Enigmatic Sound Machines – The Hierarchies Of Angels

The work of Montreal’s Enigmatic Sound Machines is a wonderful new discovery for us, and one that we just couldn’t help but share!

In this review I’ll be referring to the Bandcamp version of the release, which differs a little from Spotify in the manner in which the tracks are organised. The band states that the Bandcamp flow is a little more “progressive rock inclined”, which certainly sounds more like the way we’d prefer to ingest it. Honestly, there’s something more satisfying about sitting back to listen to WAV files anyway, hearing the subtleties they were intended to be, and for this release’s deeper listening it feels almost essential.

Without digging too deep into the preambles, the band comprises of one Thomas Szirmay, a musicologist among other things, and the crafter of the work’s “sound machines”. Jeremie Arrobas is the man behind the synths, drums and vocals. Generally, I like to read a band’s EPK after a few listenings, lest it contain any spoilers or alter the way I prefer to listen… without prejudice. In the case of Enigmatic Sound Machines though, I’ll confess to having a sneaky look! Why? Because there are so many instruments used that I wanted to see who else they worked with for the album’s recording. Indeed, the collaborators and guest talents are many, covering additional guitars by Shane Hoy and Alain Roig, plus bass from Hansford Rowe, as well as vocals from one Anna Arrobas. Why is this relevant? Well, the album is far-reaching in style, and there is a lot to cover here. It effortlessly pulls together a lot of different moods and methods in its unique and quite beautiful blendings of themes set both past and future. So let’s dive in!

Ah, the title track The Hierarchies Of Angels. There is an 80’s feel to the bass synth that ushers us in, soon layered with beats and a cymbal’s whooshes. String sections pay short visitations, delightful small flourishes to culminate in the arrival of garbled voices and melodic tickity-tick. Still the bass synth goes on, giving the piece the feel of an extended intro, until around 4 minutes in. Its space is replaced by a gentle choir, added complexity in the drums, and a touch of world music charm. At 6 minutes in things really sweeten up via a poppy bass line, deep pads and a feeling of weightlessness. Everything lifts… until the bell tolls, and a few seconds of silence leaves you to ponder.

A gentle, thoughtful mood now firmly established, I was extremely curious to see where this would all lead. The mixing and production by the way, is top-notch. Every instrument perfectly placed exactly where it needs to go in the introspective landscape.

Inside Nowhere brings spoken-word to the table, gentle yet definite and clear in delivery. There is darkness here, pianos growing to glide above strange lower samplings, light drum touches, and then an abrupt transition. We’re back in synth-land now with arpeggiated melodies and… and… now there’s some harder drum hits! We’re off into prog-land now! Bass punch, guitar chords, high-pitched synths twirling in the overhead sky, when down below a guitar solo is unleased. In closure, the voices return, as though to remind us where this little journey started.

Ok, the moths on the album cover. So, not always does artwork have to match an artist’s intent, but in this case the visuals surely complement what the ears do so very much enjoy. Darkness. Light. Above and beyond all that, these artists really know how to get music to “float”. They seem to be untied by a drummer’s kick, or a bassist’s choice of pattern. Their feet aren’t embedded in the ground, awaiting a fellow performer’s cue. No. Instead, they choose to “drift”. They move in and out, near and far, as though things both meaningful and ambiguously ambient have been sprinkled into the very air. One has to ask then, what these “moths” destiny shall be? Will light attract them towards something dangerous and intoxicating? Or has the time come to retreat into places dark and quiet? Either way, I already feel refreshed! Too much of today’s music is focused on low frequencies, pulsating beats, and soul-destroying compression. An evolution to the previous era of “loudness wars” perhaps. Well, Enigmatic Sound Machines proves that you can sound great, balanced and cohesive without any of that. I really appreciated that my ears could simply enjoy the music without being pounded at like a salesperson’s fist upon a potential customer’s door. Subtlety, these days, is something to appreciate and nod one’s head in respect to. This is music that lets you think. Lets you translate. Lets you conjure thoughts along the way, as the artists have kindly left you space to do such a thing. In-depth listening with the analyst hat on? Tick. Music to play in the background whilst trying to accomplish a task that requires thought and commitment? Tick. It sits right at home, in either instance.

Blurred gets off to a creepy start reminiscent of a haunted scene, with delayed vocals entering to recount moments of meaning. Then, a favorite section of mine, strings bow their way into the mix, and almost without realising it, the tone has entered a less darkened vibe. The contrast between the words themselves and the music beneath is very well done here. Dripping pianos, some high female-sounding vocal notes of extended length join in, and then most gracefully, the pace slows and we quietly fade away.

After The Flood enters with a droney tune-up kind of vibe, prior to the addition of classic organ sounds. Bang! Drums, bass and piano enter as one. The tone is cinematic, and I can almost imagine watching a great journey across a sand-splattered land as this piece unfolds, taking its time with grace. There are some real surprises along the way too, many of which occur in the final minutes of this interesting piece.

