter as one. The tone is cinematic, and I can almost imagine watching a great journey across a sand-splattered land as this piece unfolds, taking its time with grace. There are some real surprises along the way too, many of which occur in the final minutes of this interesting piece.

Ah, where are we going with Walking Through Walls? Well, its quite hard to describe this one. It feels like the offspring of lighter progressive rock, some early industrial, and an injection of pop? The track feels more structured than those which came before, yet retains an experimental vibe. Not sure why, but this felt very European to me. Actually, for whatever reason, it stirred an old memory of seeing The Young Gods perform many a moon ago. I’m not saying it is in any way the same, but the delivery has some parallels to their gentler and spoken-word driven works.

This leads us to Kill Switch, the final track in what the artist’s refer to as “Chapter 1 the Morning”. The pace has escalated here, heavy guitar tones joining with a clicky beat and harder kicks. What I really enjoyed about this one was a transition just before the end, which seems to be a signature of the band… as we’re lead into a walky-funky bass line, the low sounds of a moving breeze, and a quite rappy vocal delivery by Jeremie. No soothing fadeout here. We are left with the track’s title on the lips. Right, one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is replayability. Well, I will be listening to this album many a time in the near and dare I say it, long-term future. Yes, it is complex, but not in an in-your-face manner. Instead, it offers a lot of small things to return to and re-investigate. Then there are the vocals themselves to consider. It will be a pleasure to go back and try to more fully understand the stories within. A lot is to be left up to the listener’s interpretation it seems, yet the lyrics are powerful also. Being easily heard and understood on a surface level, does not necessarily mean that that is all…

So we head into Chapter 2, the Night, with You Want. Funky! Synthy! There is a clever juxtaposition here between lyrics set about greed, placed beside melodies light and playful. It surely strengthens both elements! The flavor here is electronic in a delightfully unique way. Something akin to audio created in an era where electronic music began to nudge into the realm of rock… but with added spice! Yes, the spiciness of piano, playing both stabby bass parts, and higher tinklings in a melodic realm.

This leads us then to Something Evil. What a delicious follow-up to You Want! The pair seem related, and by no act of chance. The funky sensations grow larger here, before going decidedly more rocky and hard. It’s… dare I say it… “cute”… whilst also being darkly satisfying! The maniacal laughter near the ending, the deep buzzing, delayed string stabs, low-pitched speaking, it all feels like it ends too soon! I really loved the concluding moments here, and would totally love to hear an extended version, or even a whole track that built on the elements in the last minute or so.

The Preacher (featuring the Sermon) moves between something quite sci-fi, and more rooted in a prog-rocky interpretation of gospel music. Wow what a fusion! This isn’t something you’ll hear very often. We are preached too all along via spoken word, and it is becoming clear that none of this is by chance. Since entering Chapter 2, things have gone more… philosophical? Critical? Conceptual! That’s the one. I feel like we’re working through the stages of a personality’s struggles here. You Want identifying failings in a soul’s ability to be satisfied, with Something Evil coming about as a result. What better to do after such an experience, than try to obtain some enlightenment from The Preacher? Is this all serious, or tongue-in-cheek? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Where to from here? Instinctively I’d say either denial, or anger… but is that what’s contained in It’s a Lie? Crisp clappy sounds enter with drifting swooshes and a lovely guitar pattern played periodically. The vocals in this one are more melodic, vocoder effects here and there taking us between this world and somewhere more futuristic. Possibly a favorite on the album this one. Although it is more structured and traditional in many senses, it still retains a unique charm that I’m beginning to attribute to Enigmatic Sound Machines, either justly or not. Positive vibes but with things to say which are questioning, analytical, and thought-provoking. Although on the surface, the material isn’t as dark as I’d expected, maybe there’s already enough of that in the world. I’m really liking this delicate touch that these artists use in order to convey their message.

