The new release from Anglo-Burmese electronic duo Machina X The Art of Letting Go is an EP whose concept has been built around the five recognised stages of grief* and band members Annie and Cyrus wanted to musically reflect the hard times that many of us have faced emotionally, politically, and financially over the last few years.
‘Prelude’ opens the EP with swathes of sound rolling in like mist, an electronic amuse bouche that swells into the first full track ‘Fragile’, which the band say is their “tribute to 80’s electro-pop” and to me brought to mind the epic landscapes of The School of Seven Bells. ‘Belong to the Night’ is a beautiful frost-covered ballad with Annie’s voice sparkling with ice crystals and sweeping the synthesised landscape like a search light. ‘Denial’ is a melancholy, slow build track that the band will hope take the listener diving to the seabed, and comes with swirling seaweed arpeggios and the gentle wub-wub of passing fish. ‘Silent Now’ channels anger and defiance with its contemporary take on 80s synthwave and it has a strong backbone of bass, pulsating over pops of electronic glockenspiel and ultra-low synth growls which seem to echo the barely contained rage of the narrator. The title track, ‘The Art of Letting Go’ brings a more optimistic vocal line which soars over the backing and allows the EP’s theme to end with its sentiment of acceptance and closure.
Machina X know when to swell and when to swirl, drums and percussion are crisp and never overdone, and they have a keen sense of when to drizzle just enough icy piano onto a track to send a shiver down your spine. The arrangements form an electronic crucible which applies heat to Annie’s voice and allows it to burn brightly. I would advise listening with headphones on to get the full effect of how they use a light touch but are still able to create sonic depth and mass. Although the band imbue technology with flesh and blood and coax warmth out of cold circuit boards it is the icy shimmer that is most affecting, and while you’re listening to this EP you might find moments when you can see you breath.
The Art of Letting Go is available exclusively on Bandcamp
*Five stages of grief: Denial > Anger > Bargaining > Depression > Acceptance
Review by Paul F Cook