The Machine is a new project from Matt Edwards, better known as Radio Slave, but just as importantly it's a collaborative project that's designed to integrate music, art, and film. Edwards is a key cog in the machine, but so too are Australian clothing designer Misha Holenbach, who has created an image to accompany each track on the album (intended to be displayed in The Machine gallery events), and underground filmmakers Jigoku, who are fashioning a short film inspired by the album. All well and good, but our immediate concern is naturally with RedHead, the musical side of the equation and Edwards' debut album under the name. The basic idea underlying the project is for it to integrate samples and found sounds from around the globe into a collage-based ‘world' music. Natural percussion elements, chants, and assorted other samples are woven into dizzying swirls in tracks that Edwards allows to stretch out for as much as sixteen minutes.
The album's opening piece, “Continental Drift,” suggests that RedHead might be a collection of ambient-drone meditations, and thus an even more radical departure from Edwards' known work than anticipated. After opening with field recording sounds that seem to document the creaks and groans of a seaside harbour, the track then works the creaks into the rhythmic fibre of the track, which scatters ample atmosphere and colour across its droning drift for thirteen minutes. The lightspeed groove that kickstarts “Opening Ceremony (Fuse)” immediately shifts The Machine's sound back to something closer to Radio Slave, however, as congas and voice accents punctuate the track's snappy pulse. But three minutes in, the experimental impulse strikes and a wave of classical choir singing rises that then alternates with African chanting and instrumental sounds. As the track continues, Edwards weaves the disparate elements together until they're inhabiting the same space rather than being segregated from one another. More than the opening track, “Opening Ceremony (Fuse)” exemplifies the collage-style concept underpinning The Machine.
“Spell Bound” emanates from the jazzier corner of the solar system, with a cymbal-driven pulse and snares powering a space capsule that feels like it's careening out of control. Metallic washes and screaming tones add a disturbing aura to the track's soundtrack, after which “Talking Dolls” works its thudding, proto-tribal funk groove into the ground, making it sound as club-ready as the album gets, no matter the track's ‘global' bent. The album has its share of metronomic and relentless moments, as the quite literally machine-like rhythm and melodic patterns of “Leopard Skin” demonstrate and as the aptly titled “Root People” shows when it digs into its exotic dance rhythms with such fervour. It would be a stretch to call it club music but RedHead more than lives up to its billing as a departure from Edwards' Radio Slave sound and signifies another developmental step in his own artistic growth.