Wednesday, 28 June 2017

EP: The Midwestern Bass Machine - EPIII

The Midwestern Bass Machine - EP III

Info: The Midwestern Bass Machine, which is the moniker for Green Bay, Minnesota ambient pop solo act Brock Splawski, have featured regularly on the blog here since we reviewed the debut album, Don't Want To Live Here, back in July 2015, which also featured in our Best of International Music review at the end of the same year. MBM has never disappointed, and has always struck a chord (yup) inside me musically, not only can I fully appreciate the impact of the sound, but moreso how wonderful his music sounds under such restrictive DIY conditions, and even moreso again, the lack of fear in the experimentation that all of his releases bring to the fore.

On Splawski's musical background he says; "I started this project when I was fifteen as a place to experiment with the various instruments and software I had lying around the house, and throughout high school, I released tracks under this moniker. Being that I cannot play the guitar (I use the assistance of labelmate Nick Williams of Freudia to handle guitar duties), I’ve always had a synth-driven vibe to my tracks. I take a lot of influence from multiple acts, the biggest ones being Animal Collective, Tame Impala, The Strokes, and J Dilla."

On EPIII The Midwestern Bass Machine instantly provides an exemplar of what is so distinguished about his style with first track, 'Home II', the painfully gentle piano progression, simple yet high on impact, the bare soul of the vocals and lyrics; "People with wives, tuck into bed, all set. The house is warm, the night has set, all set...good night…".

'Beads' moves in other ways, a carnival atmosphere abounds, there are many switches in tone, from the opening slow hum of the beat, to the Nazareth-esque guitar รก la 'Love Hurts', and onward to the quirky electronic main body of the song. On 'Dream Song' MBM enters a sort of dual soliloquy, it's ambience is very spatial with a retro sci-fi soundtrack feel until it crashes at the 2:15 mark, and then, the ragged insomnia jerks in briefly until we're returned to dream pop mode, appropriately.

The tongue-in-cheek titled 'Self-Portrait of You' must be described as an avant-garde piece of music, like Splawski's conscious stream has unfolded and become undone, it is probably the least accessible track of the five, but this is not a criticism, it's admirable to hear someone take such an unorthodox path with a track, like a broken up story put back together in the wrong order.

Closing with 'Home I', ever the contrarian! it's a folk / dream-pop finale, with the music and lyrics conjuring up images of clowns, and Pennywise from IT turning the handle on a child's music-box, sounds creepy, but strangely it's more calming. I'm not quite sure what to make of EPIII as a collection of songs, on the one hand I highly enjoyed the sense of abandonment and haphazardness of it all, and indulging in moments that recalled The Midwestern Bass Machine of yore. On the other hand I think it would take me many listens of the second-half of the EP to come anywhere near what is going on, but that's the trick in the treat isn't it? Splawski is an undeniably gifted writer of music and lyric, and when it shines it shines very brightly, I wouldn't change a thing.

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