But it's with The Emperor Machine that Meecham lets loose his inner synth-misfit. In a recent interview, he described his current sound as "analog synths/bass guitar malfunction with vocals." "Malfunction" might be the key word there: the general aura of The Emperor Machine is warped electronic funk that's run through the occasional bit of haywire circuitry. The title track, previously released as a Hi-NRG-esque cut, appears on the album as an altogether different beast—a hard-charging piece of demolition equipment, its thumps and squalls made human by vocalist Michelle Bee's aggressive, apparently improvised cooing. "Voices," meanwhile, recalls the sort of post-punk funk that bands like Pigbag were doling out in the early '80s, dense with hyperdrive percussion that threatens to outrun the rubbery bass and Bee's musings about "triangular voices."
It's not all tumbling rhythms and fractured arrangements on Like A Machine. A song like "So.Ma.So" pops and sparkles, with an utterly groovy bassline and percolating keys bouncing atop a deliberately paced, disco-tinged breakbeat. That track's vintage Roland System 700 synth was programmed by Todd Terje—but a few of the numbers bring to mind another Norwegian, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, particularly his work with vocalist Christabelle on 2010's Real Life Is No Cool. Meecham's "Sonique," to take one example, is reminiscent of that album's "Love Sick," its humid, slo-mo rhythm made even more sultry by Bee's impassioned murmurs. Another occasional point of reference might be Johnny Jewel–produced outfits like Chromatics and Glass Candy (though this record is a bit funkier and loonier). "The Point" sees Bee in icy-cool, neo–Debbie Harry mode, while Meecham provides the glittering, bubbling keyboard action. But really, such comparisons are a bit beside the point: The Emperor Machine is in a realm of its own, one that's a little bit eccentric and a whole lot of fun. It's a sound that Meecham's been honing for two and a half decades, and one that's his alone.