Bow
Man in the Machine

Bow is a project spawned from the mind of Chris van der Linden, a guy likely better known for his work under the title Fourteen Twentysix. Although Fourteen Twentysix has been called ‘progressive rock’, it may have been more fitting to call it a mix between ambient music and alternative rock; a combination that worked quite well if I might add.

In this self-released solo project, Chris puts an even greater focus on the atmospheric element of his sound, going so far as to extricate the ‘rock’ energy from the formula altogether. What you’re left with is an experimental, composition-oriented slab of industrial-grade ambiance, a forty-five minute piece of atmosphere plucked straight from the post-nuclear apocalypse. Don’t let the ambient label fool you; there’s plenty going on here, and it’s not likely we’ll be hearing any part of “Man in the Machine” in office elevators any time soon. It’s abrasive and mechanical, but there is a human warmth here that hits with the sort of emotional intensity you might not expect from music of this sort.

As an existing fan of what van der Linden did with Fourteen Twentysix, it comes as a surprise to hear him coming from such a different direction. Granted, Fourteen Twentysix was a pretty atmospheric band in its own right, but “Man in the Machine” is approached with a certain air of abstraction. From the opening spoken-word dialogue, it’s readily evident that a great deal of thought’s been put into the album. Beneath the expansive industrial orchestrations, there’s a fitting concept to boot. Although we are only let in on the themes through pieces of cryptic dialogue interspersed throughout the album, the conceptual aspect is effective and clear. Bow asks the question; are humans any more than functional, organic machines? Routine is everything, and as technology becomes all the more important, are true, human experiences becoming marginalized? There are some pretty heady ideas explored in Man in the Machine, and the definitive solution for these issues is held just out of reach. These bits of spoken word are easily reminiscent of Pain of Salvation‘s conceptual opus BE, where spoken word dialogue was used somewhat similarly. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy the music of Bow without this concept, but this sort of abstract narrative really helps to give the cold atmosphere of Bowsome proper context.

Man in the Machine is a title that also seems to reflect the music itself. There are plenty of machine-like, or mechanical timbres observed on the album. Following the spoken overture, Bow plunges deep into some abrasive percussion that sounds quite larger-than-life, despite the fact that much of it has no-doubt been produced via computer. Particularly towards the middle of the album, there are long-winded sections of quasi-noise ambiance, filtered through a refined, precise sense of production and mixing. To counter this, there’s a more ‘human’ aspect of sound on the record. Most notably, there’s a beautiful violin motif that pops up a couple of times. Considering we are brought into the album expecting a robot to stare us in the face for the album’s entire length, it’s a great thing to have that sort of balance.

Although the album’s been cut into tracks, it flows as one epic. At forty five minutes, it never overstays its welcome, although at times it can feel longer than it actually is, if only for the fact that Chris never rushes the way the composition twists and turns. Bow is a project with plenty of potential, perhaps even moreso than Fourteen Twentysix. It’s great to hear ambient music approached with a sense of composition, yet retaining its pleasantly cerebral abstraction. After an epic climax in “The Way Out”, Bow once again sets off into the distance; does the narrator truly find the solace and meaning he’s been looking for?  I think if there was a science-fiction film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz involving a robot in search for a human heart, I think Man in the Machine would be the first choice of a soundtrack. It’s looming and vast, but like any human, it’s driven by a sense of vulnerability and confusion. It’s a great album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Conor Fynes
September 13th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Bast

    Got me interested


  2. Commented by: Razorhog

    Thanks for this review. I absolutely love this kind of music to listen to while reading.


  3. Commented by: Apollyon

    Listened to the bandcamp stream and have to say, this stuff really delivered. Very inspiring stuff to lose yourself in.


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