Stand Fall, brings in some fun with an 80’s poppy sounding bass line and a simple beat. From the midsection onwards, Numan-ish synths probe about, allowing a piano’s dainty twinkles to add an almost dance-friendly feel. I feel like we’ve reached some kind of absolution here, an optimism that could only have been gained through the prior events in Chapter 2.

The final track, When You Suffer keeps this quirkiness going, yet at a mid-tempo slower pace. A perfect continuation from Stand Fall with its highly memorable melody, which eventually comes to end with the decay of a single, high, string section note.

Well, what an experience! It is rare to hear something so uplifting on a site where “dark” is boldly written in the title. Yes, Enigmatic Sound Machines go through many shades, perhaps as a moth travels through its own personal heavenly spaces, witnessing everything from blissful peace, through to a most unusually presented anxiety. Even when things appear to be under the shadow of darker contemplations, the artists still stick to their guns. Their way of presenting their concepts, and delivering them in an honest and enlightening style, is certainly worthy of praise. An album so deserving of many listening sessions, and one that should be enjoyed all at once, at least once, in order to appreciate the sense of flow and purpose throughout.

LAZLAND REVIEW 5-31-2024

In 2023, I and the contemporary progressive rock world received an extremely welcome surprise when one of the foremost music critics we have in Thomas Szirmay and his old friend Jeremie Arrobas as Enigmatic Sound Machines announced the release of their debut release, Telepathic Waves – clicking on the button below will take you to my review of this, and what was a revelation to me was just how good it was. By this, what I mean is most critics such as I tend to have all the musical ability of Winnie the Pooh. Yes, I think I write comfortably well, and like to think I have a decent ear for quality music, but write music and play it? More chance of my starring in a movie alongside Dame Judy Dench.

ESM - TELEPATHIC WAVES

Telepathic Waves, as you can see from my review, was an album awash with pop/rock electronica, and I knew from correspondence with my finest friend in the music world that work had started immediately between him and Jeremie on the sophomore effort. Come May 2024, we have the final result, The Hierarchies of Angels, which is available via Bandcamp at https://enigmaticsoundmachines.bandcamp.com/album/the-hierarchies-of-angels and can also be streamed via Spotify and iTunes.

So, what have this fine Canadian duo presented us with? It is certainly what most readers of this review on my website would recognise as more “progressive” with some longer compositions. They have also brought in some guests to assist in the creation of their work, with legendary prog/fusion bassist Hansford Rowe (Gong, Gongzilla, and HR3), as well as two guitarists Shane Hoy (The Dylans) and Alain Roig.

The work is split into two distinct chapters. The first is entitled The Eternal Search, taking in the first six pieces, and the second, The After Party. The Eternal Search is a journey, The After Party a commentary on the world in which we live, so we have a huge amount to get our teethes into here. Let’s go.

We open with the title track, over seven minutes long describing instrumentally a caravan on a journey crossing a desert. I have embedded this below, an adventurous effect laden piece which combines the best of Rajaz from Camel with that signature electronica of this duo, imbued with sense of rhythm and adventure, strong drums a notable feature. A powerful start, and some of the guitar work is welcome and noticeable.

 

This segues into Inside Nowhere, looking plaintively for an oasis of salvation. The keys and guitars are haunting, the piano gorgeous, and the words “inside nowhere, you can find everything” step up to the Enigmatic plate, surely. When Hansford Rowe enters the fray, you recognise the sheer quality, and he brings a definitive fusion sensibility to the music. Searching, plaintive, swimming in an eternal sea, and angry at times with the crashing drums set against the swirling keys.

Blurred presents a hallucinogenic scene of a lover and falling into the stars. The opening notes are pretty and dreamy, but with an underlying sense of the unknown as the track develops, especially when the bass notes dominate, and remind me of some of the finer commercial psych pop of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, and the vocals have that sort of nostalgic sense, expanded by the choral effects in the final minute. It really is extremely good, and I have embedded it below.

