Dedicated to putting out tiny releases to assuredly equally tiny audiences, London?s Mandolin Records are the home of "Machines Orchestra," the new CD from Verona, Italy?s experimental guitar and electronics duo, Velcro. Recorded in the fall of 2005, this live set shows the pairing of Andrea Tumicelli, and Davide Piotto, creating a fairly uninspired, improvised landscape, clocking in at a little less than thirty minutes. Looped guitar phrases are layered with electronic drumbeats, sampled voices, radio chatter, and controlled feedback, which amounts in the end to a subdued, but busy mix. The problem I have with this is that while I wouldn?t call it bad, I also can?t find anything in it that grabs me. It?s pleasant enough at times, and slightly off-putting when the players wish it to be so, but there?s nothing here that hasn?t been done a million times before, and also to much better effect. I guess stateside there?s the allure of two Italian guys noodling about in some coffee shop, looped on espresso, and rocking the Casio drum tones; but I remember doing shit like this in high school, and I also remember it being way cooler too.
On the title track, a basic, somewhat menacing electronic beat is wed with a pulsating undercurrent of feedback, and grating, scratchy noise that occasionally calls to mind a less propulsive, early Einsturzende Neubauten. As the noise slowly recedes, you are met with a subtle and simple guitar loop that exposes the murmuring of the crowd, which resurfaces throughout the rest of the recording. While it?s clear that many in the audience are not listening as intently as the band might have wanted, the interplay of noise between the performers and the crowd may be one of the more interesting facets to the recording. Maybe they?re discussing why a label all the way across the pond in London would care enough to risk a release this mediocre in the first place.
As for the rest of the album, simple guitar phrases and more mildly annoying and spastic drumbeats come and go in a fairly loose improvisation that never sits in one place for very long. It is this impatience that keeps "Machines Orchestra" from ever really getting off the ground. None of the four tracks are given a chance to develop into anything interesting, and all four tracks are abruptly faded out as though they were part of a sampler CD. Seeing as how this was a live performance, why couldn?t the pieces have been presented in their full glory? I wonder if perhaps the players were unable to get anywhere beyond the fundamental skeleton of their material, rendering the idea of ?full glory? a tad rhetorical.
In the end, I can?t escape the fact that "Machines Orchestra" sounds like it was hobbled together from, what may have been in a complete and unedited context, a release of more depth and meaning, were the guys involved willing to respect their work as a single entity, and not as shards of a basic sonic framework that alludes to something more, but ultimately doesn?t deliver. 4/10 -- John Cramer (27 June, 2006)