I’m bound to lose a lot of my cool muso journo cred with this following statement: I’ve never listened to vinyl before*. That is until today. With a vinyl player casually hanging out in the Happy office I was able to take the plunge and pop my vinyl cherry. And there is no better LP to do so than The Bright Door, the latest from Machine Translations. This album was everything I needed for my first time; gentle, intricate, versatile and plenty of experience to assuredly guide this nervous twenty-something.
Machine Translations shows they are all about the human heart, with a beautiful arrangement of entwining guitars, arousing samples and painfully honest lyrics. J walker has outdone himself.
Okay, enough with the pseudo vinyl sex. The Bright Door is, to put it bluntly, a freaking gem of a record. Multi-instrumentalist Greg J. Walker has an uncanny ability to speak to the soul. Not in a fluffy, feel good way, but in a way that seems to speaks to the loneliness of one’s heart whilst maintaining an intense intimacy. Have you ever floated on your back, closed your eyes and let your ears sink beneath the water? You can feel the water envelope your body, yet without being able to see and hear anything feels as if for a moment you’ve transcended this plane for something else. That feeling of knowing that you’re a part of the world yet so far removed from everything is what this record evokes.
The greatest thing about this album is the incredible simplicity of it all. Which is an odd thing to say considering J was pulling apart pianos and hitting individual strings with hammers to find the right sounds for this record. Where J manages to snare the listener is in the tone. For each song he has carved out a part of his own heart and put it on full display for all to bear witness and ponder. Like an orchestra string section warming up, album opener Perfect Crime commences with scratching strings, eventually to give way to the gentle strumming and whisper-in-your-ear vocals.
It blends seamlessly with You Can’t Give It Back, a contemplative tune that objectively deals with honesty without becoming a wallowing mess. His lyrics are emotive and familiar yet maintain an air of ambiguity, therefore resonating much stronger than just blatantly singing about how he feels; “When you cut yourself in two, there’s a message from the half you never knew. But the writing, it’s so small that it’s hardly even there at all.”
Soft, intimate albums like these often run the risk of becoming stale and predictable in spite of their gentle and calming nature. Thankfully Broken Arrows manages to shake things up and sees J take you a little further down the rabbit hole. The otherworldly chimes that open the track seem a tad out of place initially but they serve as an outstanding reminder of Machine Translations’ versatility and creativity.
The haunting plucking of Water Met The Sky continues the sombre narrative and is starkly darker then any of the other songs found on The Bright Door. Even the title is a clue to the overwhelming melancholy, the futile image of the water and sky being face to face, but never being able to meet is an incredibly effective, albeit depressing, image of separation. The descending piano played in the third act and violent strums signal the essence of a man who is at the end of his rope, who is holding on to what good he has in what may as well be a futile battle.
Final track on The Bright Door, Needles finishes in fine fashion, the intertwining guitars and laid back, rolling drums feel so triumphant, the accompanying weeping strings paralleling these feelings nicely. It’s an appropriately dramatic send off. If you were looking for a lyric that best described this record then you can’t go further than “Carry my heart around“. Every copy of this record is apart of J. Walker’s heart, and it damn well deserves to be cherished.
*I actually have once, but I wasn’t really listening as I was making out with a pretty girl instead. Cool cred back!**
**Ed. We’ll be the judge of that kid.
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