diNMACHINE

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diNMachine is an experimental electronic rock band based out of Brooklyn, New York. The band is comprised of Michael J. Schumacher (keys/synth), Hari Ganglberger (drums), and Nisi Jacobs (bass). diNMachine employs “live instruments and synths along with recorded samples” to create “richly layered, propulsive, genre-defying” compositions. Their debut album, titled “Dance To Reason”, can be found on iTunes and is reviewed here on the blog; an interview with the band is also featured below. 

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‘Sang Gween’ opens with a reverberating, humming, bit-crushed sound overtop a straightforward drum beat that comes in and out of the mix. A repetitive bass line remains consistent even as the drums switch between full time and half time. The bass and backing instrumentation/overall noise have an almost video game-like tonality to them and are saturated with lots of static and fuzz. The bass play begins to sound more melodic right before 2 minutes in, yet transitions to a more haunting, menacing bass line as the song progresses. There is so much extra backing noise (really too much to be honest) that is indistinguishable; the song could really use more synth (notation-wise), and while the song has a couple different sections to it, overall there is not much to it. Thankfully, the drum parts are extremely solid and appealing, and the spacey, otherworldly songs intrigue and invite listeners in to this sonic mayhem, and the song does return to its original roots (somewhat) at its close. ‘Minor Me’ provides listeners with a glitchy, up-tempo introduction, quickly leading into a captivating synth lead line. Bass notes play percussively underneath this melody, and the synth parts are strengthened by harmonies. This song has an excellent and respectable vibe, adding further instrumentation such as an electric guitar (which provides the lead lines and foundational chords) to diversify this track. A fair amount of constructive dissonance is contained here-in, and this track was much more fleshed-out than the first and was more interesting (as it contain multiple different sections and melodies). ‘Ground State’ has a drawn-out introduction and is, in total, a seventeen minute recording. The opening includes the sound of approaching and receding water (possibly at a beach) and a large amount of space in between notes and the sections, for that matter, soon followed by a very rhythmic synth part that encourages drums to enter. A simple line also enters from the bass, as does a funkier electric guitar part. The drums, while again coming in and out of the mix, are very strong and performed exceptionally. The bass begins to show more proficiency over different sounds and instrumentation, and there was lots of thought put into the production side of things, but overall I felt there was too much wasted time (as probably 2-3 minutes of different stages of silence had already occurred by 7 minutes in). There are a large amount of “lost” minutes that can’t be described fully (lots of bubbling water or some type of other liquid), as they contained noise instead of notation, and when notation was featured, it was incredibly sparse. The positive sections within the song were intriguing as ever, though; a more memorable part occured midway through, with the synth returning to its original percussive part with a new melody overtop, the bass entering more optimistically than before as well. A saturated instrument buzzes in and out of the mix for the second time within the song, quickly followed by further dissonance. The song then changes feel drastically with 4 minutes left, an easy drum beat providing the foundation for ethereal, hanging synth parts to ring out peacefully. Parts of the song are unique and there is certainly variation and intellectuality contained within, but I don’t know what to make of it as a whole (in terms of determining its sureness or singularity of purpose). 

The bass play within ‘Recht Tik’ was a highlight, adding intrigue over a large portion of varied instrumentation. A darker melody (ironically performed on such a light, airy instrument) entices listeners; what followed was a glitching, buzzing, stimulating commotion of sound. The bass is solid, and funky at times, this song one of best instrument performances so far by the band as a whole. This was a musically diverse track with lots of experimentation, in regards to both tonality and notation. Towards the end of the track, the peculiar instrumentation from the song’s opening becomes the focus after awhile, even as it stays mostly in the background of all that is going on. Guitar and bass open ‘Tryad’ in a very different way while drums provide an almost country-like backbeat behind the two main instruments. A piano sound is present as well, and what occurs next is a good thing musically, especially in the guitar and the bass, as they both go off on their own, exploring what this sonic landscape holds. A more extreme amount of dissonance is present after 1:30 in, soon followed by phasing sirens. The bass tone is awesome, highlighted behind drums that quickly picked up around added background noise. A new, appealing synth melody comes in around 3 minutes in to change things up, and even horns were included. ‘Lpse’ was up-tempo and pulsating, again fronted and completely led by the bassist, Nisi Jacobs. This seemed to be the first track with extensive vocal parts (not singing, just random noises, grunts, and spoken words) and also featured even further oscillating background sounds. The bass play is really outstanding here, certainly the best it has been, showcased over static and drums that picked up and performed well in support. The drums are exceptionally fast, and  structurally, things are similar, yet the song changes so much within a short period of time. A dark, conspiring organ enters, accompanied by the haunting sound of a female panting and breathing hard at 3 minutes in. As you can imagine, the song completely changes feel, and while the new vibe is softer and jazzier supported by a flute, it also contains more human screaming and frightening organ chords laying out underneath. A synth emulates an electric guitar over intricate drum rolls as the song closes over crowd noise and arbitrary voices. ‘Telepath’ has a more pleasant organ sound and drums that pushed the song’s up-tempo feel. There were lots of fuzzed out instruments on this album, and again they were featured on this track. The electric guitar part is pretty interesting, as is the running bass line, over a more optimistic mood and jazz and progressive elements between the two instruments. The electric guitar begins to copy what the bass is doing for a bit, and some intriguing notes are added after 3 minutes in with the electric guitar more fusion-focused. A memorable melody from the synth after 4:30 assists the song’s grove with a similar melody and notation. Alien-like, technological-phasing towards the end of the track had me listening again, as did the lead lines from the electric guitar. ‘5th Bass’ had an excellent introduction, as technological sounds were coupled with a powerful synth bass and drums. The choruses seemed to feature middle-Eastern influences (especially in the bells and electric guitar parts), the song being more fusion-oriented in nature than previous offerings. This entertaining number was very expansive and certainly more open than many of the other tracks on this album. The bass began to walk around towards the track’s close, a track that featured a lot of electric guitar tones. “Dance To Reason” is a very solid album instrumentally, one featuring compositions more so than traditional songs, each highlighted by solid and proficient instrument performances, especially when put into the spotlight. 