Ah, where are we going with Walking Through Walls? Well, its quite hard to describe this one. It feels like the offspring of lighter progressive rock, some early industrial, and an injection of pop? The track feels more structured than those which came before, yet retains an experimental vibe. Not sure why, but this felt very European to me. Actually, for whatever reason, it stirred an old memory of seeing The Young Gods perform many a moon ago. I’m not saying it is in any way the same, but the delivery has some parallels to their gentler and spoken-word driven works.

This leads us to Kill Switch, the final track in what the artist’s refer to as “Chapter 1 the Morning”. The pace has escalated here, heavy guitar tones joining with a clicky beat and harder kicks. What I really enjoyed about this one was a transition just before the end, which seems to be a signature of the band… as we’re lead into a walky-funky bass line, the low sounds of a moving breeze, and a quite rappy vocal delivery by Jeremie. No soothing fadeout here. We are left with the track’s title on the lips. Right, one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is replayability. Well, I will be listening to this album many a time in the near and dare I say it, long-term future. Yes, it is complex, but not in an in-your-face manner. Instead, it offers a lot of small things to return to and re-investigate. Then there are the vocals themselves to consider. It will be a pleasure to go back and try to more fully understand the stories within. A lot is to be left up to the listener’s interpretation it seems, yet the lyrics are powerful also. Being easily heard and understood on a surface level, does not necessarily mean that that is all…

So we head into Chapter 2, the Night, with You Want. Funky! Synthy! There is a clever juxtaposition here between lyrics set about greed, placed beside melodies light and playful. It surely strengthens both elements! The flavor here is electronic in a delightfully unique way. Something akin to audio created in an era where electronic music began to nudge into the realm of rock… but with added spice! Yes, the spiciness of piano, playing both stabby bass parts, and higher tinklings in a melodic realm.

This leads us then to Something Evil. What a delicious follow-up to You Want! The pair seem related, and by no act of chance. The funky sensations grow larger here, before going decidedly more rocky and hard. It’s… dare I say it… “cute”… whilst also being darkly satisfying! The maniacal laughter near the ending, the deep buzzing, delayed string stabs, low-pitched speaking, it all feels like it ends too soon! I really loved the concluding moments here, and would totally love to hear an extended version, or even a whole track that built on the elements in the last minute or so.

The Preacher (featuring the Sermon) moves between something quite sci-fi, and more rooted in a prog-rocky interpretation of gospel music. Wow what a fusion! This isn’t something you’ll hear very often. We are preached too all along via spoken word, and it is becoming clear that none of this is by chance. Since entering Chapter 2, things have gone more… philosophical? Critical? Conceptual! That’s the one. I feel like we’re working through the stages of a personality’s struggles here. You Want identifying failings in a soul’s ability to be satisfied, with Something Evil coming about as a result. What better to do after such an experience, than try to obtain some enlightenment from The Preacher? Is this all serious, or tongue-in-cheek? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Where to from here? Instinctively I’d say either denial, or anger… but is that what’s contained in It’s a Lie? Crisp clappy sounds enter with drifting swooshes and a lovely guitar pattern played periodically. The vocals in this one are more melodic, vocoder effects here and there taking us between this world and somewhere more futuristic. Possibly a favorite on the album this one. Although it is more structured and traditional in many senses, it still retains a unique charm that I’m beginning to attribute to Enigmatic Sound Machines, either justly or not. Positive vibes but with things to say which are questioning, analytical, and thought-provoking. Although on the surface, the material isn’t as dark as I’d expected, maybe there’s already enough of that in the world. I’m really liking this delicate touch that these artists use in order to convey their message.

Stand Fall, brings in some fun with an 80’s poppy sounding bass line and a simple beat. From the midsection onwards, Numan-ish synths probe about, allowing a piano’s dainty twinkles to add an almost dance-friendly feel. I feel like we’ve reached some kind of absolution here, an optimism that could only have been gained through the prior events in Chapter 2.

The final track, When You Suffer keeps this quirkiness going, yet at a mid-tempo slower pace. A perfect continuation from Stand Fall with its highly memorable melody, which eventually comes to end with the decay of a single, high, string section note.

Well, what an experience! It is rare to hear something so uplifting on a site where “dark” is boldly written in the title. Yes, Enigmatic Sound Machines go through many shades, perhaps as a moth travels through its own personal heavenly spaces, witnessing everything from blissful peace, through to a most unusually presented anxiety. Even when things appear to be under the shadow of darker contemplations, the artists still stick to their guns. Their way of presenting their concepts, and delivering them in an honest and enlightening style, is certainly worthy of praise. An album so deserving of many listening sessions, and one that should be enjoyed all at once, at least once, in order to appreciate the sense of flow and purpose throughout.

Enigmatic Sound Machines on Bandcamp

Enigmatic Sound Machines Official Website

Enigmatic Sound Machines channel on YouTube

Enigmatic Sound Machine on Facebook