Alex Monk - The Safety Machine

by Mark Young Rating:8.5 Release Date:2011-01-10

The Safety Machine, the first album by London based experimental producer and artist Alex Monk, is a brooding collection of ambient soundscapes which provides a chilling venture into an ethereal realm of divine darkness and imposing desolation. Inspired by the likes of Moondog and Brian Eno, it is underpinned by sombre drones of minimalist noise conjured through an arsenal of instruments - both traditional and unconventional - which are subjected to digital and analogue distortions.

Guitars are present but sparse, as is Monk's vocal. Keyboards, organs and synthesisers feature more frequently yet no one sound is dominant. Throughout, there are intriguing additions of 'found sounds' from Monk's world around him which he has appropriated for his vision. The music is slower and more subtle than the works of Explosions in the Sky or Four Tet and it carries far more sinister overtures than those artists produce, though it is comparable in its ability to evoke a complete and unadulterated aura which arrests with its presence.

Ghostly and sinister, at times it is unnerving. At others it is harrowing - the first minute or so of 'Crossing' provides a case in point. Rarely is it comfortable - even at times of relative calm such as in 'Cabiria', with its soft female vocal, accompanied by a hummed harmony of male vocal and instruments. Then, there is still a foreboding feeling that can develop quickly into anxiety, afforded by that eerie, melancholic awe. Yet the world which Monk creates is as stunning and majestic as any celestial world is by its nature, however daunting.

The album has been somewhat of a slow burner, having been steadily put together between 2008 and 2010, with all recording taking place at Monk's home in South London. As is his inclination when playing live, some of the tracks were improvised as they were recorded and this adds to the the beautiful uncertainty and infinity of its essence. Variation in theme is minimal and its repetition, although present entirely by design, is noticeable during what is a long record at over one hour and ten minutes long. The eclectic mix of sounds reignites interest but, still, Monk's music is designed for a select audience - it won't be to everyone's taste and it is certainly no sing-along.

Although it tells enough of a story by itself, the album would make a great accompaniment to visual art, although it would be a film that those more prone to night tremors would be ill advised to take in. Otherwise, it is perfect for an expedition into the subconscious, so long as you're prepared for where it might lead you.

The Safety Machine is released as a double vinyl, limited to 300 copies, and is also available by download.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • No comments found