Dagobert's Revenge

The Machine in the Garden

One Winter’s Night

This record is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had all year long, including that time that school got canceled because of a hurricane on a day that I’d forgotten to do my homework. But Robert Fracé and Summer Bowman of The Machine in the Garden never forget to do their homework, I’ll bet. This latest CD, One Winter’s Night oozes intelligence, and that’s one of the things that really turned me off about it. My fear of pretentious crap is sometimes all-consuming. But when I finally forced myself to play it, I felt like a fool. What I discovered was a well-devised and masterful opus skillfully combining goth, industrial, ambient and classical styles, luxurious, euphonious singing and sophisticated theatrical instrumentals with an electronic edge that gives it the feel of a post-modern musicale for the next millennium. Track #3, “Control”, is actually dance music! This is not self-indulgent slaver from people who feign profundity in order to get attention, but music created very carefully by people who care about quality and craftsmanship, to paraphrase a Sears power tool commercial I saw once. Anyone can put on a beret and call themselves an artist, but these people actually are. These two have obviously spent a great deal of time perfecting their work. The production is excellent, the music is interesting, the singing is beautiful, and the lyrics are poetic without having to reach for it, smart without dipping into the realm of what Henry Kissinger called the “pseudo-intellectual.” You get the idea that they aren’t doing this for any reason than because they want to, not to get street cred with some juvenile underground scene. Nor are they content to be starving artists living off of alms for the poor while they wait for the world to understand them. Robert Fracé (sequencing, guitars, bass, vocals) has an MFA in Electronic Arts, and the silver-tongued Summer Bowman (vocals, sequencing, flute) is now starting her second year of grad school, studying primate behavior and ecology at the University of Texas. In addition to One Winter’s Night, the pair have done three albums and two EPs together, including the Prometheus and Io soundtrack, which was part of Mr. Fracé’s master thesis, a multi-media stage production performed in 1996 that included live actors, original video and computer graphics. The lyrics, of course, were taken completely from Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound, as were the words to “Io’s Departure”, track #13 on this latest release. The Prometheus myth and the issues surrounding it seem to be a common theme for The Machine in the Garden, the idea of the conflict between intelligent man, whose spark of mental brilliance was brought to him by Prometheus or Lucifer, whatever you want to call him, who does not want man to use that intelligence to accomplish anything great. In fact the name Machine in the Garden is, according to them, a reference to “technology and its relationship with nature”, a similar conflict. It is a conflict that promises not to be resolved before these guys cut their next album, which I would advise you to look for, and pick this one up as well.

Buy One Winter's Night... at amazon.com

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