.SYS Machine – Graceful Isolation

Posted: 6 January 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

If there’s ever been an emerging theme across music of all genres in the last year and a half, it’s isolation. Yes, if a global pandemic has achieved one thing, it’s brought everyone together in their feelings of isolation.

And so it is that we learn that the tracks on Graceful Isolation ‘address the feelings of isolation and coming to terms with new norms that the past year has brought. The title is derived from the fact that over the course of the album, none of the collaborators were ever in the same room.

One could counteract that in creating an album featuring numerous collaborations (notably Kimberly Kornmeier of brooding orchestral electro goth act Bow Ever Down on vocals on three songs, but also a slew of remixers), Dave McAnally has been far from alone despite being forced to work in physical isolation, yielding an album that demonstrates that distance is no object and geography is a state of mind, even if it is no substitute for proximity.

‘Poison My Skin’ makes for an atmospheric opener, with stark, minimal synths and drum machine providing a cold backdrop. ‘You’re never gonna touch me again’, Kimberly croons in a detached, robotic monotone, with subtle hints of Siouxsie, while giving voice to the thoughts that have echoed around my head that there are likely many people I have seen, heard, and been in the presence of for the last time in my life. I don’t miss the office, I don’t miss the people I used to work alongside in that artificial, uncomfortable, unnatural space, and yet… well, none of us expected that way of life to be curtailed, and certainly not in the way it was, an instant switch-off. March 2020, on being told to go home to work, I never anticipated being away more than a few weeks. And here we are… people have moved on; people have left; people are no longer with us. It’s been a long and painful couple of years.

‘All the Pieces’ and in particular ‘Impossible Dreams’ are stripped-back and sparse in their arrangements – not quite demos, but certainly skeletal, with stuttering drum machines providing the brittle spine to the songs. The lack of flesh on the bones is integral to the appeal here.

‘Drowning in the Past’ and ‘Illusions’ are tense, queasy in their taut atmosphere. McAnally resumes vocal duties, and said vocals are pegged low in the mix, compressed, accentuating the dislocation and distance. The former pegs a particularly expansive guitar solo to some nagging synths and comes on like a proggy James Ray, and it’s some good shit if you’re on the market for dark, gothy electropop.

My only niggle – surprisingly or perhaps not so much – would be that the thirteen tracks on the album consist of only five individual songs, and with three mixes of ‘All The Pieces’ slap bang in the middle, in addition to the original version, plus three versions of ‘Drowning in the Past’ it’s does get a little bit repetitive, and it may have worked better as an EP and a remix EP rather than a full-length album in its own right. Put another way, I’d play the grooves off the EP, but would probably only spin the remixes every now and again – not because they’re poor remixes, but because the original cuts hang together so well, it feels like a fully-realised document that requires no adornment.

AA

a2053013240_10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s