Oct 2021 31

Album CoverUnitcode:Machine
Album: Themes For a Collapsing Empire
Category: Industrial / Electro / Rock
Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2021-08-06


It could be said that much of Eric Kristoffer’s output with Unitcode:Machine has hearkened back to a particular era of the electro/industrial scene, one that a writer on this publication referred to as “the Metropolis sound.” Of course, this hasn’t dissuaded the Texas musician from continuing to hone his craft and strive for a greater level of songwriting and production to enable his band to achieve a sound of its own, evident on his latest effort, Themes For a Collapsing Empire. Each of the nine songs on this record present finely tuned layers of coarse electronic textures, with lush pads mingling with scorching leads and gritty bass lines, augmented by tightly programmed drums and searing guitars that provide ample bite to the songs without overwhelming into bouts of alt. rock. Through it all, Kristoffer’s emotive and powerful vocals resonate with thoughtful lyrics that demonstrate a keen ear for a great hook. For instance, on a song like “Falling Down,” the guitars and rolling synth arpeggios grind against the despairing tone of the vocals, danceable beats making for a downright infectious track that demands repeated listens. Similarly, songs like “Lose It All” and “Buy Me Now” are instantly striking and sure to get trapped in your head whether you like it or not, especially on the latter track as the shuffling rhythm and distorted popping synths in tandem with the vocal melody almost evoke a later period Depeche Mode or an earlier Project Pitchfork. Chiasm’s Emileigh Rohn appears on “Drift Away,” her voice against the darkly slow electro beat and cold trickling pianos making for an outlier on the album, the ambience of stuttering synths made all the eerier with lines like “aren’t you terrified?” Of course, the track might’ve done with a bit of Kristoffer’s gruffer tone to offset Rohn’s lilting harmonies, but it’s hardly a detriment. But perhaps the finest example of Unitcode:Machine’s musical prowess is the instrumental “The Airman and the Atom Bomb,” which begins with a somewhat synthwave vibe in the intro with slow and atmospheric synths; the guitars and the beat enter with a crystalline keyboard lead that takes the song into Gary Numan territory… it’s quite excellent. Clocking in at over 35 minutes, Themes For a Collapsing Empire moves at a brisk pace – each track displays Unitcode:Machine’s economy of songwriting with sophisticated arrangements that leave the listener wanting more, but never unsatisfied. Above all, it’s a fiercely melodic album that resounds with the sonic force of industrial/rock, but with the tuneful accessibility of lighter forms of electro. It’s not a perfect record… but it’s damn close.
Track list:

  1. Fight
  2. This Collapse
  3. Falling Down
  4. Silence the Noise
  5. Lose It All
  6. Buy Me Now
  7. The Airman and the Atom Bomb
  8. Drift Away
  9. Time Conquers All

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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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