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- Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams by Alex Menzies
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‘Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams’ is the soundtrack to the BBC4 documentary of the same name, composed and produced by Alex Menzies aka techno wunderkind Alex Smoke. The film told of mind-boggling clockwork automata, designed hundreds of years ago to mimic and recreate life. Here, it’s Menzies’ use of carefully constructed, granular electronics which tells the sonic story of these amazing machines.
Bells, chimes and voices add to the mix of sounds on tracks such as ‘Not Upbeat 8’ and ‘Aristo R27 M7’, relating to the mechanics of their subjects and on the latter track approaching Autechre-like levels of rhythmic texture belying the complexity of interconnecting clockwork cogs and metallic clicks and clanks. The instrumentation Alex employed was if the type found within the actual automatons. Wind organs weave eerily through the track on ‘Upbeat 7’. Layers replicate sounds produced by instruments of a larger scale but display melodic intricacy of detail.
The fast, tinkling, tumbling chimes on ‘6C’ achieve a sort of acoustic variance on an Orbital track. Elsewhere, there are hypnotic drones and choral chants on the mesmerically beautiful ‘7C Rev2’, mini Reich-ian symphony on ‘12C II’ and softly soaring strings and insect percussion on ‘14B’ which closes side A impressively. There is a bewildering variety of musicality on this record. Patterns scattered throughout are of sampled moving machinery, wheels turning, gears switching. Side B contains a further ten tracks of intricate sounds interspersed at perfectly timed intervals. While ‘18B Rev2’ sounds mechanical and methodical, ‘21B II’ which immediately follows it is a microcosm of dreamlike harmony; ‘Sketch 5 II’ has yet more intricate mallet work, tinkling bells and clarion chimes.
I could go on, but really there are so many delights on this vinyl artefact that I think I ought to leave some for you lovely lot to discover for yourselves. Tick tock.
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