How did the band meet and begin playing together? How would you most accurately describe your musical style and sound?

“Nisi and I have been partners for awhile and we began playing after she picked up the bass in 2009. diNMachine evolved out of a previous project called ELSE that was more of a pop band. We met Hari through our mutual friend, bassist Kato Hideki. Our musical style is eclectic; it comes from the way I (Michael) write. I’m not writing a song based on a genre or style, I start with a “pure” musical idea, a riff or a motif. This leads me where it (the song) wants to go, and I’m responding based on my experience as a listener and composer. Though you will hear a disparate mix of styles on these tracks, you will also hear a consistent approach to composition.”

What life events and experiences inspired the writing and recording of “Dance To Reason”? What influenced the album artwork and visual presentation?

“I was in Berlin as a guest of the Technical University (which has one of the oldest electronic music studios in Europe). I had some time to work on new material and had a hard drive full of recordings I’d done with analog synths. I have a small collection of beautiful vintage instruments, each with a unique character and playing style. These recordings became the basis for the songs on the CD. In fact, you can listen to the tunes with that in mind, locating the synth tracks that inspired first the bass and drum lines and then the melodic and harmonic material. In general, my musical life had been moving in this direction for a while. My work has focussed on experimental sound installations since the late ’80s and whatever performing I did since the ’90s (except for some improv projects) was based around the laptop. I was itching to “go live”, play instruments, and be in a band; part of this came from watching my teenage son get into music over the past few years. His discovery of the guitar, singing, and songwriting was inspiring to me. Our idea for the visuals came out of the theme “hot and cool”. Think of Marshall McLuhan and his media categories, hot is involving, absorbing and is characterized by its high definition (think of film or a painting). Cool requires interaction and participation; it needs the viewer/listener to fill in the blanks. We found diNMachine’s music to have a curious blend of dance-ability and mental engagement; your feet want to move but your ears say “wait, I want to listen to this”. So it’s a little disconcerting, but on the positive side, speaking for myself, I can do both/either depending on my mood at the moment. In any case, we approached a very talented designer based in Geneva with this idea and he came up with this great idea, with awesome colors, the cool font that’s half caps and half lowercase, and the sort-of-sexy but androgynous bodies.” 

What has your experience with the New York City music scene been like? What are some of your favorite venues to perform at?

“As I stated above, I’ve been focussed on sound art and sound installations since the late ’80s. Before that I had an improv duo with cellist Charles Curtis; we played Pyramid, Gas Station, Tonic, CBGB, you name it. Our first gig was with Eliot Sharp down in Princeton. I also played in the band Dogbowl in the ’90s (on two records) and we gigged at the Knitting Factory when it was on Houston Street. There was also The Cooler, (another) great space. I’ve also played with various people at The Stone, Roulette, and The Kitchen. New York is tough because to make a living you have to gig a lot and that means many situations that are under-rehearsed. This can be frustrating and I think has had an effect on what people do, as everything becomes about paying rent, whether you’re a musician or a club owner. We love to perform at venues with good sound systems, where the space has been designed to encourage listening, not just socializing (Pianos downstairs (where we’ll have our release party), Cake Shop, and Cameo). I love the vibe at Nublu, though we haven’t played there yet. Despite the difficulties, there are some clubs that are incredibly supportive of musicians.”

Could you tell us about the recording process for “Dance To Reason”? What was it like working with someone as highly regarded and seasoned as Bill Laswell?

“Recording was completed in various stages and I worked with various people (learning a lot along the way). I’ve worked with electronic music since the 1970s but never in this way or this intensely. I ended up working with a lot of different musicians, each contributing something unique. I also applied a lot of my own processing and approaches, post recording, sometimes using what the musician did as raw material for my own ideas. I worked with Laswell’s engineer, James Dellatacoma, mostly, who engineered the sessions. Bill suggested musicians and gave other advice and we discussed how to mix the tracks. The first track he mixed was ‘Sang Gween’, which he did to give me an idea of how he’d approach things, and it was exactly what I’d hoped for, capturing the energy of the drums and bass and maintaining the complexity of the melodies, counterpoint, and harmony. He countered my minimalist tendencies by breaking up the groove track (the noisy, rhythmic bit that comes in after about 15 seconds), which, in my version, had basically played non-stop through the track. He is an intuitive, performative worker/mixer, very different from my approach, as I like everything to be highly formalized and functional. The cost of this is a certain freedom of execution; let’s say, I’ll sacrifice an intuitive gesture if I can get something with formal integrity. Laswell hears it and goes for it, performing the mix, something I think few people do these days, as most rely instead on automation, compression, etc, so I feel he opened up the sound to anarchy, in the best sense, that is, freedom.”

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