Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Flotation Device Warning - The Machine That Made Us

Flotation Device Warning - The Machine That Made Us 
First coming together on London’s north side and literally working their way up from regional status, Flotation Device Warning are cutting edge without ever sounding elitist or removed from the audience’s experiences. They often tackle larger than usual musical structures far removed from pop song formulas, but there’s plenty of qualities in the songs included on The Machine That Made Us that you’ll never forget this is fundamentally sound songwriting that, thanks to layering of instruments, often sounds much more complex than it really is while still readily connecting with listeners. This is the first full length follow up to their debut Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck and the band’s talent for memorable titles proves to be strong on this new release. There’s a lot on The Machine That Made Us that is familiar, but very little that is predictable.  
They take the occasion to walk fine lines between quirkiness and a traditional approach with songs like the opener “Controlling the Sea”. Keyboardist Vicky Wood joins Paul Carter in a loose vocal harmony that has a pleasing rise and fall that speaks directly to the listener. Rarely are melodies on The Machine That Made Us so comfortable and direct. Any sense of the peculiar heard in the first song is amplified to the ninth degree with the song “Due to Adverse Weather Conditions, All of My Heroes Have Surrendered” and it hangs together as a coherent bit of songwriting despite multiple turns in the arrangement. In the hands of the band’s lesser contemporaries, these sort of melting pots of musical ideas comes off as a handful of different sections ramroded together in an attempt to suggest a cohesive song. Flotation Device Warning, however, are quite talented at writing extended pieces that make total sense and it’s a talent they further expands on the deeper we go into this album. 
The lush beauty of “A Season Underground” lulls listeners into a near trance like state and maintains a straight ahead musical thrust for the duration of the song. There’s a pop sheen that makes the song glow slightly, but it keeps a low-key pace that doesn’t even rise to a mid tempo saunter. “I Quite Like It When He Sings” begins life as a practically ambient piece with vocals but, a considerable way in, evolves into a second half more in accord with the album’s other languid tracks. The first half is especially successful thanks to its atmospherics and the post production effects applied to her voice never drag it down. It’s arguable that the band never comes closer to embracing any commercial inclinations than they do with the song “When the Boat Comes Inside Your House”, but its commercial inclinations on their own terms and firmly grounded in the pensive orchestrations that are a hallmark of their style. “The Moongoose Analogue” is divided into four distinctive sections, alternating over the course of twelve and a half minutes, and has a thoughtfulness and inward looking quality to its plaintive keyboards and threadbare melodies that justifies its length. The Machine That Made Us is a bracing release thanks to its immense creativity and the sense of a band willing to take chances that are all their own. Flotation Device Warning has released a sophomore full length album that sets a new standard for their work.  
Shannon Cowden

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