Big Red Machine - Big Red Machine

Big Red Machine
Big Red Machine

Can you feel it? Did something reverberate in the hipster force? well you're right because The National and Bon Iver have teamed up for this new band and self titled album Big Red Machine. Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner originally collaborated on a track called "Big Red Machine" back in 2009 and have since toured and worked together on and off. This however is the first full album of music from the new band. The intention of the record is clear, two men who after blazing new trails on their own are looking to try and do it again. The songs feel cared for but claustrophobic at the same time. You are often overwhelmed with sound and flourishes creating this space where time signatures are blurred and downright demolished. "Gratitude" repeats the phrase "I better not fuck this up" for almost two minutes, but it is amongst this swirling electronic beat that slips in and out. The song like the album has these real moments of wonderment and beauty, but then they do something to kind of ruin it. Ruin may be to big of a word, but the song is really really stunning but it lands with a thud. It truly does feel like to many cooks in the kitchen on this one, with each track being just to long or being too crowded to find the nuggets of beauty. There are also songs like "Lyla" where the instrumentation never really becomes a cohesive unit, just a disparate grouping of instruments. Even the vocal on this track dips in and out of being in rhythm with the actual music, its pretty weird to be honest.

The inability to edit on this record is pretty shocking evne by Vernon's Bon Iver standards. Songs meander around five sometimes six minutes doing literally nothing but just continuing to happen. It's like one moment you are fully invested, and excited for what they are doing and the next they do something to pull you right out of it. "Air Styrp" the shortest track has this frantic sense to it and this hurried delivery that makes it's impact feel inconsequential. The next track "Hymnostic" plays like an old hymn and is sung as such with an upright piano guiding the song. Hearing the duo really earnestly sing this rather silly song feels pretty laughable, especially smack dab in the middle of this what is otherwise an electronic album. "Forrest Green" is a real standout track, a raw and beautifully sung song that feels like it is hitting the mark they set for this album. It combines the beautiful guitar music of The National and the electronics of Bon Iver and rather than force even more into your ears they lean back and allow it to unfold. "OMDB" is another track that extends over seven minutes and says so very little, it just ends up being totally frustrating. The same can be siad of the final track "Melt" as it feels like this freeform jam that is just repeatedly yelling the phrase "Well, you are who you are". It's a lack of editing that plagues this album the most, a solid producer with some cutting tools could really imporve this record greatly, because as it is, it is right on the edge of something great.

6.8 out of 10


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