Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
My Initial Impressions of Machinery by Twist Helix
Twist Helix's latest album Machinery combines layered synth sounds, powerful drums, incisive lyrics, and powerful vocal performances to create an album that examines the current nature of our mediated reality through enjoyable music.
Bea Garcia's Voice
Perhaps the two most important factors that go into making Machinery are the well-written lyrics and Bea Garcia’s voice. The lyrics are sharp, create intense imagery and get their point across clearly. The songwriting doesn’t pull any punches here and neither does Bea Garcia. Her voice is powerful, riveting, and intense whether she’s singing or rapping out lyrics. When the lyrics and the vocals connect, there’s sonic lightning that adds weight to the music.
I also enjoy how the percussion drives the album. The drums are full of energy and they add a lot of shape and texture to the sound of the tracks. There are also moments of smooth glide where the beats flow to leaven the aggression that pounds through the higher energy moments of the songs.
The use of synths on Machinery is effective. They can slide and glow into the music or drive home ear-grabbing melodies that sing out over the charging drums. Sometimes they take a backing role as they support Bea Garcia’s voice and other times they add melodic strength to lift the songs to a higher plane.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed: "Ghost” and “Frida Kahlo”
"Ghost” opens on rising waves of synth that are joined by a unevenly moving beat and Bea Garcia’s powerful, gripping voice that soars out in an expressive melody. Synths glow and shine beneath the words and their impactful nature as those drums keep battering.
There’s a bass pulse as those dense washes of shining synth cut through, playing a melody that yearns underneath the vocal strength and the bass oscillates and again flashes of light cut over the lacerating words. The track ends on piano chords that keep up the support of the lyrics with flowing waves of synth sound.
This song is a rebuke of the way in which our societies try to render women invisible and mute. It opens with a strong statement in the lines, “A phantom, this feminine form I've borne.” There’s bleakness in the words, “I will always fail, 'til the grave.”
Harsh reality slaps the listener in the face with the lines, “Heaven above remains unreachable, its glass ceiling is unbreakable” before following it up with another wake up call in the lyrics, “I'm invisible, forever condemned to be a girl.”
There’s a strong expression of injustice in the lines, “my name is eclipsed, impression fades” and as the verse ends it follows, “someone save me, seance my soul” and the song concludes that “just 'cause I'm a girl, I've become a ghost.”
Cascading warm synths that soar along with Bea Garcia's aggressive, powerful voice as “Frida Kahlo” comes to life. The singer raps over the slam and shudder of the drums while a leaping, sliding synth melody moves through the music.
Raw emotive power fills the vocals while the synths glow in pulsing patterns. I am drawn to the way that the glow and light of the synths contrast with the heavier message of the song.
Performance, digital masks and the nature of mediated reality are all explored in this song. As it opens the question of a disposable culture is posed in the line, “Hey! Are they throw-away the instances we save?” The alternatives ask if we’re “simply vain” or if we’re “creating an artform?”
I enjoy the idea of opening up a “composite identity” to show what is being held inside of us. The song points out the inherent contradiction in how we “network reality constantly striving for authenticity. “
Our sense of self and our expectations are now bound up in “communication, modernity” and there’s an idea that if one can “swipe right you will see, who I wanna be.” In contrast to this the song exhorts us to “throw away inhibition and engage!”
The segment in Spanish continues this theme as it says in part that “my life is made up of the parts that, with filters, form my identity” and points out that we cloak reality by “falsifying our authenticity.”
As the song closes, the lyrics reinforce the idea of digital identity that is open to everyone in the lines, “a palimpsest of text is my soul, digital and so available.”
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“Machinery" and “Festival Season”
“Machinery" kicks off with an energizing synth-driven melody as the beat throbs and leaps and Bea Garcia’s voice comes in with her signature power. There’s more of an uplifting tone to the music as that steady beat drives and the flow of climbing synth sounds move around as the vocals erupt and carry the track forward. The bass thunders and shine and glow fill the track as those insistent drums pound onward and the whole song bursts with synth warmth.
The anomie of modern existence is reflected in the lines, “everyone here alone, on their own in a dark black room.” The imagery of that emptiness is stark in the lyric, “like broken vessels in forgotten gloom.”