 

After the Flood is the longest track here, an eight minute plus instrumental. It is, perhaps, on this that the duo really shows how much their sound has advanced and expanded since the debut, beguiling with a cracking bass melody, crashing tubs, and an altogether orchestral feel above the delicate guitar chords. As it develops, I am reminded of Physical Graffiti era Led Zeppelin in parts, and we have a fusion of the classic and the contemporary, with the final passage a jazz-soaked delight.

Walking Thru Walls provides us with a vision of perdition, that place where all you sinners are damned to go to as part of an eternal punishment for wrongdoing. Initially, it all sounds a bit brighter than the subject matter would have us believe, but this is an illusion itself, because the circle of notes and words provide us with that sense of the eternal, the repetition of images the damned are presented with personified by the thumping notes and drums, including the missiles of fire raining down. There is more a hint of Gabriel in this one, I think, in some of his more experimental moments. The close is dramatic, and we then move into the final part of the chapter, Kill Switch, everything shut down. It is a highlight of the year, thus far. Lyrically, it puts me in mind of the attempted demise of Paul Atriedes in the first Dune sequel, a track which puts across mental and physical torment extremely well, a progressive rock song rooted in the tradition of storytelling and a very suitable close to a personal journey over a traditional first side of an album, stark vocals and the close bleak and harsh.

Chapter Two, then. It deals with modern socio-political situations. It opens with You Want, an extremely powerful evocation of the individualistic greed which dominates western society and might well, incidentally, prove to be its eventual downfall. This is a powerful track, dark, full of the inherent contradictions of much of the noise witnessed in modern discourse, especially in the bearpit of social media. The piano thumps and creates a dystopia, the synths accuse, the whole piece draws the listener in.

Something Evil gives us the power of the dark side, with the personification of human evil seeking a sinful man or woman to take him/her into his lair, but with the entrancing rhythm which people found so irresistible in the opening days of what not so long-ago society found to be the ultimate evil, namely rock n’ roll, the heathens of the blues dragging the children into their wicked world. We, of course, do rather love that boogie woogie, though, especially when it is set against such an electronic dystopia.

The Preacher continues this theme, with the price of salvation set out starkly, Thomas providing us with his sermon (he is a natural!). Think if you will of electronic rock infused with the southern blues, and you will get somewhere near to this wonderful exposition of the inherent fear of threatening religion and the sense of panic the music explosion of the ’50’s inculcated in the God-fearing.

It’s a Lie is a tale of love, desire, and deception in a sort of romantic progressive electronic love song, the organ particularly mood creating, and the vocals perfectly fitting the mood, which darkens considerably when the deception takes centre stage.

Stand Fall is the penultimate track, and it is embedded below, a magnificent commentary on the human condition, this wonderful species with all its ridiculousness and, at times, genius and wonder. This track is knowing and very clever, the bass lead is very good and the whole thing throbs with energy, possibly closer to the pop electronica feel of the debut album than anything else here, featuring a wonderful mini-Moog segment.

 

We close with When You Suffer, with its road to redemption, five minutes of a natural conclusion to a fine album. The mood is suitably reflective as individual and society ask questions of themselves and God, with some hard hitting piano against questing keys and a hypnotic drum loop underneath.

In my opinion, one of the key features of the music we listen to is whether the artists progress, develop, provide something new, and ESM most certainly do that with this release. At turns, very progressive, very rhythmic, very blues and roots culture, jazz-infused, angry, questing, searching, so pretty much everything that the curious listener will want to discover in a work which gives up more of its depth with each listen.

THE HIERARCHIES OF ANGELS REVIEW IN BABYBLAUE PROG REVIEWS by SIGGY ZIELINSKI 17-5-2024

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer and composer Jeremie Arrobas was a co-founder of the Canadian New Wave band Men Without Hats. After his separation from the Hats, Arrobas devoted himself to numerous visual arts projects.

Thomas Szirmay is introduced as a researcher, musicologist, producer, amateur historian, author at Prog Archives, House of Prog and Prog Rogue and ruler of seven languages.

