The Seventies are a mixed bag to unpack. Between the fashion, the politics, and least of all, the music, it’s hard to imagine why a modern band would emulate their image and sound from the decade. Dream Machine’s era of influence may draw more criticism from the start, closing more minds than they invite from the get-go. However, once you get past the album artwork and muddle of the amps, the Austin-based band does more than just channel the charm of the seventies; they completely encapsulate the decade in an almost precise way in the far-out listen that is their latest album, Breaking the Circle.
Fuzz rock may not be a genre that I’m gnashing at the bit to listen to, but each time that I heard this album, my head was bobbing along, and I was singing to the catchy choruses. It’s not often that you hear an organ in “new” music, but every single organ part was funky. The contrast between two different vocalists made it seem like there were two different stories being told. This was a fun listen from start to finish.
One of the most unique parts of Dream Machine’s sound comes from their tuning. Doris and Matthew Melton, the husband-wife duo fronting Dream Machine, began learning about an experimental orchestra lead in Bulgaria by Ivan Yanakiev, where Yanakeiv studied the effects of the concert tunings of A=440hz and A=432hz. Through a number of different experiments, Yanakeiv discovered that different sounds in nature, both musical and simple like speech have vibration patterns that analyzed at 432hz, rather than 440hz. The theory is that by playing music at 432hz at the more natural vibration, you’re counteracting the unnatural vibrations produced by extremely-low frequencies that can cause emotional distress to restore vibrational harmony.
The second song on the album, “Run of the Mill,” starts with an off-rhythm drum and organ that winds through several time signatures before finally landing with Doris Melton’s seemingly-angelic vocals. While the tone and feeling of the song may not be “heavy,” the influences from bands like Black Sabbath and other progressive bands of this era show in this song.
“Fool’s Paradise” and “We’ll Never Stop” have their own kind power and drive behind them, but while the rest of the album seems to have used influences and made something unique and beautiful from them, I was lost in the familiarity of the riffs of these two songs. “Fool’s Paradise” sounded like Blondie’s “Call Me,” and “We’ll Never Stop” sounded like “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf. However, both have redeeming qualities: The riding bass line throughout “Fool’s Paradise” sets the energy, and is a compelling way to roll into the album, and although I thought “We’ll Never Stop” lacked stamina for the majority of the song, I think the most interesting guitar and organ solo is on this track.
My favorite part of Dream Machine lies within the uber-talented Doris Melton. While I enjoyed the songs like “Breaking the Circle” and “Lost in the Thrill” where Matthew Melton’s guitar and vocals were at lead, I found myself enthralled by Doris’ intriguing piano at the beginning of “Your Dream has No Purpose,” or her Nancy Sinatra-esque vocal performance on “Fuel to the Fire.”
Even after listening to something polar-opposite to Breaking the Circle, I found myself wondering which masterful piano riff that song was from or singing the earworms that were the choruses. I was really surprised I enjoyed this album as much as I did, and that it stuck with me as much as it did.
Fuzz rock may not be the genre I get giddy for, but this album makes me give a second thought to that. It stays true to everything that inspired it, from the fashion to the politics and even the equipment used to record the record. If you’re looking for a new album to mix things up with a bit of a familiar twist, this is for you.
Notable tracks: “Fuel to the Fire”; “Your Dream has No Purpose”; “Born of Another World”
FFO: The Doors, The Hush Sound, Jefferson Airplane