• Vincristine

Happy (early) birthday to The Machine!

Its crazy to think that our first release, The Machine, turns 3 years old on the 27th.

There's really so much I could say, but that would turn into an entire goddamn essay, so I'd just like to shed some light on a few glimmers for myself.

Despite its blemishes, the album carries a very special place in my heart. Promoted as the single, "Lighter Fluid" was actually the first complete song I'd ever written. Few people know that the original demo version (only available on the “Demo A” disc from 2013) was actually about 10 BPM slower, and even if it had been the same speed it would actually be longer -- not by much, but the break between the first chorus and second verse was extended at one point. Few also know that there’s actually two demo versions that were released; the second is an instrumental that harvested some parts from the first demo, and was only ever available on Soundcloud.

Now having touched on that though, I've never been a fan of albums and musicians that focus only on their single with little attention to the deep cuts. While far from perfect (whether by performance or nature of learning how to produce at the time), each song holds a special place in my heart. Not often talked about, "Undermind" was the first time I'd really written with a weird time signature, and more or less by accident -- that one came out of listening to the demo version of Soundgarden's "Limo Wreck" in 2014. I'm not entirely sure what happened there, but while hearing it by memory in my head the screechy intro switched to a dark 13/8 trudge that grew into Zeppelin-meets-Tool-meets-Sabbath-with-just-a-pinch-of-Tame-Impala. Lyrically its also special to me, as it addresses the album concept in a more ephemeral “painterly” way. Upon reflection I drowned that album in reverb a lot of the time, but this was one song where the drowning was intentional -- a dark swirling psychedelic dream you can't really pin down. It could’ve used a bit more presence and better mixing though; unfortunately this is one of the songs that I feel had so much more potential but was held back by my stage of learning in music production at the time.

From a production standpoint The Machine has a bit of an interesting story. As previously stated, reflection easily reveals a lot of production issues, which aren't exactly horrible but quickly show the independence of the release in a less than favorable light. What most people don't know is that the album was both a personal project and a University-approved independent study. I'm not sure if its listed in the course catalogue or if it ever was to begin with, but anyone who has wondered why Penn State Erie has a music production independent study in its course list, its because I asked for it to be made. I've always thought that was a really cool subtle mark to leave on my university in my final year. But that's largely why the mix can vary a lot -- between my production infancy and suggestions from my supervising professor, the album was caught between two storms of practical learning and personal endeavour. I couldn't recall exactly what was done as per the study without looking at the Pro Tools sessions, but about half of the album had direct input/assistance from my professor. What occupies me most in that regard is how much I look back on that after years and now can much better understand and implement what he was communicating while currently still merging it with my personal “raw” production goals. I'm still learning, but without that experience I could be so much further behind.

Turning back around to the songs for a moment, I want to put specific distinction on "Persepolis." This song became so well regarded by listeners that stoner metal figurehead Stoned Meadow of Doom shared it as they promoted their second annual festival, and Doom Sundown also shared it on their channel. I owe the fact that that song was even recorded to my then-girlfriend; at the time I was really dead set on a certain rawness of production. The fact that I would need to record two separate guitar lines to do both the main riff and the overlaid Persian-inspired soloing was a point of conflict in my head, as I wanted it to be as honest as possible. When I showed her the soloing a few months before I recorded it, she said something that has had massive impact on my music philosophy ever since. "[...] don't let a certain ideal get in the way of you just making good music." The wording may have been slightly different, but the point is that its impact was very freeing for me musically, from both the perspective of a musician and a listener. "Persepolis" has turned into not only one of my favorite songs that I've written, but a consistent audience favorite and a cornerstone for my philosophy of having a diverse sound.

Flawed but far from forsaken, this will always be one of our most important releases. And not to say too much too soon, but keep your ear to the ground and you might hear the birth of its offspring pretty soon (which is largely why we’re celebrating early).

- Nick

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