Everything you ever wanted to know about machine tree... an instrumental fusion of progressive rock, ambient, jazz and pop.
Take four men who have known each other as friends and musicians for close to 30 years, book them in a studio twice a week for 8-10 hours with their respective instruments for 2 years. Add to that the mandate that their final product (i) will be instrumental and (ii) that there are no time restrictions to their compositions and (iii) all the bed tracks are recorded ‘live off the floor’, and what you get is the music found on The Harrison Fjord - Machine Tree CD.
Produced and Recorded by The Harrison Fjord in Toronto, Canada,
this eclectic mix of styles draws from 70’s era progressive musical arrangements
and orchestration, as well as influences from a multitude of diverse styles.
A four - piece Toronto ensemble with some pop roots have created a body of work that includes a good measure of rock, with tinges of ambient and a healthy dose of art music attitude. Odd meters flow freely as the 3 - minute pop ditty is never a concern, opting rather to take the listener on a sonic journey over time.
The music is always based on the tried and true Guitar / Bass / Drums and Keyboards combination, although various less orthodox sounds occur throughout the CD, which flavor the music at times subtlety and at other times wallop you in the face.
While all the music was recorded ‘live off the floor’, much of the processed textures and sounds were created by the manipulation of the original bed track recordings.
During the recording of the CD, MDRobotics heard a version of Docking with Jesus and promptly licensed it for their international launch of the Spar Aerospace CANADARM II program.
Roland VG-8 COSM guitar synthesizer
Roland Jazz Chorus 120
Roland SDE-3000 digital delay
1961 Fender Stratocaster
Paul Reed Smith
Various effect pedals
SWR and Trace Elliot amplifiers
Peavey Bass effects processor
Hartke and Peavey cabinets
Washburn Status (4 string)
Vadim Afro II (5 string)
Peter Elias Maple (4 string)
Ibanez Roadstar 2 (4 string)
Drunm Workshop acoustic drums
Wuhan, Paiste, Zildjian and Sabian Cymbals
Yamaha, Tama and Premier snare drums
Drum Kat percussion controllers
Various ethnic hand percussion instruments
Yamaha CP 80 with midi retrofit
Roland D-50, Jupiter 8, PMA-5, S330 and S760 samplers
Korg - M1, 01W,Wavestation, M3R
E-mu Proteus 2000
Recording and Mixing Gear:
CAD Maxcon recording console
Panasonic D-7 digital mixing console
Yamaha 03D digital mixing console
Roland VS1680 and VS1880 digital recording workstations (both with dual effects cards)
Barracuda external hard drives
Alesis XT ADAT recorders (5)
Lexicon PCM 70, PCM 80
Mozz stereo tube compressors
DBX 160’s (a lot)
DBX 120XP Subharmonic Synth
TC Electronics – D-One, D-Two, 1140 EQ
Roland delays and reverbs – SDD 1000, SDR-2000
Electrix – Filter Factory, Filter Queen
Drawmer 1960 compressors
Yamaha NS-10M, Tannoy PBM-8 and Mackie HR-824 monitors
Atari 1040ST running Notator sequencing software
Panasonic SV-3700 DAT recorder
Various microphones by Sennheisser, Shure, Neumann, AKG and Beyer Dynamic
Sennheisser, Sony, and Beyer Dynamic headphones
HHB and Ampex ADAT and DAT tape
All mastering was performed by Phil DeMetro at The Lacquer Channel in Toronto on Macintosh computers, transferred straight from DAT using the following software and hardware:
Sonic Solutions, Nuendo, Logic, Weiss Systems
Focusrite – Eq and Compression
Neve and Pultech - Eq
A wide variety of refreshments
Reflections on the tracks that make up machine tree...
PAUL'S TAKE ON MACHINE TREE
I like it! It's good! Whew.. so much time and energy, and love and grease, and I could go on and on here. Suffice it to say that I feel the final result is a good representation of the collective heart and soul and love of music which we've shared for so many years. From the subtle grace and longing of "Shimmer" to the anthem that is "HMF", machine tree for me a mirror of both the individual and collective experiences we've shared.
