Machinista‘s first album is the one that the hipsters are going to say that they liked before you did. Throughout Xenoglossy (Juggernaut Music Group), the Swedish duo of John Lindqwister (Cate R—- Dog, Basswood Dollies, #366) and Richard Flow (Vision Talk) are channeling the spirits of Bowie, Marc Almond and Nico. It’s an inspired, uptempo set of pulsing and throbbing synths, pulled along by dancefloor-filling rhythms and sophisticated melodies. In the instrumentation, there are hints of Italo and echoes of Flow’s legendary Vision Talk project, but also traces of Alien Sex Fiend, Psyche and Suicide. On the vocal side, Lindqwister invests each line with depth and precision, as well as an emotional charge rarely heard in modern poptronica.
The album opens with “Take Comfort in Being Sad,” a popular track from Machinista’s live shows. A chugging bass-line drives proceedings, while Lindqwister explains that “We make way for someone else.” Who that might be is an open question: on “Arizona Lights,” the band’s interest in extraterrestrial life comes to the fore, underpinned by a dynamic, octave-jumping track.
There isn’t a Machinista manifesto, and their lyrics suggest that they are coming with more questions than answers: “Salvation” explores lyrical territory that their fellow Swede, Ingmar Bergman, would have felt agnostic affinity for, while “Pushing the Angels Astray” is the musical mirror of the knight’s questions in The Seventh Seal. All of this is set to driving beats, as they put into practice George Clinton’s maxim, “Free your ass and your mind will follow.”
Machinista’s version of Bowie’s “Heroes” deconstructs and rebuilds the song using classic poptronica sounds. Like Nico’s cover, there is a dark, lonely and sad undertone, balanced with a euphoric feeling, but the fragile tension is maintained throughout. There isn’t a Wall to look over any more, but in this version one gets the sense that there are walls between all of us that still need to be broken down. On the dancefloor, where they are best taken in, Machinista certainly make that happen. The proof is in this rare footage of the duo on stage at An Evening with the Swedish Synth, the CWNL-curated event held in London’s Shoreditch district in March 2014: