San Francisco has spawned some of the best musical acts of all time and The M Machine prove that the electronic genre is no exception. Three men compose the group, Ben "Swardy" Swardlick, Eric Luttrell and Andy Coenen, and they have developed a combination of live vocals and programmed electronica that is perfect for the live arena. With two EP’s and a remix album under their belt, the band is headed to Santa Ana to deck out the Constellation Room for a sold out Bassology presented show. The stellar sound system helped deliver the musical message from the OWSLA trio, one of journey, exploration, and energy.
The most striking thing about a live M Machine performance is the subtle yet overwhelming modesty in their movements. Instead of being producers that are really excited about you hearing some bell or whistle they have attached to someone else’s tune, they create and curate music while sticking to the core philosophies of music : chord progression, harmony, and soul. Guys like Kaskade and Busy P have earned the respect of fans and musicians alike by never putting themselves above the music, and M Machine portrayed the same sort of class by putting their art on display before asking you to love the artist.
Setlists for electronics shows tend to run the gamut from original material to straight up covers, mixed with remixes and weird edits here and there. You can tell that this trio really enjoyed having others remix their material, as they chose to play Kill The Noise’s tremendous remix of “Ghosts in the Machine” instead of their own. They also played a bit of their version of Dog Blood’s “Middle Finger” for the crowd, some of whom seemed to totally know every word and others who were just there to dance past midnight on a Saturday. Both parties left happy.
Visual imagery at a show like this, in such a small room with such a dominant sound system, can be the final key needed to complete a show. Andy Coenen is dedicated nearly-solely (he also does vocals) to keeping the overwhelming projection synched up with the music. The litany of visuals covered everything from symbolic pulsing to full-fledged animated sequences from their video “Tiny Anthem” (done by the geniuses over at Augenblick Studios, responsible for Superjail) blending in perfect harmony with the audio. While they have traveled with a large LED light board, this set-up provides so much more variety and a more engaging way to deliver the audio.
The M Machine truly are in a class of their own, as the visuals, the music, and the live vocals all create something different than what other bands like Nero or Disclosure do with the formula. While the music is at its core danceable, if you aren't thinking about the grand designs laid out in the lyrics or riding the laser wave buried in their synths, then you are not paying attention. Swardy, one of the three men in the group, told me last week about the idea of chords having power that help to elevate everything going on around it. Their music is a perfect example of that, with progressive chords that draw the crowd ever closer to the finale, always awaiting the next beat.
For those not in the know, The M Machine surely must have gained some new fans Saturday night. While not the wild debauchery of a Hollywood show or as grand as a festival tent, the intimate nature of their Constellation Room gig established them as hard-working performers, raising the bar for their brethren and the genre as a whole.