Though they suffered commercial indifference throughout the '90s, Six Finger Satellite's impact on modern music is substantial. Their amalgam of synthesizer experimentation, post-punk propulsion and scuzz-rock's gritty temperament has over the last 15 years inspired numerous artists in noise, minimal wave, electroclash, post-rock and even technoise. What's more, it's an influence that's significantly amplified when you consider the related projects, namely The Juan MacLean (John Maclean was a member) and LCD Soundsystem (James Murphy was the group's sound engineer).
Yet another related project is the now-defunct La Machine, consisting of SFS members Rick Pelletier and Jonathan Loper. Overlapping with the band's peak years (1994 to '99), the bass/drums duo actually presaged both The Juan MacLean and LCD Soundsystem in exploring different ways their aesthetic could be transformed into dance music. Unfortunately, scant few of their studio experiments made it beyond a clutch of homemade CD-Rs and cassettes. The lone exception was the compilation-only nugget "Metatron"—four frenetic minutes of punk energy folded into a Giorgio Moroder tape loop, released at a time (1999) when underground rock was awfully frigid towards disco.
But thanks to Castle Face Records, a larger sampling of La Machine's vision is now widely available via Phases & Repetition. As with "Metatron," these lost recordings are utterly prescient, if for entirely different reasons. Rather than discoid weirdness, they spotlight La Machine's fusions of greasy robo-rock and ESG-like avant-funk. Anchoring everything is Pelletier's gummy bass: primal in its wallop, deft in its timing. Skittering about its legs are Loper's nervy yet wildly metronomic beats (snare and hi-hat predominantly). As for vocals, those again are Pelletier. Either he's intoning odd little phrase like on "Find A Way" and "Too Bad," or he's whooping and hollering like a stoned-to-the-gills James Brown.
The X-factor here is the assortment of warbling vocal treatments and dub/reverb tactics, and how they vary from cut to cut. When used sparingly, as on "Sucks To Come Down" and "Rock Crash," the fact that La Machine are at heart art school funk minimalists really becomes evident. But when Loper and Pelletier drench the tape in said effects, their jams turn all molten and disembodied. "Chop Shop" and "Who Is He" are prime examples, and neither one sounds necessarily like a live band, but rather a hypnotic, third-eye convergence of several swirling loops and oscillations. Though Phases & Repetition is, technically speaking, an archival release, La Machine's music feels so uniquely fresh that it might as well had been recorded only yesterday.
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Tracklist: La Machine - Phases & RepetitionA1 Rock Crash
A2 Too Bad
A3 Chop Shop
B1 Find The Way
B2 Sucks To Come Down
B3 Who Is He
C Little Dog