SNORKEL: Stop Machine (Slowfoot)


Posted on May 20th 2011 01:36 am

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Snorkel: Stop Machine

Stop Machine
Slowfoot 2011
08 Tracks. 41mins17secs

Amazon UK: LP | DLD US: LP | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD

Under the lead of drummer Frank Byng, South East London’s Snorkel happily veer from krautrock, free jazz and improvisation to dub, post rock and funk without ever really settling on any particular genre for very long. This was what fueled Glass Darkly, released three years ago, but, although this was their first album, the band have actually been performing live for over ten years. The band, originally set up to explore the possibilities of improvised music, was partly modeled on the likes of Can or Soft Machine, but the scope has since widened quite drastically.

A band with no fixed line-up, Snorkel was, for the recording, formed of Byng, the only recurring member, plus Ben Cowen, Charles Stuart, Tom Marriott, and 129, with additional contribution from Slowfoot label head Robert Logan, Ralph Cumbers (Bass Clef), Lucas Suarez and Luke Wills. The album is, like its predecessor, the fruit of improvised sessions, but this on occasions tempered by a more structured compositional approach. Stop Machine opens with the hyperactive and angular title track, built around a short nasally synth loop and a hectic drum section, but things calm down slightly with Dead Skin. After an odd gurgling drone, the track gets in motion, propelled by a fairly linear rhythmic groove, and later on, a brass motif, upon which Charles Stuart adds vocals. The set up is pretty sober here, leaving the drums and voice pretty much in charge of it all, but this works somewhat rather well. Later on, a similar restrained mood infuses Wet Tongue and Loophole, but the sonic space is filled much more to build up on Byng’s precise drumming, each instrument taking it in turn to step to the fore. Later on, as its title indicates, Dark Star dives down into much more sombre territories. The austere organ motif which spreads over the whole piece, combined with the sticky beat and drowsy brass section, feels utterly heavy and gloomy.

At the other end of the scale, Driller is a masterful experiment in hypnotic groove, its momentum set by the band bouncing off each other, rapidly reacting to ever-changing circumstances, altering the tones and mood at will. Elsewhere, the tone is more reflective as the band explore more ambient settings. It sounds like something is fighting to come out of Edgar’s Hoover but is kept well under wrap until the whole piece appears to disintegrate in its last section. Closing piece Jellyfish is a much more gentle attempt, its fluid aspect echoed in the drum section of its second half.

A difficult work to pin down, Stop Machine is so openly eclectic that it is a wonder how it manages to never fall apart at any point. As it stands, it actually manages to remain very consistent all the way through.  Snorkel have created with this second record a rather enjoyable collection.


Snorkel (MySpace) | Slowfoot
Amazon UK: LP | DLD US: LP | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD

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