Thank you to The Haze Mag and Corin Shearston for this review.
Based in the Blue Mountains of NSW, perplexing indie rockers earprojector perform live gigs as a four-piece but mainly exist as a one-man recording venture for their albums. Over half a decade ago, around the release of their first album, they were once described as sounding like “Marilyn Manson gatecrashing a Beatles session”. Following this iconic comment by Andrew Ryan from Mojos Bar Fremantle, earprojector have evolved significantly. On the 12th of June this year, the group presented listeners with the ultimate human-machine hybrid of music – their third album, titled Mind Over Machine. The album’s concept is based in its production – an intricate blending of organic, analogue instruments and voices with sounds that are intensely digital and electronic, to result in hybridisation. As the lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, and album producer/recording player for earprojector, Raman Menon states that the album is the ultimate realisation of everything he wanted earprojector to be. He also appears on the album cover. “For the first time I felt really confident to just ignore what other producers were doing, [and] to go with what felt right for me” – Raman Menon, earprojector Mind Over Machine makes its presence known by quickly dropping the listener into a satisfyingly-hypnotic synth groove in its first track, ‘Late Night Drive’. One can then be led to ponder whether the cleanly definable electronic layering and undeniable, comfortable grooves of much of this album were inspired by the famed ‘krautrock’ and EDM genres of Germany. This may have some relevance, considering that songwriting for Mind Over Machine began “with a really intense writing session through a particularly intense winter in Berlin”, as Menon divulged in the band’s short self-made documentary on Facebook recently. Providing a brief recollection into earprojector’s two previous albums, an experimental, DIY, self-titled debut from 2013, and a more confident sophomore album from 2017, entitled Avant-Pop Dirt, Menon is eager to state that Mind Over Machine marks a real turning point in his creative approach to music, lyrics, songwriting, and the sound of the band. It’s true – for an album that trades so much in the pulsing, off-kilter rhythms of heavily synthesised keyboards, guitars, electronic drums, and effects, the emotional weight of Menon’s sensitive lyrical introspection is refreshingly new. Now back in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Menon reveals that he experienced some joyous creative highs and dismal existential lows while writing the album in Berlin. Having tasked himself with writing one song every day for a month while he was there, he summarised, on the documentary, that his creative time in the city was exhilarating but it could also be very challenging. The resulting depths of Menon’s inspired soul-searching are most evident in phrases from album’s intensely personal, yet mellow eighth track, ‘What I Wanted To Find’. With other tracks, our own subjectively-applied feelings of sadness, longing, loss and regret are most encouraged by the melancholic and reflective moods in ‘Sunday’s Song’, ‘Monday’s Song’, and ‘Into The Sky’. Regarding his reliance on heavy emotions for inspiring music, Menon believes that songwriting is best when songwriters are truly vulnerable. For the first time in his recording career in earprojector, Menon’s own vulnerability has properly shown itself, at multiple times.On the other end of the musical spectrum, we are presented with a handful of jagged, angular, and mystifying rock tracks, such as ‘Black Lie’, ‘Nikki’s On Fire’ (my personal favourite), and ‘Chemical Chance’, with this third song veering into the ‘robot-rock’ territory of Era Vulgaris by Queens Of The Stone Age. Interestingly, ‘Chemical Chance’ is the album’s only track to be credited to an additional co-writer, Paul Handel. So, although the rhythms for these songs were written in a cold European city, it’s evident that earprojector’s raw groove power was stoked to some heat. Completing the album’s performing personnel, esteemed Sydney jazz trombonist/trumpeter James Greening plays horns on three tracks, Lulu Ilanda (Sonori) lends her ethereal backing vocals to two, and Christine Abel performs the intro vocal on ‘Black Lie’. Mind Over Machine was mixed and mastered by Nick Franklin, who’s also worked with the likes of Peking Duk and Polish Club. While the live four-piece were originally planning to tour Australia extensively in support of Mind Over Machine, we’ll have to wait to see if easing COVID-19 restrictions will still allow for many upcoming shows from Menon, along with drummer Ian Dunn (RED BEE/Green Rose), backing vocalist and keyboard player Dilara Ay (Green Rose), and bassist Greg Charlton (Egg Malt). Until then, we can relax and rock out at home as we’re welcomed into the unique clockwork world of earprojector’s third album, which is available HERE: https://earprojector.bandcamp.com/album/mind-over-machineSet controls to stun.You can also watch the music video for album single ‘The Invisible Man’ by following this link – it’s another earprojector clip that was filmed at Shelter Studios in North Katoomba: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYYcWDDfXjA
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