Excerpts of reviews for ‘The Safety Machine’
Deeper-then-deep, carefully crafted drones…we can’t recommend anything so highly as this collection of contemplative sounds.
This sounds gloriously bleak and haunting with acoustic guitar, organ drones and ghostly atmospherics. Alex’s vocal and delivery occasionally recall good old Jhon Balance and I’m reminded of Coil on more than one occasion. As far as I can gauge the chap’s only had a few CDr’s out previous to this so let’s hope the vinyl grabs some attention as there is some real visionary stuff happening here, seeping with loneliness and a pervading melancholy. There’s a lot to digest here, from spooked ambient to more ethereal vistas. Hand numbered edition of 310 copies in lovely screened jacket with download. Recommended.
This transmuting of familiar elements beyond mere pastiche into something more mysterious resonates with the music – it is old fashioned yet a-historic, familiar yet fractured and uncanny…Such psychedelic territories have been overworked and overexploited by others, but Monk has succeeded in finding a distinct voice, which is greatly to his credit and anticipates greater things yet to come.
Alex Monk addresses this elephant in the womb by revisiting the genre’s earliest ancestors for inspiration- medieval plainsong, modal folk music, and the European classical modernist composers of the early twentieth century. Channelling these sources through a filter of minimalist music, dub, Krautrock and the various innovations of the post-industrial diaspora, The Safety Machine blends free improvisation with considered composition, gently guiding the listener down into the depths of their own mental underworld and, crucially, back out again.
Rich in instrumentation, and conjuring trances through almost shamanistic chants and drones ‘The Safety Machine’ still manages to find song based structures to ground itself. We could have traveled back in time several decades, for all its psychedelic keyboards and sonics, not to mention lofi production technique. Its raw, unrestrained feel gives the album an edgy tension, at times achingly beautiful, always intriguing. One to put on the headphones, close your eyes and become immersed in.
The Safety Machine is an ambitious double album which is well executed and contains an impressive range of ideas. In a genre crammed with talented artists, Monk provides his own unique brand of psychedelia for experimental music fans in search of something a little different.
The music draws from an intense period in his life, marked by the simultaneity of pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, bleak endings and fresh beginnings – another set of qualities many will deem incompatible, but which turned out to be perfect points of departure for The Safety Machine.
Although it tells enough of a story by itself, the album would make a great accompaniment to visual art, although it would be a film that those more prone to night tremors would be ill advised to take in. Otherwise, it is perfect for an expedition into the subconscious, so long as you’re prepared for where it might lead you.
Echoes and Dust
Much ambient work can drift past the listener without holding the conscious attention butMonks skill is in crafting pieces that keep the listener’s focus front and centre, deeply intriguing stuff.
Not a laugh a minute, then, but definitely recommended for those who like their chills as much as their thrills.
Is this music?
The one artist that springs to mind most when listening to this record is early solo-period Edwyn Collins. This, here, like Collins, is a man with a definite agenda of his own, who has set out to tell the world how he feels and doesn’t give a damn what the response is.
The Safety Machine is totally original (but at the same time probably not what you’d call ground-breaking), doing exactly what it sets out to do perfectly – it sounds like life, in all its intense and distorted glory. An excellent album and marks a wonderful start to music in 2011.
Other Reviews for ‘Kit Mikaya’ and ‘Exchanging Chairs’ CD-R’s
Chris Sharp, The Wire, December issue 2008. Review for ‘Exchanging Chairs’ and ‘Kit Mikaya’
Two years’ worth of pent-up material finds its way out of the world on these simultaneously released dual debut albums. Alex Monk is a London based musician/producer who uses laptop trickery and a concatenation of effects pedals to balance swathes of gaseous ambience against chiming, layered guitars. Hardly a revolutionary approach, you might think, but his music succeeds in making a genuine emotional impact. The high-built clouds of “Exchanging Chairs” and the psychedelic stasis of “What Thou Lovest Well” achieve a lofty grandeur, while the electronically-enhanced fingerpicking of “Neutrino” and “Death Without Tears” opens up a connection to the visionary beauty of guitarist James Blackshaw. A frail vocal rises like a broken reed through the frozen mist of “Winter Meccanica”; it’s a glacial, incantatory conclusion. The CD’s are packaged in attractively screenprinted 7″ sleeves – but it might be difficult to get hold of them as they’re being made available in a limited edition of just 60 copies each.
Review for ‘Exchanging Chairs’, Losing today magazine
This colossal 6 track 41 minute set from London based musician Alex Monk should by rights appeal to fans of not only Brian Eno, Pimmon, Stockhausen and EAR (especially on the mind melting ‘Soyuz 1’) but Moondog, Roy Montgomery and other fringe psychedelicists operating in outer realms of concrete ambience.
Some time member of Arch slider (who we now feel restless to seek out and sample) Monk crafts monolithic drone scapes by way of sound manipulations extricated via guitars, laptop and found sounds. The set opens with the 11.12 in duration ‘exchanging chairs’, a humungous sloth like slab of glacial ambience reminiscent of Sadar Bazaar and Windy and Carl and yet swept through with a maligned void less elegance more associated with Yellow 6.
This impenetrable slice of bleakly cathedral like stateliness is pierced through by ominous swathes of regal swells that exact an unsettling edge to the proceedings yet strangely sound if truth be known like a despondent half cousin of Laurie Anderson’s ‘Oh Superman’. ‘Neutrino’ with it’s flurry of chime charming softly strummed chords could easily assume a place on Montgomery and Heaphy’s ‘True’ set without a so much as a batting of the eye lid though on this occasion sounding as though both Roy Budd in collaboration with Gnac had wrestled with the recording giving it a curious rain swept noire-ish appeal.
The abstract sounding ‘The Advocate on the other hand is something that Ochre records would have welcomed with arms wide a few years back given their love of all things inspired by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop while the daintily frail lunar-esque suite ‘MG’ brings the set to a lulling close – think early career ISAN meets Raymond Scott, a shyly beguiling slice of chilled out spectral galactic pop or rather more a binary coded lovelorn epitaph to a fading memory.
However all said and done the sets crowning glory is the heavenly apparition like ‘Przykrosc’. A beautifully realised symphonic score that’s filtered through with layer upon layer of reverential swathes of unworldly celestial grace, shimmers and twinkles achingly with a sense of monastic majesty brought to heel by the appearance of Madam Butterfly like operatics which all at once evoke polar mood swings that veer between tearful tragedy and euphoric ecstasy.
Quite perfect if you ask me.
Review of ‘Exchanging Chairs’, Wonderful Wooden Reasons,2008
Guitar and laptop explorer Alex Monk’s first ep sees him embracing muscular drones and gentle soundscapes. Opener, Exchanging Chairs, is a huge great hairy mountain man of a track that howls and powers along for 10 minutes before giving way to the more relaxed ambience of the rest of the album. Monk shows a deft hand at creating and holding a vibe and maintains an easy, rolling flow throughout