Having just reviewed Secret Archives of the Vatican’s, Barbary Lion album, I was thinking about their last major release and how this was a pivotal moment in the band’s direction.
Remembering Machine came out in February 2009, and was relatively hot on the heels of their June 2008 album Babylon Halt. It was, however, a completely different proposition. Whereas Babylon Halt was produced over a 10 year period, involving many members of the collective and came from the live-set period of the band, Remembering Machine was the rapid outpouring of new studio ideas over about a four month period. It’s entirely instrumental, different, and trend setting.
Beginning with “Cryptonomicon”, the new mood is set. Broken, almost DNB beats are supported by strange tonal wobbles overlaid with string orchestrations and a faintly heard lone voice.
“Stainless Steel Cat” begins with a complex broken beat overlaid with a string echo, which leads into more or the tonal wobbles that we now know are going to morph into kick-ass bass in later EPs and albums. “Before Beauty” starts with the drum and string riffs that are the signature of the band, but this is later added to by a funky bass and eventually more string orchestrations.
“Beloved” lays down a complicated beat pattern over which a simple guitar (perhaps oud) riff is introduced and allowed to develop. It’s simple, yet complex, all in one piece. The eponymous “Remembering Machine”, like “Cryptonomicon” before it, has an almost mathematical beat structure, overlaid with strings and a subtle, jazzy organ over the top.
“Gangs Of New Earth” has a simpler, almost bhangra beat, with oud and vocal samples on top, leading on to “Overground Resistance”. Again this uses the complex, mathematical beats, over which tabla and DNB breaks are allowed to swirl around over a bass, and sitar mix.
“Pity The Fool” has just about the simplest drum pattern on the album, giving the bass, tabla and some scratch DJ work room to move. “Dread” is the final track and is led by the bass and tabla. This time drums are less complex and it’s the keyboards that invoke the melody.
I did have problems understanding this album when it first came out. Not because the album was lacking, but because I really wasn’t ready for the change. It took me a while, but I finally got the message. Since then the band have produced numerous singles and three further EPs that have refined their musical direction and enabled the excellent Barbary Lion to be born. I’ve adapted to the change and it’s been good. I encourage you to do the same. You’ll not be disappointed.