I was pleased to hear Immaculate Machine would be back in the UK again, but felt a little nervous as the gig drew nearer. Since I’d last seen them, they’d changed from a breathless and at times manic bassless three-piece to a five-piece with a more conventional line-up and an apparently less crazy drummer.
The resulting album, High On Jackson Hill, contained a lot of good songs, but felt transitional somehow, as if the band was caught half-way between its old sound and a not-yet-formed new one that forsook the energy of old for something more reflective.
To make life even more tricky for the band, vocalist and keyboardist Kathryn Calder, one of the remaining original members, has had to absent herself from touring after the terrible news of her mum’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease; although Lynn Calder very sadly died earlier this year, Kathryn was not with the band this evening. Indeed, the touring line-up looked very different from the line-up advertised on the band’s web presences, two boys apparently replaced by two girls.
So, amid confusion that appeared to verge on turmoil, could the band deliver the goods live? It turned out they very much could: we got a storming set that revealed the strengths of the album, verging on ‘70s rock territory at times with muscular renditions of many of the songs. Material from the old line-up was also thrown in, although almost entirely from the more restrained 2007 album Fables, with only one cut from earlier – a very enjoyable stab at No Such Thing As The Future.
Perhaps in this incarnation the music is more straightforward: without Luke Kozlowski on drums, the energy is perhaps more controlled, and without Kathryn the medlodies less versatile, but there’s no getting away from the basic facts: these are good tunes well played, and thoughtful lyrics well sung. Props in particular to the new guitarist whose name I can’t find out with any certainty online; whoever she was, she succeeded in replicating many of Kathryn’s keyboard lines on guitar (her style seemed to favour playing the lower strings, which made for a good contrast with lead singer/guitarist Brooke Gallupe’s style on the higher strings), and vocals as well.
The only sour points were the relatively sparse attendance, considering this is the band’s fourth foray into the UK at the very least, and they’ve got four (possibly five) albums available, and also the over-running of two mediocre support acts which meant we were denied and encore by the venue’s curfew. Hopefully the band’s slot at this year’s In The City will garner them some more support from the industry in the UK. As an aside, I reviewed their Brixton Windmill show in 2006 in Artocker; I wonder if this might still be their only live review in the national music press here – probably not, but it could well have been their first.
Meanwhile, what else might the future hold for Immaculate Machine? The touring line-up seems to have gelled extremely well (are there any good bootlegs of this tour knocking around…?), and it would be nice to hear an album that harnesses some of its brutal energy. Quite where Kathryn would fit in should she return is hard to see; then again, her Myspace currently hosts some really lovely-sounding solo material, so an album from her would be extremely welcome as well. Whatever way it falls, there seems sure to be more good music to come from this band, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.