Relaxed Machinery Review – A Thing of Beauty To An Object of Regret by Lowell Levene-Sims

22nd August 2011

It would be far too easy to simply describe Lowell Levene-Sims as an “intrepid bass explorer”, as that really does not do him, or his music, any justice, as this, his new album on Relaxed Machinery, is more than the sum of it’s parts, and much much more than “a bass guitar album”.

The first track, Aerial Momentum, starts in a haze of windchimes, swirling about as if driven almost horizontal, then gently drifting into an almost  mirror image of guitar work, this opening piece awakens, then lulls again, as if readying  you what is next to come.. This Is Not A Warning is more in a “post-rock” vein, but is full of static movement, great guitars and bass, with what I think is a dypthenised synth or guitar breaking through, raising the energy up a notch each time it arrives..

Fear Creates Danger, Courage Dispels it, is up next, a gentle, yet at the same time uneasy track of bowed bass guitar, which alludes to Stockhausen, or perhaps even hints of Gorecki’s more “difficult” stripped down works..  drawing you in with it’s rich sonic tones. Excellent.

Transmigration, the longest track on the album at just over 17 minutes, does exactly what it says on the tin. Moving effortlessly across genre’s, and it’s where we hear Sims free up and play his bass guitar, moving forwards all the time, with underlying electronics and field recordings, and what I think is a lone typewriter, melancholically tapping out it’s singular existence. Probably my favourite track on the album, due to it’s sense of drift created by the sonorous tone of the bass juxtaposed with the other sounds and intertwining rhythms.

Perseverance is a stripped down track, with a bass melody that exudes heat and dust, with an almost “flamenco” feel in parts, beautiful, and for me, I could easily have had it persevere for another ten minutes.

The next track, Coil, is.. well. Simply superb! Again, it gives this feel of dry heat, drifting into humidity, and back again. The up-front guitars layered over the insistent drum pattern, and the gently undulating underpinning of the bass riff reminds me a little of a restrained Spiritualised (just a little). And that’s a Good Thing!

Moving into another realm, but keeping up the energy, is So Good To Have Known You – all shrill electronics, soft bass work, and sweeping synth tones. Probably the most “enigmatic” track on the album, but it reminds me that Lowell Levene-Sims is also an accomplished painter and artist, such is the amalgam of sonics and tonal layering (in fact, this fact stands for the whole album!).

Track 8 is At Rest Beneath The Sand – which is pushed along by a great rhythm track and pulsating bass melody, seamlessly flowing into some warm and rich guitar work. In parts I’m reminded of Talk Talk (circa Laughing Stock), but again, that’s down to the Way Sims is able to strip a song down to it’s core parts, and keep it there, with no fuss, no bluster, just giving you the song, and the sum of it’s parts. Once again, across the whole album you get the feeling that on this particular Journey, he’s travelling light, with not a hint of excess baggage to be found, and absolutely no wastage.

The final track, or should I say final stage of the journey, is Disengage. Floating guitar harmonics fill the space, drifting in and out, with added effects, here and there. This is probably the most “isolated” feeling track on the album, but isn’t that how you feel after a long trip? “Where next…”, but in that kind of “satisfied” way after a long dusty walk.

All in all this is, for me, an album that depicts a traveller’s tales, or an explorer’s, but of the kind who wants to discover as much as they can, write it all down, and start again, onto the next discovery. Absolutely recommended to, and for, any other such intrepid souls.