Machine Mass: Machine Mass Plays Hendrix (MoonJune)

Steve Greenlee's review of third album from experimental jazz rock band

Cover of Machine Mass Plays Hendrix album
Machine Mass Plays Hendrix album

For its third album, Machine Mass uses Jimi Hendrix songs as the starting points for improvisation. The trio’s music is several different kinds of jazz and rock, simultaneously. Everything from fusion and funk to shoegaze and free jazz finds a home here. Textures are more important than structure, chord progression or melody.

Guitarist Michel Delville (who also does electronics and samples) and drummer Tony Bianco are back for the band’s third album, but the saxophone chair has been jettisoned in favor of keys. The third member this time is Antoine Guenet, whose work on the piano, keyboards and synthesizer pushes the group even further into experimental territory. Here are nine of Hendrix’s best-known tunes—“Purple Haze,” “Little Wing,” “Voodoo Chile” and “The Wind Cries Mary” among them—and they’re barely recognizable. Machine Mass makes each its own. “Spanish Castle Magic” builds on a psychedelic swirl of electric guitar, electronics and organ sounds. “Fire” veers toward metal territory with crazy electric guitar, thrashing drums and Deep Purple organ, but ever-changing group improv conjures early-’70s Miles more than prog-rock or heavy metal. “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” begins as a delicate piano solo before abruptly switching to an organ-fueled stomp. It’s musical whiplash. “You Got Me Floatin’” is 11 minutes of anything-goes craziness in which a keyboard conjuring a monstrous buzzing insect sounds completely normal. Machine Mass Plays Hendrix is a fascinating record that captures the excitement of blurring—or ignoring—boundaries.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Machine Mass Plays Hendrix by Machine Mass on iTunes.