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The Machines Are Sounding Happier

Add N To X
Avant Hard

When I bought Add N To Xs' release On The Wires Of Our Nerves last year, I have to admit that part of the reason I picked it up in the first place was the cover. On it was a bloody operation room photo of a woman giving birth to a Moog keyboard. After reading some high praise for the group, I shelled out the cash and got the disc. After listening to it, though, I was somewhat dissapointed in what I heard. Instead of writing catchy songs, many times the group simply seemed to revel in the strange noises that their old machines could make when they tweaked them the right way. Now I'm all for noise, but if its not well-constructed noise, then it just doesn't do anything for me.

The good news is that on their second album, Add N To X is somewhat past that honeymoon stage of still being fascinated by the strange noise of knob twiddling. Instead, they've moved on a level to one of more coherent (and listenable) songwriting. They still don't have lyrics in most of their songs, but for the most part, things are much more listenable, and dare I say groovin' at a couple points.

The disc starts out with the light and fluffy (yes, I know it's hard to imagine from the group) sounds of "Barry 7's Contraption." It's a fun little organ sounding track for awhile with bits and pops of weird electronics and fuzzbox vocals, but the buzz kicks in near the end and lets the listener know where the album is moving. "Robot New York" and "Skills" are pretty nice analog jam sessions with a live drumming sound that worked so well for the group with several tracks on their last release. The funny (but somewhat sinister) "Steve's Going To Teach Himself Who's Boss" shows that the group not taking themselves seriously, and it works to fine effect. One of the best tracks on the album is the rockin' "Fyuz." With probably the fastest beat of any song the group has ever done, some grating synths, and ethereal vocals, the track is flat out cool.

"Revenge Of The Black Regent" again has the live drumming that sounds so good, and has the most varied sounds of any track on the album. It starts out on the eerie, side of things, but soon moves into a more upbeat haunting sound if that can be imagined. If you can imagine a slasher flick that takes place in outer space, this might be the soundtrack to it. Up next is the first single off the album (and the song to which a slightly pornographic cartoon video was created), "Metal Fingers In My Body." It's another upbeat number, and just for good measure, the group finally throws in the use of a vocodor for an added robotic touch. The next two tracks lag somewhat before things close out with the twisted classical sound of "Machine Is Bored With Love."

If you're in the mood for some twisted analogue sounds and some pretty catchy hooks as well, this might just be the album for you. After listening to their last album and this one side by side, it's easy for me to pick which one has more energy and less calculation. When a group is using such cold sounding machines, it's hard to make them sound inviting, but they've definitely gotten a lot closer with this release.

Rating: 7.25