The Machete – Take Dos – EP Review
Alright…I’ve been waiting to talk to you all about this exciting band based out of Portsmouth, UK called The Machete for a while. Not all on me, I assure you! The Machete has been putting the final touches on their Take Dos EP for a couple months since I first heard their music…and I’ve been stoked to talk to you about it the moment I could get my hands on the songs. Which is happening, right now…as I’m sure if you’re reading, you can tell. What I should also mention though…was that while I was hasty in my want to communicate what I hear in The Machete’s new EP…I probably should have requested an official copy! The band was kind enough to let loose the full line-up of songs…but I have absolutely no clue what order they’re supposed to be in – so forgive me on that one…in terms of layout and discussing the songs on Take Dos today, this might just be all over the place – you’ve been warned!
And while I’d never make any claim to being one of the smartest reviewers you’ll find out there, I did satisfy the due diligence of looking as well – but I couldn’t find the official line-up yet, so we might still have this record in advance of its official release. I can find samples on the internet…and…well…oh hey – look at that will ya? Here comes one now! Convenient timing or what?
“Casa” is a great place to start. Not only does it reside in the first alphabetical spot on the list of songs from The Machete, but as you now know, it’s been put out there on the internet as a track that represents the sound & style of this four-piece band extremely well. And I’d absolutely agree with this song being a fantastic choice to get people hooked on the sound of The Machete. First of all – you’ll easily hear the tremendous skill in the band and the vibrantly entertaining music they make, but you’ll also notice that this band has truly gone their own way in today’s modern music. There is SO MUCH room for this kind of stuff out there right now. Playlists everywhere exist with a hole needing to be filled with something different from the rest – and I’d invite you to take a close listen to The Machete as I believe for many of you, they’ll fill that empty space. “Casa” is a great example of the depth, complexity and skill in the songwriting of The Machete; acoustic-rock with amazing layers of intense, intricate musicianship and instrumental talent. I love the thickness to their sound…notably I think the bass in “Casa” is beyond exceptional; and with the reliability there and shared with the drums in the rhythm section, it leaves the guitars with the ability to explore a serious amount of wild terrain – and they DO.
Again…just note that the EP’s official order will probably differ from the pattern in the writing of this review. On the bright side, not knowing the track listing also really allows me to check into the strength of each song individually – and I dig that. I moved into “Chico Al Fondo” after the beautifully intense beginning with “Casa” and could already hear the consistency in the quality of The Machete and their lineup of new songs. “Chico Al Fondo” doesn’t exactly go dark, but it’s a little more in the shadows than the bright-feelings of “Casa” was. The switch in the final minute of “Chico Al Fondo” is what really took this track up a level for me personally. Don’t get me wrong, The Machete keeps the music highly entertaining and skilled throughout the beginning as well – it’s actually quite hypnotic & mesmerizing during its opening – but that final switch with a minute left to go it truly brilliant. Each of these four players take a massive turn in the spotlight along the way in these songs and they truly deserve credit for just how tight the music and band sound as a result. There’s real unity in this band you can HEAR. The guitars sound absolutely stunning in the breakdown right before a HUGE bass-drop in this acoustic-cut signals the band to kick into a whole new-gear and ending to “Chico Al Fondo.” Writing with a real adventurous sound, The Machete leaves no stone unturned and explore every avenue available to them as they create this material – and when there’s a departure to be made into something new and unique, they take it. There are a lot of chances taken in this writing that requires the skill to keep up to the ambition – and The Machete never disappoints.
A cut like “Jardin” really made me appreciate the clarity in the production AND the performance from this band. Everything…every element in the music…it can all be heard so incredibly well that it’s quite impressive. That may seem like a given for a lot of people out there – I assure you, it’s not. In the independent music-scene, quality can vary quite a bit; The Machete are proving to be incredibly reliable in all facets of their tunes. Listen to the thick & rich bass-tones of “Jardin” and just how well you can hear the drums at every moment and the stunning clarity of the guitars! You might have to make up your own words if you want to sing along to these instrumental songs – but that’s a solid trade to make for the beautiful clarity and crystalline-perfect sounds of this EP. I use “Jardin” as a great example, because the intricate nature of each part in the music is played with immaculate enthusiasm and true-skill – but it HAS to be! I’m not saying they don’t have a choice…but kinda? The stunning mix and clarity of the music itself lets EVERYTHING be heard – so if there was a single mistake or misstep, believe me, you’d hear it. A rhythmic song like “Jardin” with its ever-shifting landscape shows this band has risen to that challenge and conquered it completely.
