Album Review: Gentle Machine - Business End

The debut release from brothers Tom and Petr Pospisil, Business End, means business.  The brothers fled from communist Czechoslovakia to Canada in the late ‘80s.  For the last decade they’ve been working on the songs that would be distilled down to this eight-track debut release, clocking in at a punchy half hour.

Business End is particularly impressive for a self-produced debut.  It boasts sonic touches of late-‘80s REM, the sharpness of The Hives, fused together with the melodic leanings of The Cure.  The album hits the key notes of indie rock, but without becoming stagnant.  There’s more than one trick and more than one texture that Gentle Machine weave through the record.  

Opener Sixteen Tons takes some lines from the now folk standard work song and works it into something completely different.  Instead of slaving away for the coal company, it’s now a call to arms against corruption and corporate slavery.  It’s a bare and driving tune, calling immediately for your undivided attention.  It sets the tone early – this is an album built on social isolations and the helpless feeling that comes from living in a world post-2008, ruled by financial interests.

The social isolation weaves through When I Make Friends and again on Pills, an impressive melodic ballad that is sweetly out of step with itself.  As the tune progresses, the layers and textures come through and peel off in ways that bring the lyrics closer and closer to the listener.  Yet Another Tyrant dips back into the anti-corporate theme of the record, perhaps borrowing from the collective Pospisil family background for some metaphors.  

A striking part of the record is in the production.  Business End was recorded over four months in the brothers’ basement in East Vancouver.  Then mixed by Tom Pospisil.  Other than having some understanding neighbours for four months, Business End is remarkable for Pospisil’s mixing.  Each instrument fits in its own place, interacting with the other melody lines and textures to create a tightly woven whole.  The guitar lines don’t underline each other, or fight each other.  Instead, they break their own melody to the table, shining for their moment then making way for the next chiming guitar, ringing rhythm texture or blistering solo break.

The title track is a sprawling slow burning seven-minute journey, very much steeped in the last decade of indie rock but taking some cues from Pink Floyd.  Maybe it’s more accurate to call it an indie rock song in three movements.  When the textured journey is over, through the lows and the instrumental solos, it doesn’t feel like seven minutes.  The album closer, What’s In My Head, doesn’t go the predictable slow acoustic route to end the album.  Instead it saunters in slowly then grows into some Beck-like rhythms, trading on the same melodic sensibility as the rest of Business End, and wraps up a more than solid debut.  And short enough to let you reach over and press play again before you have to go.

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