Machine Girl


(Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )

WLFGRL (2014), 6/10
Gemini (2015), 5/10
Because I'm Young Arrogant And Hate Everything You Stand For (2017), 6.5/10
The Ugly Art (2018), 7/10
U-Void Synthesizer (2020), 6/10
Neon White: Part 1 - "The Wicked Heart" (2022), 7/10
Neon White: Part 2 - "The Burn That Cures" (2022), 4.5/10
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New York's duo Machine Girl (producer Matt Stephenson and percussionist Sean Kelly), heir to the genre of breakcore and digital hardcore, debuted with the single Gravity Diva and three EPs: Electronic Gimp Music (2013), 13th Hour (2013) and GRLPWR (2013).

The frantic breakneck beats and chaotic samples of WLFGRL (2014) introduced them as generic but effective makers of supersonic beats in the tradition of Death Grips. The album is a creative compendium of breakcore (Krystle, Freewill, Excruciating Deth), jungle (Ionic Funk), techno (Ghost) and footwork (the eight-minute Hidden Power).

The glimmering sound of the fully instrumental Gemini (2015) tamed the percussive extremes but also enabled a more creative approach to song development, as evident in Cloud99 and Weightless. Songs like Lilith match the pounding rhythm with radio-friendly melodies.

Phantasy Trax (2016) is a compilation of leftovers, remixes and B-sides.

Because I'm Young Arrogant And Hate Everything You Stand For (Orange Milk, 2017) marked a quantum leap forward in brutality. Because I'm Young Arrogant is an explosive mix of screams and pounding beats, and it's just the beginning of a relentless bombardment of digital hardcore (Fuck Up Your Face, Dumbass, etc). The pressure is kept high by breakcore numbers like Vomit and the angry hip-hop of Bitten Twice. At the same time, they concoct the cartoonish singalongs Bullet Hell and It Takes a Nation of Millenials to Destroy a Nation of Millions (possibly the standout). But for those who grew up with Atari Teenage Riot this album was not all that impressive. Quite the opposite.

MRK90 Mix Vol.1 (2017) is a one hour-long mixtape of leftovers, demos and remixes. It is also their most radio-friendly release yet.

The Ugly Art (2018) doubled down on the violence. There is more than digital hardcore at play. The songs betray the influence of other traditions: This Is Your Face on Dogs is a Ministry-esque epilepsis in disguise, Status is screamo in disguise, the propulsion of Necro Culture Vulture is a close relative of the slam-dance of punk-rock, and so on. It all comes together in explosive and abrasive songs like Psycho Signal Jammer and Fuck Your Guns. The album reaches a peak of complexity and fury with the intricate syncopated beats of Fuck Puppet and Full Metal Dipshit. There are also a danceable instrumental NWOFKA Skullboy and a couple of ambient interludes. The ten-minute suite A Decent Man sums it all up, both bestial ferocity and mingboggling polyrhythms.

U-Void Synthesizer (2020) indulges in tempo shifts more typical of old-fashioned prog-rock than of digital hardcore, while the screaming sounds less authentic, less vitriolic. In part this leads to confused songs that simply recycle stereotypes from the previous albums, like opener The Fortress, and feel like they were assembled mechanically; but this eclectic reshuffling also yields strange atmospheric hybrids like Devil Speak and especially Batsu Forever. New influences percolate through the barrage of evil beats and distortions: notably synth-pop (or, better, bubblegum-bass) in Scroll of Sorrow and extreme hip-hop in Suck Shit. The album still boasts a decent share of suffocating bangers, especially On Coming, Fortress Destroyer and Fully in It.

The EP RePorpoised Phantasies (2020) collects rescues five leftovers.

The 83-minute Neon White: Part 1 - "The Wicked Heart" (2022) was composed as the (instrumental) soundtrack for a videogame ("Neon White"). The sound is dense, dynamic and sleek without being overly aggressive, reminiscent of their mixtape MRK90 Mix Vol.1, and deprived of the screaming part. The electronic timbres are fat and elastic, bouncing around nonstop. Glass Ocean sets the tone with its moody, danceable and chromatic combustion. Virtual Paradise, Cloud Nine and Angel's Peak have a strong melodic core, quasi-vaporwave. Hellion and Rigged Game are the closest things to conventional dance-pop songs. The more sophisticated House of Cards bridges breakcore with a nostalgic melodic theme. Having mastered the technique of shifting tempos, each song changes multiple times but always maintaining its identity. Despite the amount of music, nothing here is redundant. The grotesque magniloquence of Sin to Win and The Wicked Heart, the twisted form of propulsion, almost noir, of Pendulum, the acrobatic polyrhythms of Solitary Grace, the cartoonish breakcore of Thousand Pound Butterfly, they all help to cement the cohesion of the album despite opening up as many detours. The eight-minute Hand of God is perhaps the only disappointment.

Neon White: Part 2 - "The Burn That Cures" (2022) adds the B-sides, in general more relaxed and generic electronic music. Hard to salvage anything. The most substantial pieces, like Millenium Escalator, simply reenact old ideas.

(Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )