.SYS Machine – Graceful Isolation

.SYS MACHINE is the chill, electronic project of Dave McAnally who is known for his work in his industrial metal project Derision Cult. As far as I can see, .SYS MACHINE got their start in 2016 with their self-titled, debut album and has been on a non-stop creative course ever since. The project has released three albums to date and four EPs. To say the very least, .SYS MACHINE has been quite busy. Perhaps their most definitive to date comes in the form of their latest EP, “Graceful Isolation”. Featuring thirteen songs in total, three of those being collaborations with Kimberly of Bow Ever Down and eight of those being remixes, “Graceful Isolation” combines IDM presentation with gorgeous vocals and a wide array of remix talent. 

The first collaboration I come across is also the first song on the album, ‘Poison In My Skin’. I’ve been listening to a ton of chillout music lately, especially when I’m in the shower. As I wash my sins away under hot water, nothing gets my tense nerves calmed more than soothing electronic music. And that’s exactly what I experience on ‘Poison In My Skin’. Light bass pulses through whirling electronics, the samples of which are never abrasive but lax and calm. Kimberly of Bow Ever Down does a wonderful job matching this soothing energy on the single; she’s able to match the previously described chillout that emanates from this single. 

‘All the Pieces’ continues the trend of light and chilling electronics, injecting further IDM elements and sci-fi flair into its momentum. The beginning of the song reminds me of a walk on a sunny day in some kind of futuristic, corporate ruled park. The song shifts later on to match the lyrics, turning into a stompy electronic piece. Around the four-minute and twenty-nine second mark does the angst of the track dissolve back into the calm tone that was present at the beginning of the song. I was then let out as the song faded away. Once again, Kimberly does a phenomenal job both matching the sootheness of the song as well as the tougher energies found within.  The third and final collaboration between the two projects comes in the form of ‘Impossible Dreams’. This is song where genre definitions escape my tongue and the only way to describe it is as an electro-acoustic piece. Acoustic strings and light, rhythmic beats are available. 

The next two songs are solo tracks performed by .SYS MACHINE. The first of which is called ‘Drowning in the Past’. I was not a huge fan of the first minute or so of it as it was purposefully made to sound raw and unfinished. However, around the one-minute and twenty-eight second mark does the track come alive. .SYS MACHINE understands his own music well enough, and matches the slick pace of the track and the relatively relaxed beat with almost-whispered vocals. The varied elements and electronic samples finalize on ‘Illusions’, which serves as the final outro track before heading into the remix section. Be sure to listen in on this track for a pretty dope sounding, lo-fi guitar solo.

While remix sections on albums do have merit and can be a fun diversion, I never give them full weight when it comes to the score of the album itself. I find the artists original material to be more important than the remixes that come attached. Nonetheless, my favorite of these remixes is Blue Eyed Christ’s version of ‘Illusions’. The varied vocal samples added into the song fits so well, and the synthpop-ish vibe that Blue Eyed Christ added to the song only compliments it further. Well done. 

“Graceful Isolation” is a pretty wicked album. While I do maintain that IDM has a huge stay on the album, the amount of other genres and experimental efforts on the album also evolves it into something further. Many of the songs are easy to get comfortable with while others demand action. It’s a fun romp and one that, even after a couple of listens, keeps me guessing as to what’s coming next. Seven-and-a-half out of ten! 

This review was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.

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