Together they form the duo Enigmatic Sound Machines. On the ESM website we learn that Jeremie's hearing is slowly getting worse and worse and that he is therefore more and more dependent on the help of his musical partner. In the duo, Jeremie is probably responsible for the pop-electronic-new wave influences, while Thomas makes sure that "prog" is not completely forgotten.

Attention is also drawn to Thomas' talent for the market. This talent made it possible for him to put together two different tracklists for the second album "The Hierarchies of Angels". The prog-disinterested music lovers get a tracklist on Spotify that starts with songs and moves the instrumentals further back. The Bandcamp tracklist was primarily thought of the prog friends. There, the title instrumental is at the forefront and the story of the concept album "The Hierarchies of Angels" is presented in two chapters. In other words, the first six pieces were conceived in prog format, according to the info text, while in the second chapter, called "the Night", the inspirations of Talk Talk, Dr. John and Jerry Lee Lewis can be heard.

In the first chapter ("the Morning") you become a victim of hallucinations and claustrophobic illusions. Accordingly, the music is atmospheric, like a fusion of art rock, neoprog, pop, electronic, post-rock and post-wave. This means that the keyboard instruments set the tone for ESM and not the guitars. They rarely get their right to be represented on every prog album. The music lover is repeatedly accompanied by the mysterious speech song, the theatrical speech song and the cinematic moods. The last six songs deal lyrically with the crazy media world, in which probably nothing is as it seems.

Is this still prog, some prog purists may ask. Possibly, my slightly unsettled answer would be. Presumably, this is a rare type of electronic cineastic pop prog.

Enigmatic Sound Machines — Telepathic Waves

Canada
2023
53:59
Enigmatic Sound Machines - Telepathic Waves

Enigmatic Sound Machines (3:27), 1 By 1 (4:45), Blind Folded (4:10), I Will Be Your Fire (4:10), I Don't Know Your Name (4:13), Little Submarines (4:00), It's Not What You Told Me (3:46), Strange Desire (3:59), You Stand Alone (4:30), Dead Can Dance (3:53), All I Have To Say (3:55), Sometimes (4:01), Free at Last (5:14)

Enigmatic Sound Machines are a Montreal based duo featuring Men Without Hats founder Jeremie Arroba (lead vocals, synths, sound machines) and Prog Archives / Prog Rogue writer Thomas Szirmay (vocals, sound machines). As childhood friends in the 70s they shared a common interest in (prog) music and attended many a memorable concert until University called and they slowly drifted apart. Maintaining incidental contact over the years, it was during the Covid pandemic they firmly re-established their friendship. Now resulting in the release of their debut album Telepathic Waves.

Mostly sung in a spoken word fashion by Arroba the concise construed compositions on Telepathic Waves generally exhibit a retro-futuristic sound that sits nicely between electronic music and synth pop with, according to the duo, subtle hints of prog. Minutely small hints of prog then, for aside from a whisper of Pink Floyd in 1 By 1 the compositions predominantly voice Ultravox, Gary Numan, Yello and other 80s electronic new wave outfits to me.

The first that come to mind in All I Have To Say are a mellow-ish Bronski Beat/Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, followed by Kraftwerk in the era-suggestive Dead Can Dance. In Blindfolded, which initially holds Numan-like synth pop, the Kraftwerk connection becomes more palpable when German lyrics are introduced.

The album showcases plenty of entertainment and diversity with more basic EM and subtly accentuated melodies in I Don't Know Your Name and I Will Be Your Fire, Daniel Crommie-like avant-garde in It's Not What You Told Me, and elegant EM with earthy tribalism in Enigmatic Sound Machines. Highlight amongst all these engaging tracks are Free At Last, a calmly intensifying composition, and Sometimes, with hints of Enigma/Vangelis and a warm jazzy laid-back feel.

Overall this first effort, captured in fine production values and available on all major streaming platforms, offers a delightful variegated collection of well-structured and nicely arranged synth-pop compositions worth investigating for EM-orientated fans.


