Flotation Device Warning – The Machine That Made Us
Based out of London, the British group Flotation Device Warning boast a reputation as one of the most eclectic and original young bands working today. Their evolution has seen some stops and starts since the project first began, but The Machine That Made Us is an album burning with ambition suggestive of musicians emboldened to make this band a continuous, ongoing entity. Vocalist and lyricist Paul Carter defines a significant part of the band’s sound and his presence is an important factor in the album’s success, but they gain much more luster thanks to expansive arrangements and a capacity for genuine surprise shared by few of their contemporaries in any style. Keyboardist, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Vicky West plays an enormous role in the album’s presentation but she has palpable chemistry with her foils guitarists Nainesh Shan and Ben Clay. The Machine That Made Us is topped off with a production style bringing all of these positives into a potent musical package.
Newcomers to Flotation Device Warning might be surprised by the depth of their lyrical content and the instant likability of Paul Carter’s voice. The slightly disjointed vocal melody of “Controlling the Sea” is nicely matched by the instruments and it comes together in a way that checks off all the boxes you expect for a top shelf pop song while never completely giving itself over to that style. One of the album’s highlights comes with “Due to Adverse Weather Conditions, All of My Heroes Have Surrendered” and its evolution over the course of its six and half minute running time has a fluid structure, makes sense, and pulls listener’s attention into its web without much strain. Vicky Wood’s playing on keyboards is the lynchpin for making “Everything that Is Difficult Will Come to an End” scale the heights it does, but the build is what makes its grand, cathedral-like payoff so satisfying. Carter’s voice might seem sleepy to some on this track, but it has a more dream-like quality that deserves credit and complements the music quite well.
“King of Foxgloves” sounds like it was built up from its irresistible percussion track and the inspired playing laid over top has an unpredictable flavor quite distinct from the band’s other nine songs. Dream-like qualities are strong at the opening of “When the Boat Comes Inside Your House”, but it soon changes gears into a chiming mid-tempo number with more impetus than many of the album’s other songs. Floatation Device Warning has a natural tendency to structure their songs in such a way that brief lulls often serve as fragmentation points of a sort before the song coalesces back together again and “To Live For Longer Slides”, the album’s second to last tune, has one of the gentlest, delicate instrumental attacks on The Machine That Made Us. It has a direct enough approach that it juxtaposes really well against the sprawling finale “The Moongoose Analogue”. There’s undoubtedly some people who will think they’ve bitten off more they can chew with this home run attempt, but one area where everyone can agree is the band’s bravery is beyond question. Naturally, the instrumentation and arrangement alike show a much larger theatrical vision for the band’s music than earlier tracks do and the melodic touches and atmospherics surrounding the music are enough to hold your attention for well over ten minutes. Floatation Device Warning will go anywhere they like and they have a confidence about their music that burns through in everything they do. No two songs on The Machine That Made Us sound exactly alike, but it’s a rich experience that will inspire multiple spins to get its full effect.