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machina - Trusted EP (Unknown to the Unknown, 2022)

On her latest effort, South Korean producer Machina smashes it out of the park with a collection of delightfully eclectic yet concise rhythmic excursions, with plenty of feel and emotion injected into the top layer for absolute dancefloor escapism.

We talk a lot here on Endless Grooves about the notion of utilising conceptual motifs as a driving force for musical expressionism, and if this is utilised throughout the discography of a producer, then the results are always wide reaching and bountiful. Electronic/Dance Music really does have no boundaries, its contextual parameters representing a fluid, morphing organism that soaks up new methods of delivery with ease, a universe that expands rather than contracts. This is proved to be correct time and time and time again, as albums get released every day that showcase a new perspective that in many ways might feel well trodden, but ultimately there is enough in there to break new ground and push the feeling onwards. Out of this never ending progression, there comes to the fore a number of narratives that are held within the eye of certain producers, their journeys particularly fuelled by conceptual meanderings which keep the vibe fresh as we flow from one set of songs to the next. Defining a suite of tracks allows for the listener to approach something new with a fresh perspective, absorbing the words as they listen to a new collection of tunes that feed into their initial perceptions whilst also providing space in the imagination for new sights and sounds to be accommodated. This helps to maintain a steady progression that moves the listener from one set of parameters to the next, their mind maintained by new angles and directions which make any new effort surprising in the best way possible. It keeps the toes firmly on the line, a dynamic series of shifts that help to spread out the musical ideologies of an artist whilst also allowing them to keep the narrative concise and interconnected, their style accommodating an enormity of signatures as a result. Like with a brilliant piece of art, much of the talking is done by the contents of the brush strokes, but the writing to the side helps to give a window into the mood and context of what was going on when this piece was created, and this when placed within the context of a record, only serves to move the listener into a very special place indeed.

The world of machina certainly ticks a lot of these boxes, with every record she has released always leaning into a new angle, crafting a new perspective, building a new sonic palette for us to dwell deep within. To say that she covers a lot of ground within her music would be an enormous understatement, with each album she has created speaking to a differing level of the human experience, be it either the slowed and concentrated energies of a conversation or the bouncing, energetic fluxes of wordless progressions. This symbiosis of differentials remains a constant throughout her work, allowing the listener to reach deep within and explore spaces with intent, the juxtapositions serving these meanderings very well indeed. The vividness of the experience is increased two fold with the concepts that are attached to them, and these come from a wide variety of places, not just from the world around but from the worlds that persist within us. This provides machina with plenty to work with, and its a vision that has paid dividends in terms of crafted a multi-faceted sound that works double time in creating meaningful, pleasurable music that you want to get to know over and over again. As mentioned, each record brings something different to the fore, starting off with her 2019 debut 'archipelago', which pursued the notion that we here at EG really enjoy - each track holds its own, but acts beautifully as part of a wider collection. There is a beautiful diversity to the songs, which sing from vocal laden sequences through to instrumental sublimeness that paves the way to many a wondrous moment, with plenty of genres touched upon to get the blood pumping. As debuts go, there was plenty said, and this feeling only continued when the mini-album 'willow' came out later that year. The concept for this record revolved around time, space and anxiety, and these are touched upon in the contractions that persist throughout the listening experience, from the passive energies that emerge within the quieter moments through to the gorgeous, energised segments that really do take the breath away. After a 2 year break, she returned with 'Compass Point', which upped the ante once again and saw her on top notch form. The record revolved around the concept of finding direction and solitude, set with the shadow of the pandemic - but with like many pieces of art created during these difficult times, everything slotted into place beautifully. Her deeply hypnotic and symbiotic sound was on full force here, as we were spun into place within a delicate web of passionate melodies, thoughtful rhythmic blemishes and passionate, artful progressive sequences. In all, there's a certain level of ensnarement that ensues from a machina record, an enveloping that is as inviting as it is boundary pushing, a scintillating blend of emotive motifs, awe inspiring vocal direction and deep, resonating drums, a sound which never shies away from touching upon yet another style or notion. Dropping from album to album is like stepping into a bright new realm each time, an expansive experience that never falters in delivering up to the listener something to cherish long after the needle has stopped playing. If you like your electronic music bold and bountiful, and always with a creative conceptual twist, then machina's back catalogue is the one for you. Go check it out.

