The best way to cover an iconic artist’s repertoire, a canon that is so well known that a considerable number of folk can play the songs in their head end to end, note perfect, is to approach it in such a way as to indelibly stamp your own identity on it. Alternatively, cover the less well known parts of the repertoire, or indeed, combine both methods, as Machine Mass do here with a tranche from the back pages of one James Marshall Hendrix.
However you do it, diving into the near-sacred Hendrix back catalogue is a brave move indeed, especially so if you’re a guitarist, as is Machine Mass band leader Michel Delville. He is joined by his powerhouse one-man rhythm section, drummer Tony Bianco, and lurid splashes of extra colour are added by the guesting Antoine Guenet, a young and versatile keyboard player, currently occupying that role for Univers Zero, and leading his own band Sh*tg*n.
It staggers me to think that this rousing album of sci-fi psychedelic jazz fusion was recorded live in the studio “with no overdubs and minimal editing”, with “the songs…presented here in the order they were recorded”. It just doesn’t seem possible.
The album kicks off with a rollercoaster ride through the cosmos and back to The Third Stone From The Sun on a turbulent sea of notes from Michel’s guitar. Little Wing forgoes the famous guitar break entirely and the whole thing is a highly impressionistic flurry over a partially buried spoken word monologue that remains just out of reach, the whole creating a new vision of the oft-played classic. Antione Guenet’s soulful organ playing adds R&B heft to a gut-punching psychedelic soul version of Fire, with Tony Bianco’s drums propelling it along as Michel throws incendiary shapes like a possessed six-stringed circus knife thrower. Marvellous stuff!
The neat contrast between the abruptly ending swirling cacophony of Voodoo Chile and Antoine’s classical piano intro to Burning Of The Midnight Lamp is just another attention grabbing moment of many on this exhilarating journey. The surprise of the dub-heavy bass underpinning the hard rock of You Got Me Floatin’ isn’t really a surprise at all, as by now the curveballs have become anticipated, and I greet them with a smile. Machine Mass turn the original three minute pop song into an eleven minute psychedelic jazz rock-dub-electronica freakout, probably the only way to go!
Along with the likes of Davids Torn and Kollar, Roger Trigaux, Richard Pinhas, and others defined as nominally “rock” plank spankers, Michel Deliville shares an exploratory and individualistic approach to his instrument that ensures that this album, and indeed everything he’s ever been a part of, never falls into cliché, and tackling something as iconic as the Hendrix songbook takes these timeless songs into a new place, a place that Jimi would no doubt approve of. Bravo!
01. Third Stone From The Sun (7:54)
02. Purple Haze (5:47)
03. Little Wing (8:32)
04. Spanish Castle Magic (6:45)
05. Fire (6:20)
06. Voodoo Chile (6:57)
07. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (3:24)
08. You Got Me Floatin’ (10:57)
09. The Wind Cries Mary (2:51)
Total Time – 59:27
Michel Delville – Guitar, Roland GR09, Loops, Stylophone, Electronics, Samples
Tony Bianco – Drums, Percussion
Antoine Guenet – Keyboards, Synth, Acoustic Piano
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Catalogue#: MJR 084
Date of Release: 1st June 2017