Conrad Keely - Original Machines - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Conrad Keely - Original Machines

by James Weiskittel Rating:4 Release Date:2016-01-24

One of the hallmarks that initially characterized the stalwart indie-rock troupe ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead was the constant game of musical chairs that its members would play during live shows, effectively showing off just how tremendously talented the group actually is. But even a band as musically democratic as Trail of Dead eventually develops an artistic hierarchy, and over the course of a handful of records, Conrad Keely emerged as the group’s defacto frontman.

And so, with the benefit of some downtime for his main gig, Keely has decided to release his debut solo album, Original Machines. The record is, at times, similar in terms of sound and scope to that of the last couple of Trail of Dead albums, but more often than not, the only thing reminiscent here is Keely’s voice.

Written and recorded while on the road (traveling through Cambodia of all places), the songs (and there are a ton of them, 24 to be exact) on Original Machines run the gamut with spazzed-out synth-pop (“Original Machines”), fuzz-rock (“Warm Insurrection”), grandiose bombast (“In Words of a Not So Famous Man”), and even minimalistic shoe gaze (“Inside the Cave”)...and that’s just the first four songs.  So you kind of get the idea here; Original Machines is pretty much all over the place.

And while no one will accuse the songs on Original Machines of being, well, unoriginal; the album does sound less like a grand work of art and more like a purge of Keely’s hard drive (he cites his iPad as one of his main sources of composition).  While there are some definite keepers here, I can’t help but wonder if the material would have been better served by being broken up into more cohesive (palpable?) chunks?  There is an incredible record within the songs that make up Original Machines, unfortunately, you have to sift through an otherwise forgettable (and overly long) album to find it.

It should be noted that the physical release is accompanied with a 52-page book of Keely’s art that is meant to correspond with the album’s songs, making Original Machines an impressively immersive project for potential listeners (kudos to Conrad Keely for going ‘all in’ with this venture).  And while most of the album flies over the head of this particular reviewer, I suspect die-hard fans (and only die-hards) will appreciate the prolific nature of Original Machines.

 

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