 

Thomas Szirmay has been a progressive music reviewer for some years now, his first attempt at scribing for Prog Archives occurring in 2004.

Years later, he has, like me, branched out on his own, reviewing and publishing as Prog Rogue on Facebook. Our thoughts on music are uncannily similar, a type of mutuality based upon, ironically, telepathic waves flying across the vast ocean, and Thomas has become one of my best friends.

It was, though, with some surprise on my part that he contacted me with the news that he and a very old friend were collaborating on a musical release. I say this as it is my experience that most people who write about music (and Thomas is a remarkable music critic) tend to have all the musical nous of Bugs Bunny, the reason why, in my opinion, if you really don’t like an album you review, it is best to be at least polite about the musicianship and effort that goes into producing a work of art. Thankfully, that is not an editing task I have to undertake with this warm album.

Thomas & Jeremie Arrobas are based in Montreal and have released Telepathic Waves under the moniker Enigmatic Sound Machines. Arrobas is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer and programmer, the creator of a multitude of audio, video, and visual arts projects. The collaboration has Thomas playing the role of musicologist, researcher, producer and arranger, and writer.

This album harks back to the golden age of pop electronica. Think of Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and OMD, with clear hints of more progressive artists such as Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, you will not be too far off. This reviewer has long had a mixed relationship with such music. I grew to really enjoy TD rather late in life. I have long thought of Numan as a genius, and some of the New Romantic era stuff released in the 1980’s simply brings out some nostalgia as opposed to sheer love. However, I find much of this genre of music somewhat cold and distant. It is not that I do not enjoy miserabilist music per se, it is simply that I need my music to move me, to spark an emotional reaction, and not to have the feeling that I am merely listening to a robot masturbating with all its might.

Thankfully, ESM avoid this trap, and I am glad to report that the melody which is inherent in Thomas’s written word (you can hear him singing when he writes) has cut across to this album. Vocally, one should not expect anything akin to Jon Anderson in his experimental pop/synth work with Vangelis. It is more like listening to a narrator with a touching fragility to the voice, not unlike, in fact, the fine work on the Glen Brielle album I reviewed earlier this year.

So, what do we have here?

The project name gives us the inspiration for the opening track. After the introductory vocals/lyrics, the track bursts into life with a lovely melodious set of chords. Said lyrics are interesting perhaps giving a historical perspective to the author’s thoughts, although the final words of the song bring with them a darker vibe.

We have a video for 1 by 1, and I have embedded it below. It is incredibly well produced, and I love the images brought to us on a track which is striking and talks of our possible futures being lined up one by one. You can hear the electricity crackling off the VDGG at the close.

Blindfolded follows. Musically, probably the closest to Kraftwerk, we have a German spoken passage by Thomas in a track which veers between strongly relentless chords and more expansive music, with the dystopian sirens perhaps describing an Orwellian nightmare of propaganda being whispered into the ear, persuading, threatening.  

I Will Be Your Fire is a delight. Opening with fragile, pretty chords, this is a love song, the simple notes, soaring choral effects, and orchestration brightly accompanying the genuine emotions being pushed at their subject. This is a highlight of 2023, not just of this album.

I Don’t Know Your Name is up next, and it is heavily influenced by the poppier end of the 1980’s electronic music. Bright and breezy taking me back to those heady youthful days of chasing girls but never remembering their blasted names on the follow-up attempt.

Little Submarines has a cracking image attached to it, and it is reproduced here. Another track with a distinct pop sensibility and some nice sung words in addition to the spoken narration, there are some interesting noises produced on this track. Little submarines? Or sound machines? There is a questing feel to this pretty number.

It’s Not What You Told Me is a clever track basically excoriating our political masters, with the world being full of lies, and the anger comes across in some interesting sound effects above the relentless pulse below, which increases with intensity as the track progresses, pleasingly. Top stuff, and a track I think deserves wider airplay.

Video time again for Strange Desire, and it is below. Another very pop infused song of sheer carnal desire, the synth chorus being particularly effective. This track brings a smile to my face, a rarity with this musical genre.