In spite of all this emptiness and isolation, however, people still “shine like machinery, in the shadows of factories.” Our lives have been stripped of wonder and “sometimes this world feels so old, and all its mystery gone” like “broken metal in forgotten gloom.”
Again there’s hope because even in "this dirty old industry, lights never will vanish.” The song ends on an uplifting note as “from Tyneside to Teesside old fires will ignite…” and after all is said and done, “this machine will continue 'cause creation gives us hope.”
A throbbing synth bass pulse and a higher ripple of synthesized sound start off “Festival Season” while Bea Garcia’s voice touches the track, tinged with melancholy as the drums shape the music along with the waves of rising synth underneath. There’s an alluring energy to the rapped segment of the track as everything else glides under it. High, bright synths shine as the drums begin to pound harder.
The words of this song are shot through with loss, nostalgia and pain. It speaks of the abandon and excitement of “festival season” and the romances that might occur but warns, “Romance lasts like single use plastic glass, all that's left is to pick up what's left of the trash.”
The desire to escape from stress and looking back on impermanence of youthful friendships are clear in the lines, “I can attest I never needed to rest, as I drunkenly distressed from our final year's test” and “five best friends sipping Strongbow on a big weekend, how'd we know that it would all end.”
Nostalgia and aching loss fills the words, “What I would give to have that again, but broken friendships never mend” and it’s already “time to say goodbye to the summer.” No matter what we to change is inevitable and “some things you can’t recover, we’re always getting older.” The song is unrelenting in the final reminder that “we will forget each other.”
“Transmission” and “Camera”
“Transmission” begins as flowing, deep synth sounds move into the vast, floating spaces of this track while high flickers of sound and the breath of wind sweep through the music. The chords of the synths are rich and swirling. The drums add their smooth, moving heartbeat to proceedings while the lead synth melody has a powerful glide to it. Another synth sound is added to the tapestry to add a pipe-like quality which yearns and reaches, adding more light to the track.
Shifting sounds are joined by a charging drum beat and a sliding, moving lead synth as “Vultures” opens. Once more, Bea Garcia dominates the track with her strength as minor key synths rush forward over the drums and dense walls of sound rise through the music
A scavenger’s dangerous, deforming desire pours from the lyrics of this song. The hunger of this man “all in black" is palpable as he’s “standing getting ready to jump your bones… he's staring, won't rest 'til he takes you home.”
This man is a vulture and a poisonous creature. He’s “casual as he makes his offer of the life you dream about” but he’ll have you “sell your soul” as he “chews you up and spits you out.”
The song warns of the danger of his seduction as you “followed him to the end of the trail” and says that “we know that led you to.” There is no mercy if you fail because you’ll be picked apart and what’s left will turn you "'round into something new.”
“Camera” jumps into life with shifting, edgy synths and a shuddering drumbeat. Bea Garcia’s vocals echo out through the music, filling it with power while the thick washes of synthesizer coalesce into bouncing chords and handclaps. There’s something intriguing about the shifting arpeggios that drift through the music as the drums batter and thunder. The main synth line cascades through the track and the relentless drums pound on.
There’s such a prevalence of images that confront us every day as social media transforms us into a visual culture. I like the lines, “Focus now, ignore the crowd” as they denote the shutting out of the world to me before the “button click down, lens, flare, flash out.”
The chorus continues the notion of self focus as it talks about “my shutter, my camera” as it reveals “more than eyes can capture.” The idea of an “instamatic biographer” is also fitting when we live in a time where people document every part of their lives through a lens.
Images have seemingly become more reliable than memory now and so the next lines that speak of taking a picture because “it’ll last longer…” and help you to remember.
People want to get closer and closer to the subject of their endless gaze as the lyrics, “Close-up now, see sweat drip brow” indicate and then capture them as they “ light up the crowd,lens, flare, flash out.
Machinery is an album that has power. The relevance and strength of the songs and their messages are a good place to begin but as Twist Helix adds Bea Garcia's knockout vocals, powerful drumbeats and intertwining synth sounds, the album takes on even more power and sonic pleasure. I am interested to see where Twist Helix will go next.
© 2020 Karl Magi