SASCHA'S TAKE ON MACHINE TREE
Things are a little bit different from the ‘drum perspective’ and as such I may as well get you acquainted with ‘my world’.
I was responsible, to a large degree, for capturing (and sometimes misplacing or losing) what went on in this recording. I am now certifiably insane…it’s just that nobody has committed me as of yet.
The musicians on this recording are my friends, as well as being among the first people/musicians I have ever rehearsed, performed, and recorded with, when we were all a much more tender age. As such, we have developed the innate ability to lock into grooves and step onto what Tim calls ‘the grid’, which in essence is a musical and spiritual space that we as friends and fellow musicians gravitate towards when we get behind our respective instruments, where conversation is had ‘without the moving of lips.’
This recording is the result of more than 2 decades of friendship, arguments and resolve, care and love. Having mutually experienced countless life’s great lessons as we grew up (and continue to), we are co-joined by the musical hip, while maintaining our individual identity. The members of The Harrison Fjord have been, and continue to be, shaped by the different elements and influences of our respective lives, but what draws us together in the end is the need to step onto the grid!
As I feel that I am too close to the music to discuss the CD on a track by track basis, and my technical and artistic blatherings would go on for pages and days, I will simply tell you this: Every song within this body of work is a testament to the’ majik’ that goes on between us in The Harrison Fjord…and that’s why I wanted to be a part of this…….still!
TIM'S REVIEW OF THE SONGS
Horsie - This song was chosen as the opener because it has a nice
solid flow to it. It is quite heavily layered and is rife with many of our
collective band influences, maybe even a favorite hook or two in a different key
signature. There are three revolving sections in this track which can go from
straight ahead rocker to bouncing syncopated rhythm and melody in the space of a
few beats, almost giving it a galloping quality in spots, which leads out of the
track into the segue which was a general theme from Bizet's Carmen OR as we like
to see it - the drunken Merry-Go-Round theme which trots by and eases it's way
to the top of the next tune.
Take It On The Lam - This is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. I feel that this composition encompasses what The Harrison Fjord is all about. If I was forced to play one song that I feel most captures what the band is about, this is the one that I would play for people. It starts off very softly and as the initial progression starts to evolve and build you can start to feel and anticipate the heights that it may grow to. As the groove kicks into the verse type feel, (yes, we actually had a vocal for this madness at one time!) you can start to hear some of the characteristics that make this music so unique. The song just seems to keep on building to me, from the verse and chorus sections through to the bridge/middle section of the song where the odd-meter takes over. This is where the band and the song really start to take flight. Good feel, tight shot sections and some cool chops all help to launch us into "the grid" which is where we really lock into each other and move as one. Chugging and churning until the "breakdown" section, which is better left for your ears to experience. Nothing that I can say here would really help you to understand this part until you hear it for yourself. To see this section performed in a live environment is always a treat ...... very explosive drumming. A damn fine wake up call. We re-introduce a theme, which builds all the way through the outs to the final shots. A good bit of fun, filled with many intricacies and a very large groove. New bits to be discovered on every listen.
S-Pam - Here is another personal fave of mine. It has a really great vibe; lots of different sections in odd meters, lots of stops and starts, demanding riffs and it really rocks like a mofo. The guitar melodies really make me blow my load as well; they create such a great hook Some fantastic production on this piece as well.
Aurora - This song is an interesting ride. Starting off kind of light and loose it moves into the bubbling bass groove, which percolates just below the surface of the inter-mingling guitar lines and keyboard fills The bass groove was effected and dropped back in on another track several beats later, which gives it a synth-bass kind of texture that moves in and out of the whole song. This leads to some wonderful interplay between all of the instrumentation right up to the re-intro and bridge, which gives you the sensation of free falling. The last section is the outro/guitar solo section that gives you that quaint "Parisian cafe" vibe. A glistening of guitar flourishes over the ever-widening groove gives you the sense that the tune could de-rail at any moment, only to take you directly to your destination and then retreat into the distance. If you crank the snot out of the end, you may actually hear the tune resolve. Check it out.
