ALEX MONK: The Safety Machine (Smeraldina-Rima)


Posted on Jan 19th 2011 01:11 am

Filed in Albums | Tags: ,
Comments (0)

Alex Monk: The Safety Machine

The Safety Machine
Smeraldina-Rima 2011
13 Tracks. 72mins36secs

Norman Records: LP

London-based Alex Monk is not exactly a new comer. Although he has only so far released a couple of very limited CDRs, he has been perfecting his style by regularly playing live sets which often rely on improvisation. Using a wide array of instruments, acoustic electric and electronic, he finds himself experimenting somewhere between dreamy pop/folk songs, kosmische-infused electronics and atmospheric drones.

Released on very limited vinyl (300 copies) and digital editions, The Safety Machine is a rather disconcerting offering, which spends much of its time tricking the listener into thinking it is something, only to move the goalpost again and again. Album opener Masks Survive is an epic nine and a half minute melancholic pop song drenched in acoustic guitars, mandolin and effects, broken with long keyboard passages, over which Monk’s voice floats ominously. Occasionally vaguely reminiscent of Death In June, this song is a deceitfully welcoming gate to a much darker and colder underworld, where sounds are rarely what they appear to be, and songs never quite materialise.

At times, Monk assembles slices of progressive electronics which openly nod towards early Tangerine Dreams (Much Further Out Than You Thought, Light Separation) or Vangelis (The Ocean You Chose), while at others, he is found patrolling much bleaker and more desolate terrains, distorting piano melodies with vast reverbs and distressed found sounds on All My Voices, feeding heavily processed sounds into vast ethereal choirs on Spiders or sombre monolithic drones on Vathek and 1000 Ships To The Next Life, or withdrawing into extreme minimalist forms on Sammy’s Song and I Can Hear Your Heart Through The Breeze, with only a few strands of organ and distant field recordings between him and silence.

The two most intriguing moments here are to be found on Cabiria and Crossing, which both feature vocals from Italian-born singer Elisa Gallo Rosso. Evocative of an extremely bleak and at times isolationist This Mortal Coil, these are amongst the most atmospheric tracks to be found on this record, the former layering gossamer vocalises and earthy drones, the latter built in two parts, the first slowly evolving around a series of loops, the second echoing the folk brushes of Masks Survive.

Despite of this album’s varied settings, it at time feels as if Alex Monk doesn’t quite have to confidence to push deep enough into these, resulting in The Safety Machine being a tad lacklustre and lacking of ambition. There are some promising moments scattered all over the record, but they never really materialise into much, leaving the listener hungry for more accomplished pieces.


Alex Monk | Alex Monk (MySpace) | Smeraldina-Rima
Norman Records: LP

Filed in Albums | Tags: ,
Comments (0)

Comments are closed.