And now we arrive at her latest offering, 'Trusted', which lands on the ever reliable Unknown to the Unknown imprint. On this record, machina delves deep into the possibilities of leftfield meanderings, and this curisity results in yet another delicious spectrum for the listener to sink their teeth into. From the off the tempo is set very high, with a vast array of colours and sounds sliding our way that do much to entice and inspire in equal measure, and as we surge onwards machina does much to keep us very much on our toes. The melodics are ingenious at times, overlapping with one another's frequencies which continues to keep eyes fixated on how the progression might unravel in the next phase. Her voice makes a welcome return, not so much in the starring role as with previous releases but it makes as much as an impact as it ever did, and we for one find its presence most welcome. So, without further delay, lets dive into this diverse slice of excellence, and prepare for the most dazzling of journeys.....

Up first comes 'Forked Tongue', and this one gets going right away. The weaving key line leads the way atop a pounding bass line and drumming sequence, as the spaces between the two get filled with expansive, sweeping chordal lines, and as time passes by the formula does so much to keep us locked in. The little variations that occur within the structure keep the eyes moving around, searching the composition for all the little inter-relationships and reliances that help to keep the progression going on strong. Around the half way mark, the track takes a turn into a pad heavy segment, with the beautiful key feature submerging itself deep within the tones as we ourselves step into a melodic sea of exquisiteness, its form almost undefinable as everything turns to liquid honey. And yet, each element sparkles with crystal clear intentions, our ears picking up all manner of frequencies that speak to us on varying levels, translating an experience to us that feels so vibrant, so alive and well meaning. As intros go, this one is truly extraordinary. 'REM-S' arrives next, and this one begins with the percussive and synth laden energies to get us going. Rushing through the parameters to establish a wide plain of expressionism, the layers merge and interconnect to add in the bass and then drums, with plenty of room provided for the listener to really get within the strata, its form oozing warmth and inventiveness. The melodic progressions are an absolute joy, with all the layers moving as one in order to really emphasise this shift in direction, with this continued momentum signalled in the introduction of a larger drumming palette. The keys do much in the tone and form department, their presence always welcome and never ever, failing to impress, with the whole track given this boundless sense of dynamism, as if it craves direction and wishes to be pulled one way, then the next. The track continues to overload itself with kinetic energy, the swings of the drums drawing raw power from the ground underneath as we find gaps in which to inhabit, loosing ourselves to the deft balance of rhythmic power and melodic sensibilities. This one's a keeper, for sure.

The title track comes next, and this one starts with the kicks and light chordal blemishes to get things going. The tempo is set quite high, with this helping to create the flash like notes that permeate through in the backdrop, and before long the rhythmic frequency is joined by additional percussive features and this scattered arpeggio notions that flicker across the pan. machina's voice then makes an appearance, a lone spoken word piece amongst a sea of melodic richness, with some light singing samples thrown in to add further flavour. The breakdown that comes next provides time with the melodic features, with the vocals leading the drums back into the mix, and there's time for one final segway through the grooves, an endless array of rolling undulating excellence that only lasts for 3 minutes, but feels like it grows an enormity during that time. Top notch. To wrap things up, we have 'Ensemble Room', and this one returns the tempo to a more slowed down pace. The track quickly opens up but not in the most obvious of ways, with subtle features added to the progression such as the light percussive elements, deep yet delicate bass notes, and gently undulating melodic notions, all of which work together to build a very convincing audial sphere. Her voice features prominently here, popping up at the times when the track needs to be shifted into a differing set of structures, climaxing and receding as a freed up element that comes and goes at all the right moments. The mid section of the track sees plenty of activity occur, with machina doing her utmost to ensure every little element is heard, and the transmission of these conversations is heard loud and clear by all. The ways in which sequences unravel and merge into one another is impressive, controlled beautifully as if she is catching them in her hands as time passes by, before releasing them back into the afternoon air. Its a fitting end to a bountiful and fundamentally dynamic record, one which serves up the goods on repeat listens and demonstrates machina's unique view on crafting tunes. We for one really quite enjoyed that meander.

Narratives in Dance Music are often forged by those with a strong will and vision, an ability to see how point A might lead on to point B, and so on and so forth, until we arrive somewhere which cannot be characterised, simply because it feels new, unexpected and perpetually brand new. The listener engages with their journey, mesmerised by the blends on display and the quality of the music being presented, quality meaning the diversity but also how this all hangs together as part of their audial identity. Machina's narrative is indefinitely exciting, her discography speaking volumes and representing a producer's mindset who has always looked to weave her influences and her style together as one. This new record of hers is no different, with the music found within reflecting her broad reaching style and charismatic compositional style, as each track sees the pre-existing relationships shift in flavour and structure. In many ways the album feels like an accumulation of everything she has achieved in the past few years, a boundless and very uniquely sounding collection of tracks that sets herself up for the next few releases in terms of sonic depth and character. We cannot recommend this one enough, so why not go and check it out - its the perfect companion to a deep excursion into the mind.

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