Carptree - Man Made Machine

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: SPV 085-48502CD/IOMCD 223
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:34:00

What attracted me to progressive rock, at least initially, was the theatrical nature of it; an emotional, cathartic, dramatic element that I discovered with Marillion - Fish-era, of course. And from there I sought like-minded progressive rock. That led me to early Genesis, among many others. Carptree, at least here on Man Made Machine, hit those same areas, with a darkness that reminds me of Discipline without the King Crimson elements. That is, the music of Carptree is dark and dense, but not heavy in a metal way (although there are some sections that come close). It's art-rock where the art in question is theatre. It is both modern and classic at the same time, and if you were to take the music of Gabriel-era Genesis, put it in a much darker, gloomier, gothic almost, context, then you'd have an idea of what I mean by theater. You don't have to look at the lyrics to get the emotional beats of their music. But it's modern in that Carptree take a more direct approach, like? well, Kino is who came to mind, Frost* maybe. These may seem like contradictory elements, but once you listen to Man Made Machine, you'll get it. Those who like the style of progressive rock that Genesis, Fish, etc., artists produce are sure to like Carptree. Let me tell you that I do. It's the kind of album that doesn't reveal itself on the first go; one has to listen to it more than once; peel it back, layer by layer. In theater terms, the stage is far from being sparse, and beyond what the lights reveal, there are even more details hidden in the shadows, in the wings.

Although the phrasing is Gabriel, Fish also comes to mind with the vocals of Niclas Flinck, recalling Fish's Vigil and Internal Exile period -- in a fragile, almost whisper kind of way that some of those tracks had. You'll also find Genesis in some of the keyboard/organ washes (Carl Westholm). "Sunshine Waters" is a good example, even as it sounds a bit like Jethro Tull as well. And while the title and some of the pastoral touches are "sunny," there is a dark cloud hanging over this piece that makes it not at all sunny. "The Man You Just Became," too would be an example, and is perhaps the most Genesis-like piece here, and eerily so as you feel you've dropped into the Nursery Cryme/Foxtrot period. And The Flower Kings can be heard in some of the symphonic passages of the first track.

"In The Centre Of An Empty Space" is the most musically lively piece, and is, comparatively speaking, much cheerier in tone (sunnier?). This comes from a strident drum beat, throbbing bass, and bouncy keyboards. It's also the "heaviest" track during the sections where everything explodes from the speakers and includes some odd bits and bobs of sound effects. Pulse-pounding, yes, but the heart is disrhythmic - an irregular heartbeat, that is to say. In a different offbeat kind a way to the "organ-grinder" or "circus" feel to "The Recipe" (short, but not too, at 2:31) -- perhaps because of its hints at Gabriel and Fish, one imagines both a harlequin and a jack-in-the-box. It's mellow (vocals, pipe-organ and synths only) and a bit fragile? a contemplative soliloquy.

Anyway, since we've got a few reviews here already that ably give you a good idea of what to expect, I'll just share some of my quick thoughts on the album's contents. The opening track goes from the delicate vocal and piano opening to something more chaotic with a chorus of voices and booming percussion; that chaotic feel is to be expected in a track called "Titans Clash Aggressively To Keep An Even Score." It sets the mood and feel of the album, which develops and unfolds from there.

"The Weakening Sound" is haunting, sad and lonely, like a shy creature huddled in the shadows of a corner, slowly emerging into the light to reveal not some horrible disfigurement, but that something horrible and emotionally crippling has happened. I don't have the lyrics on hand - there aren't really necessary as the sense of the track is clear from tone and phrasing, and Flinck sings clearly?

"Tilting The Scales" is angrier, as the song lashes out from what seems at first almost a musical lullaby (I thought of Kino, incidentally), and it ends on a much softer, lighter moment? "Man Made Machine" is somewhere in between this and "Sunshine?" It is a brighter track arrangement-wise, though still very much dark, characterized by rolling, marching, industrial percussion and rolling, marching piano. The cogs of this machine turn slowly, but also suggest something very vast. If this machine is what is illustrated on the album cover, then vast by implication rather than physicality. The brighter toned vocal harmonies suggest a touch of Yes, though perhaps of the Drama-era. A martial theme continues in the intro to "Burn To Something New," where percussion and bass play a quick tattoo over parpy keys? This bridge into something more expansive (again, a hint of Yes)? and then closes in on itself again?

"This Is Home," the album's closer, brings back an industrial feel; leisurely vocals skate across an urgent, throbbing rhythm. If "?Centre?" above was pulse-pounding, this ups the rate threefold. But this epic - and there are epic, expansive sections, where we get languid but excitable guitar solos - is a study in contrasts because we also get understated, almost pastoral sections, too.

Carptree are currently scheduled to play RoSFest, and I am expecting a performance that is as visually dramatic as it is musically dramatic. Not necessarily costumes, a-la Genesis, but something more than a staid vocalist in front of microphone. There is life in the music that needs to be dramatized in some manner? Great, emotional and involving stuff; just exactly what I love about progressive rock.

Titans Clash Aggressively To Keep An Even Score (5:29) / Sunshine Waters (5:48) / The Weakening Sound (6:21) / Tilting The Scales (6:50) / The Man You Just Became (5:15) / Man Made Machine (6:18) / Burn To Something New (5:58) / In The Centre Of An Empty Space (5:31) / The Recipe (2:31) / This Is Home (8:17)

Niclas Flinck - lead vocals
Carl Westholm - piano, synthesizer, vocoder, theremin, choir arrangements

Guest Musicians:

Ulf Edelonn - all electric and acoustic guitars, bass (6, 8, 10)
Jejo Perkovic - drums
Stefan Fanden - bass (1, 2, 4, 5), baritone guitar (8)
Jan Hellman - bass (7), electric upright bass (3)
Jonas Waldefeldt - tambourine and percussion (1, 2, 4, 7), background vocals (1, 4)
Oivin Tronstad - background vocals (2, 8, 10)
Cia Backman - background vocals (1, 2, 4, 5, 7)
The Trollhattans Chamber Choir - (3)

Carptree (2001)
Superhero (2003)
Man Made Machine (2005)
Insekt (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: November 28th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1528
Language: english


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