You Stand Alone follows, and I really like the melody which opens this, with pretty notes above a light bass undertone, a song of regret over a broken heart (walking the valley of shadows, indeed) but is delivered with barely an angry note or word, so perhaps it was a love affair deep in the past which is now remembered with some fondness, because some of the synth leads are simply lovely.

All I Have To Say is very good and very reminiscent of classic Depeche Mode. If you appreciate that venerable outfit, you will enjoy this track, extremely effective listening on a good set of headphones with effects, multiple voices, and very catchy melodies.

Dead Can Dance, a great title. You dance because you’re dead, the dead can dance, this I take as a commentary on dance culture again back in the day and it is very hypnotic with a very good, distorted guitar thrown in for good effect, this is a track which has become a bit of an earworm in the Lazland household.

The penultimate track is Sometimes. It is beautiful in parts, with some lovely vocal effects at the start in a jazz infused song with chimes emphasising the yearning words. If you think that electronica is simply about a cold terrain, then give this a listen, because there is a yearning quality to the words on this, a track which I believe is a discussion of life itself.

We close with Free At Last. Trancey to begin, sitting in the rain, with melancholy dripping as well as the water falling off. The Free At Last passage is, though, lighter, and patently looking to the future, and as we develop the song the melodious tendencies inherent in this project come to the fore with some multiple chords and notes entering our consciousness before an explosion of sound with the electronic orchestra leading us to a classical denouement.

This album is available on all major streaming platforms – I have mine on iTunes. I believe that the duo is planning a physical release via CD Baby, and when this happens, I will update my news page accordingly. For now, though, I report that I rather enjoy this release. When Thomas informed me of the project, before I heard a note I imagined some type of classic progressive rock album, full of massive solos and suchlike. The album was, therefore, a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one, because the name of the project is a decent observation – enigmatic, indeed. It is very good, and I hope that the project develops.

LAZLAND 

www.lazland.org

 

