Album Auto-nalysis is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track and provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked Machine+ to detail their recent LP ‘Samsara’.
1. “Poor June”
Machine+: This was technically the first song recorded for the album. I wanna say back in January 2018, although it didn’t even come close to resembling the final version until mid-2019. It was originally written for a band I was a part of called Susurrate, but no one really thought it fit the mood of the EP we were working on, so I just continued tinkering with it while working on my other album Birds Can Sing. Thematically, I sort of consider it to be an overture for the rest of the album, brief moments of lo-fi indie, glitch, etc. Lyrically, it’s tangentially about cycles and habits, but with a lot of surrealistic imagery. I had a lot of doubts adding it because it’s probably the most experimental song on the album, but I thought it set the mood nicely and ultimately decided on including it. One more thing… I want to give credit for the intro to the album, it’s a chopped and screwed version of this song my friends wrote called “As They Ate the Soup”. They never released it, so I did a “remix” of it and thought it would be perfect as an opener to the album.
Inspiration: Oneohtrix Point Never, The Microphones, Mid Air Thief, Vaporwave, Chopped & Screwed remixes, Radiohead’s Kid A
2. “Alien Interference Blues”
Machine+: This was the song where I really knew I had a new album forming. I had songs ready before this one, but this was the first where I really went “oh yeah this could be an interesting direction for an album”. The opening glitch section was the first thing I made intended for a new album. I recorded some guitar on my phone really late at night and just stayed up until like 7 A.M. chopping it up bit by bit and by the time I went to bed it was pretty much finished. Then I realized it would work really well with this shoegaze song I had written a couple months earlier, and voilà, we have “Alien Interference Blues”. I actually didn’t do the last minute or so of the song until a few weeks before the album was out. I felt it needed a smoother bridge into “Soft Lights” and I ended up with this cool sound collage thing so I just let it play out. I think it’s fairly straightforward thematically.
Inspiration: Four Tet, Sweet Trip, Deftones (Saturday Night Wrist era), Jesu, Ground Zero
3. “Soft Lights”
Machine+: So “Soft Lights” was actually written for a different group project that sorta fell through before we finished, so I completely reworked and rerecorded it for Samsara because it was just too good of a song to just let fade into the wind. Once I had the Samsara version of the song completed, I realized it worked really well as a bridging of the gaps between Birds Can Sing and this (I’m completely obsessed with discographies that have these threads you can follow album to album picking up on themes and sounds that carry over and hint where the artist is going next), so it became the obvious choice for ‘lead single’.
Inspiration: Portishead, Slowdive, Duster, King Krule, Low
4. “Something Next to You”
Machine+: Originally conceived as nothing more than the outro vocals you hear at the end of “Alien Interference Blues” and “Soft Lights” and the ending glitch synth (without the glitches) at the end of the song, it really quickly became its own beast and I had to separate them. It’s the closest thing stylistically to my older albums with its sort of ripoff Teen Suicide Bandcamp emo thing it has going on. It’s the only song that was really written with an experiment in mind first and not a song, the ditty came later on. This and “Soft Lights” thematically sort of stab at this love in the face of apathy and growing cynicism and the cycles and circles that sort of thinking can lead you to.
Inspiration: Oval, Fennesz, OPN, Teen Suicide, Red House Painters, more Low and Microphones
Machine+: Which leads us right into “Scruff”, which is all about this kind of cycle at its lowest point, pure apathy split into five parts. Technically speaking, this is the oldest song on the album, the original idea being a super expansive 30 minute modern classical piece I was writing in like 2013 before I even started and it just slowly evolved into whatever you can call “Scruff” now. It was the song on the album that came most ‘naturally’ flowing from idea to idea, for some reason glitch just sits nicely against post-rock to avant folk to alt-rock and back again in my head. There’s probably six or seven different recorded versions I have of this song sitting in multiple different places and none of them resemble each other in the slightest. When I write songs, I don’t really go in with an explicitly composed idea, more like general outlines where I improvisationally fill in the details while recording. I think “Scruff” really represents that side of my songwriting the best and I’m very proud of how it came out despite the improv. Makes me wanna do more like this song in the future.
Inspiration: Uncle Meat by Mothers of Invention, Giant Claw/Death’s Dynamic Shroud, Gastr del Sol, Lost Salt Blood Purges
6. “Hold Me Baby Blue”
Machine+: The other song I wrote alongside “Soft Lights” for the group project that ended up falling through. Similar to “Soft Lights”, it’s a bit more simple than the other material, but I thought it would make the perfect breather track near the end of the album to interrupt the two mammoth songs. I honestly don’t have a ton to say about this one, it’s a fairly straightforward love ballad and production-wise it was much easier to put together than anything else on the album; guitar, lead guitar, MIDI drums and vocal.
Inspiration: basically just Mark Kozelek
7. “On the Mountain”
Machine+: Alright, and finally “On the Mountain”. Me and this song have some major major history. It was the first Machine+ song I ever wrote, on December 25, 2013, and it has followed me throughout the years begging for a place and a true recording, but I could never make it work. My first album Sketch My Apocalypse has a 10 minute version of it that is basically just noise; I tried doing an acoustic version on a now-deleted EP, but I wasn’t satisfied with that either. I tried recording a poppier version for Birds Can Sing and multiple shortened versions for various group projects. BUT. IT. JUST. WOULDN’T. WORK. So one day, I was working on a song and I decided “okay, let me do this for real”. I cranked the tempo WAY down and just kept playing and I was finally happy with it at the end of that day of recording. It was such a moment of closure for me to finally put down this song that has haunted me through project after project and it really fit the theme of the album being the light at the end of a very dark and isolated tunnel. The ending sound collage was the last thing I did to the album before uploading it on Bandcamp and it serves two purposes: one is bit more surface level as it bridges the album back to front, like the ending glitches of the song as it fizzles out are also the first glitches you hear when the album is ‘revving up’ in “Poor June”; the second purpose is a bit more thematic, I treat the sound collage as a sort of exorcism of the apathy and general bad feels that produced my last three albums, just a pure “get out, it’s time to start something new”.
Inspiration: Jesu, MBV, *shels,
Machine+’s ‘Samsara’ is out now digitally and is available to purchase here through Bandcamp. Be sure to follow Machine+ on Twitter and Bandcamp to keep up-to-date with the artist. You can read more on ‘Samsara’ from us via Secat’s Bandcamp Roulette.