Okay…this next one blew my mind. I don’t know if you call this a ‘cover song’ of sorts…if there is an official version out there for real or if this is just a riff that people have been riffing on throughout the ages, but “Koro” is sweet brilliance come to life. I know the TETRIS theme song when I hear it gentlemen – I was born in the 80’s and raised on Nintendo! And YES – for the record, I’m sure it probably existed BEFORE Tetris did…but c’mon…ever since, that’s been the Tetris theme song as we all know it and love it today. And you won’t see or hear it coming on “Koro,” it actually starts with an incredibly slick & smooth bass-line before it launches into the recognizable melody on guitar. I’d assume that this is a cut that is going to have a few people listening and scratching their heads as they wonder where they recognize that melody from, but those of you who spent their youths blowing cool air onto their game-cartridges to cool them down and continue playing all afternoon will certainly remember it. The Machete brings it to life here on Take Dos…and you can hear the real celebration that a song like this would become in a live-setting, which I’m sure would be the case for this band along with the audience in front of them.
One of the smoothest grooves on the record comes in the form of the song “No Eye,” which very well could be the most accessible tune on the album for those outside of the instrumental-scene. Of course, over the four-plus minutes of the song, The Machete will weave their tapestry of sound into all-places fantastic once again – but that opening has a strong crossover appeal that could potentially draw many people into this song. As it continues to play, twist and turn throughout the structure, writing and performance, The Machete again shows much skill as they pivot, stop & start-up their parts with a tremendous use of space and tempo to their music. You can tell just how in-sync this band is with each other; in listening to the songs…I can’t imagine them recording with a metronome. That’s not to say that they’re not completely on-time, they are from what I hear personally; it’s more of a comment on how impossible and painstaking it would be to set it all up in the studio. Not to mention…when you’ve got it, you’ve got it…my advice remains stoic here – don’t even use one if you don’t need to. I think these guys just make sure they’ve taken the time to get the best in their performances and don’t let these songs out until they’ve reached the desired standard of perfection. The way the timing and the space move throughout the music is exciting to listen to, challenging for them as musicians to play I’m sure – but the result is an equally shared satisfaction. As listeners, we love to hear this kind of intricate skill come out sounding so natural and so perfect…and as players, they no doubt LOVE to play a song like “No Eye” and rise to the challenges it presents. Pulling this one off on a record is an achievement in itself…pulling it off live perfectly would make you feel like you could conquer the world at large.
I really do think that the tightness of this band speaks to the unity at the core of The Machete. Between these four players, they absolutely never quit on each other and completely support each move and idea in the music as they play. The Machete is a real vision for sound come to vibrant life – and you’ll hear that on their own anthem “The Machete” on the Take Dos EP. The bass-tones come out fantastically-full in their tones once again, and the guitars really take us for a journey throughout this cut. “The Machete” has wildly flailing drums that all land their beats spectacularly into place – but real credit to what’s happening from the throne here on this record, the timing has been incredible. Although “The Machete” has one major riff that it’s kind of built & centered around, everything they’ve done around it works incredibly well from the muted-string strums to the solo-parts surrounding – so it ends up sounding seriously versatile, even though it’s probably more ‘defined’ in each part than some of the other tracks on this record.
The addition of classically-influenced sounds like we found on “Koro” and throughout much of the album has paid off well for The Machete…and it continues to be a strong factor in the final tune I’ve got from the record (at least on this alphabetical list!) called “Trial.” I think that the extra-intense nature of this rhythm and groove has a ton of crossover appeal working in favor for them again – “Trial” is highly energized and massively entertaining. I have no idea if it’s the official last song on the record or not – but I can certainly tell you it would make a great choice! It’s ending my experience with The Machete at the very pinnacle and peak; I’ve loved every minute of this music along the way, but I probably wouldn’t be telling the full truth if I didn’t say “Trial” was perhaps my favorite of the entire bunch. The guitars absolutely shine throughout this last song of my adventure with The Machete – and the sheer range of different textures, tones, melodies and shifting to the structure in the writing is 100% extraordinary.
In short…to wrap this up…I guess what I’m saying is that I cannot fathom the amount of memory, skill and intelligence it would take to make the music The Machete makes. To remember this material…to play it as well as they have…I think this band deserves a whole ton of credit. With the wild exotic tones and melodies they create, they’re bringing something new to the table of modern-day instrumental music – and the sheer enthusiasm and passion in these recordings radiates from every angle of this record. Big fan of this band…I think The Machete is really onto something that a lot of people out there will definitely dig on – and I think the entire Take Dos EP is completely worth your time.
Find out more about The Machete at their official homepage: https://www.themachete.co.uk/
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