ENIGMATIC SOUND MACHINES (CANADA) Telepathic Waves

Enigmatic Sound Machines is a retro-futuristic project, the brainchild of two childhood friends with a common love for music, philosophy, and the arts. Fans of intelligent yet accessible electronic music such as Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, OMD and Yellow Magic Orchestra to name only a few, will easily identify with their sound. Immensely melodic, intensely atmospheric, and truly passionate, the 13 sweeping pieces are adorned with many orchestral touches, as well as enigmatic slivers be true to their ethos. There is ample evidence that the 80s musical style is to be found in pretty much every corner of the artistic world, be it in film, music, or the arts.
As a career opening overture, “Enigmatic Sound Machines” sets the ground rules for the platform the band wishes to explore, an electronic barrage of synthesized sounds that coalesce into an osmosis of melody, fantasy, and mystery. The track is elevated by a mechanical smorgasbord of odd sounds, the underpinning for the hushed vocals of Jeremie Arrobas, crowned by an insistent chorus, booming beats, and a sophisticated melody. A mid-section offers a brief marimba section that morphs into the ultra-urban cool of an electric piano solo that evokes images of a swanky lounge somewhere in the enigmatic future. Remember the use of the word “insane”.
By the time “1 by 1” hits the ears with a magnificent lilt, the aligned stars seem to shine on down as the gorgeous main theme is played on the Roli Seaboard, the tick-tock undertow highlights the one-by-one feel rather exquisitely. The vocals are sedate, despairing, and dreamy, like shadows on the wall, but that melody is really to die for, which is why it will be the first highlight single to reach the airwaves.
The dream sequence is disturbed by the wailing sirens on “Blindfolded”, but as the title suggests, there is a sense of bewilderment that comes through in the murmured voice that will suggest a later track called “You Stand Alone”. Ornate piano motif keeps the covered eyes on the prize (Ed-stop the poetry), as a German narration of a Goethe text seeks to exude the need for Angst, or Sturm und Drang. The powerful Kraftwerkian inspired synths weld together like fused titanium. Eins Zwei, Polizei!
Another dive into the profound abyss of passion is revealed on “I Will Be Your Fire”, a crushingly elegant hymn to courage and devotion, dripping in simplicity and orchestral splendour, a mood enhancing piece if there ever was one. The melody has a slight First Nations feel, a soporific enchantment from an imaginary shaman, telling the story of the eternal evolution of mankind. The whooshing mellotron balm and its allied pizzicato strings is quality par excellence! A lullaby for the ages, with enigmatic hissing sounds emanating from the machines.
The heavily Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark-influenced “I Don’t Know Your Name” reestablishes a positive vibe, a questioning search for basic knowledge. With words like “close your eyes and listen to the wind”, the good advice takes pleasure in providing a secondary chorus (those can be tricky) ‘wishing to have more time’. This a relaxing example of how much fun the ESM lads had in making this recording. It smacks of mid-80s classic New Wave albums.
To prove how the attention to detail resoundingly appears everywhere on this debut, guess what year the classic movie “Das Boot” came out? If you answer 1981, you can scream your lungs out with the famous words from that flick: “ALAAAAAAARM” and the ultra-slippery “Little Submarines” has this adventurous aquatic feel, where confusing sound machines with little submarines is the norm, because we live in a world of unending misunderstanding (Hello Phil Collins). The beep-beep repetition is where the sonar shows where you may be hiding before the depth charges blow you into smithereens.
The return to the submarine pen is spotlighted by “It’s Not What You Told Me”, a whispering turbine of incredulity at a world full of lies, fake news, propaganda, compromised politicians, and opinions spreaders of the worst kind. The repetitive message in in all bottles, floating senselessly on the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers of the internet, streaming the worst pollution possible.
The urge that is conveyed on “Strange Desire” is one of more carnal nature, dancing the night away with some eccentric stranger, the message is on fire. Classic electro-pop with a Trans-Europe-Express-like feel, a sense of travel beyond the imposed confines of our cage we call home.
Reconnecting with the previous “Blindfolded”, the message is clear on “You Stand Alone”, having lost one’s heart and soul, much like with Goethe’s Doctor Faust who handed both to the smiling devil. Playful and yet disconsolate, the spooky semi-cosmic synthesizer flutter adds the ideal decorum to the arrangement. Being alone is okay if you are standing!
Another overt wink and nod, “Dead Can Dance” makes no sense, as the dead always dance in another dimension. Whatever the circumstance, the wobbly synths encourage the waltz, round and round we go. The unexpected raging upward guitar blast spits with phosphorescence, culminating in a guitar solo that has Fripp’s “Baby’s on Fire” down pat! Fire in the hole!
The ridiculously catchy “All I Have to Say "could have been an early Depeche Mode classic, as it aligns the warbled synthesized spirals before exploding into a relentless assault on the senses, liberally adorned with little details and a mood to keep the feet tapping.
The final two tracks are perhaps the finest here, as they illustrate the search for overarching melodies within a shimmering atmosphere. The jazzy electronica of “Sometimes” can be heard as a panacea of sound, a touching and philosophical introspection of the finality of human existence, a place where crystalline keyboards eschew the glitzy blitz of synthesized madness for a gentler, more serene balm of sonic bliss. Simply said, a beautiful song. Period.
So, here we are at the grand finale, “Free at Last”. What better way to evoke the return of the word ‘insane’ than imagining a concert hall illuminated in anthemic splendour? The chorus, the words, and the melody all conspire to provide the final release from the pain that crushes the brain. Peace will now suffice. All will be nice. Because “I’m Free at Last”! The massive choir is brought in with spine tingling effect, amid eloquent orchestrations as the sparklers in the audience brighten our collective universes.
Well, its perhaps not fully PROG (even though each track abounds in proggy details) but it most definitely ROGUE. And I hope you will like it too.
5 Intuitive Oscillations
Charles Reti for Prog Rogue 