Open Spaces - This is one of the first tunes that we laid down when we discussed the concept of recording this CD. A lot of our tunes just seem to happen and this is one of them. There is a constant movement to this piece that gives you the sense that you are flying above the landscape in a glider. It is short and sweet with some beautiful guitar lines that just seem to float above the repetitive rhythm. The true brilliance of this song comes at the end with the orchestral section, which is an altered interpretation of the piece as a whole and brings the groove into symphonic euphoria.
Meat Blur - This is about as close as you will come to a pop rock song on this CD. The original concept for this one had it linked to "Open Spaces" but as we had a difficult time arriving at the 'right' way to do this we decided to keep them as separate entities. The hefty, blasting groove just rips through anything in its way with great force. It is interspersed with some nice syncopated sections, giving it a straight-ahead verse and chorus kind of concept. The outro is a veritable plow fest of bass and drum seemingly culminating in the entire population of Canada being stuffed into a wood-chipper. At least that's how I hear it.
Docking With Jesus - A melodic and hypnotic symphony in motion. This track lends itself totally to cinematic exploits. It is definitely possible to be sucked into the vortex of this number and taken to the heavens with the trance like state that it induces, only to be jolted from serenity with the driving chorus feel. Up and down you go with different punctuations to each passing theme only to be brought back down to earth and laid softly to rest on terra firma.
Rant - This is The Harrison Fjord calling, your mailbox is full: please pick up all of your messages now!!!! It may be a little difficult to get past the pseudo-vocal on this one, but once you do you will find a very lush and eclectic sonic landscape complete with complex passages and phrasing and an orchestration that builds from the introduction, with a quasi blues feel, to a journey of epic proportions. A challenging number to play and an even more challenging number to figure out the lyrics to. Try it if you're brave enough.
Hoover Dam - A friend of the band caught us rehearsing this song in the studio and declared this one to be "the feel good song of the century." An insistent rhythm section and mellifluous guitar tones beneath a happy-go-lucky keyboard melody give this song a big bouncy feel that will certainly put a shine to your day. The middle section is a funk-fest and we break it down, to start it all up again. The alteration to the feel in the bottom end during the outro of the piece gives it a very mysterious flavour. I like it, I DO think its good. Enjoy.
Shimmer - Here is another example of a track that lends itself to visuals, with a very effective, chordal guitar melody, which is played delicately over pulsing bass changes. Can you feel the heartbeat? We travel together through these pulsing sections awash with melodic keyboard support only to open up the feel into a much broader spectrum. The drums become more forceful and the song continues to grow through this section and into the next, where the bass playing becomes even more aggressive. This is all brought back home with the re-introduction of the intro feel announcing to all that we have arrived at the end of our journey.
Genie - In my mind at least, this is the sister song of Shimmer. It is more up-tempo and has a happier sound to it over all, but some of the sections are quite interchangeable. There are many contrasting ideas here, including the Al Jolson section and the Middle Eastern keyboard solo section. Great rhythm section interplay is at work throughout this track. Please seek out the treasure for yourself.
HMF - Ah.... The all out rock track. Careening virtually from start to finish with a pounding that just won't go away. While listening to this tune, you may want to sit and ponder what HMF stands for. We all love to play with words and phrases, but none so much as I. Could it be Harrison's Musical Fjord? Have More Faith? Heal My Fingers? Perhaps we were just trying to produce the sound of a genetically altered race of mutant war mongering infants? Who really knows? - I'd love to know what you think it means. Email us through the web site.
Fading Light - This last little 'mystery piece' was actually from a solo bass jam I was doing in the studio while the other guys were making some adjustments in the control room. I was just creating some colours with volume swells and processing on my bass and to my surprise Sascha started running tape in the control room. He later approached me, after he ran this piece through some more high-end processing and tweaked a few more things and then dropped the tune in my lap to see what I thought. The fact that you're listening to it here is testament to how I felt about it. Thank you Sascha for always having it together and knowing when to push the record button.