PROGCRITIQUE

 

Difficile de franchir le pas et de passer de la critique à la création musicale Thomas Szirmay (critique de musique progressive) vient de le faire en nous proposant un album ‘Telepathic Waves’ sous le nom d’Enigmatic Sound Machines. Thomas (synthés, chant) en collaboration avec Jeremie Arrobas (synthés, chant) nous proposent treize titres dans un genre qui s’éloigne considérablement du rock progressif. Un ‘Telepathic Waves’ à la prépondérance instrumentale basée sur un ambient-électro nostalgique qui descend en droite lignée de groupes tels que OMD, The Neon Judgement, The Human league, et dans une moindre mesure nous y trouvons quelques points communs avec Tangerine Dream, voire Kraftwerk.

L’ouverture de l’album « 1 by 1 » confirme cette filiation vers un techno-pop abordé naguère par Tangerine Dream, dans l’album ‘CYCLONE’ (1978) (seul album du groupe en partie chanté), cette composition à la fois syncopée et planante aligne les phases synthétiques, se jouant de sonorités et de rythmes hypnotiques, tout en se posant délicatement sur une mélodie des plus aériennes. Enigmatic Sound Machines signe là une excellente composition, synthétisant parfaitement l’héritage de ses ainés. « All I have to say », pour sa part, est un (talentueux) condensé alternant les phases d’obscurité et de lumière dans la pure tradition musicale développée par les groupes de musique électronique dans les années 80.

Sur une rythmique plus affirmée, « Dead can dance » nous propulse sur une piste de danse avec son pouls électronique hypnotique et un chant scandé par Jeremie de manière robotique. Fortement influencé par la musique de Kraftwerk de la fin des années 70, l’éponyme « Enigmatic Sound Machines » affiche des thèmes musicaux s’insinuant entre épisodes industriels et méditatifs avec la même ligne sonique aboutissant à des climats cinématographiques.

image

Plus léger « Free at last » est une ballade qui doit sa puissance à son refrain mystérieux et éloquent, porté là encore par la voix sombre de Jeremie. Pures friandises pop, « I dont know your name » trace son sillage dans les pas d’OMD et « I will be your fire », sur une mélodie aux accords fragiles, affiche un romantisme exacerbé par les chœurs célestes et la voix émouvante de Jeremie. Le monde est parfois un tissu de mensonges « It’s Not What You Told Me » évoque la colère qu’il engendre sur des pulsations rythmiques et des effets sonores retranscrivant à merveille cet état de fait. « Little Submarine » est plus lent et sombre, soucieux des perceptions de la réalité, le thème imprégné de lyrisme nous plonge au cœur d’une spirale sans fin. Une mélodie simple presque simpliste pour « Sometimes » qui se déroule à la manière d’une lamentation, la voix profonde, chargée d’émotion, presque parlée de Jeremie chevauche un paysage sonore dépouillé et léger, le refrain profondément touchant lie admirablement l’ensemble du morceau.

« You stand alone » libère énormément d’émotion avec son rythme cadencé et nous plonge dans un voyage hypnotique nous immergeant dans une ambiance feutrée auréolée de superbes arrangements. Retour aux influences ‘Kraftwerkienne’ avec « Blindfolded » où nous avons même un passage de Thomas parlé en allemand, le côté répétitif de la musique s’accentue, tout en conservant son côté accessible de par sa mélodie accrocheuse.

Dernière piste, « Strange desire », encore une composition au refrain particulièrement efficace, entêtant et envoûtant, malgré une mélodie relativement simple, synthés et percussions lui donnent une dynamique toute particulière.

Évoquer les temps forts de ‘Telepathic Waves’ n’est pas facile car la plupart des morceaux sont d’un niveau comparable. Le duo Thomas et Jeremie exprime, de la meilleure façon possible, à quel point le monde synthétique et technologique de leur musique a de la consistance, de la couleur et loin d’être désincarné procure de la chaleur.