Published on 21st June 2021
The John Irvine Band – The Machinery of the Heavens
Solo album number four for The John Irvine Band, the follow up to the excellent Metaphysical Attractions released in 2018, and the third album to be reviewed here on TPA. But just in case you missed the first two reviews ( 😉 ) here’s a quick introduction to JIB…
Led by Edinburgh-based guitarist/multi-instrumentalist John Irvine, who wrote, composed and performed all the instruments on The Machinery of the Heavens, barring the drums which once again fell to Rich Kass. As is his wont, John appears most at ease with instrumentals and The Machinery of the Heavens features eight pieces which, to my ears, comfortably reside under a progressive-jazz-rock umbrella. As a side note, John is also a published poet, and more to the point here, a sci-fi novelist (The Smith Chronicles), which is evident not only in the album titles but also firmly embedded within the music itself.
The other half of the now JIB duo is session musician extraordinaire Rich Kass, who has an impressive list of playing and recording credits to his name. So alongside his contributions with JIB, my other encounter with him was through the mightily impressive contemporary jazz ensemble Trio HLK. Well worth checking out! As part of JIB, he is solid when required, inventive when appropriate and his impeccable understanding of metric ambiguities makes those more complex passages flow with masterly ease.
For me, what sets John’s releases aside from many contemporary guitar fusioneers is the music, which always remains accessible and, as I have remarked before, listenable. To this end, and more so than perhaps earlier releases, John has extended the tonal palette with the greater inclusion of keyboards. Granted, there has always been a broad canvas of keyboards, but on The Machinery of the Heavens he has integrated them fully. Gadzooks is prime example, sadly only a minute-and-a-half long, but great fun…
It’s also a great intro to (Across) Lunar Fields, a prime example where the keyboards and guitar work in unison – and harmony of course! – to create the track’s great memorable themes. Predominately the sounds, but these two tracks in particular, recalled the sadly missed Keith Emerson. And talking of the sadly missed, Allan Holdsworth crops up across the album – check out the aptly titled Dangerous Notes. But let’s not get too bogged down with ‘comparisons’, this is absolutely a JIB album!
There’s something rather uplifting about the music on The Machinery of the Heavens, now whether that’s the impact of Rich Kass’ imaginative and powerhouse drumming, the massive jangly chords, the atmospherics, the strong themes and melodies, or more likely the combination of all these, the end result makes this album an absolute stonker. I’ve loved all three previous JIB albums, but at this moment in time this one is definitely the favourite. At this point, and to illustrate the previous remarks, let’s take a listen to the title track. In many respects different to what has gone on before, the advantage of a longer track duration…
Currently, on Bandcamp John is offering a healthy discount on his back catalogue, so an ideal opportunity to grab hold of some great music at a bargain price. There’s also the opportunity to pay a little more, if you wish – worth every penny whatever the price!
01. Dark Skies (8:20)
02. …And How Much for the Robot? (3:46)
03. Dangerous Notes (5:47)
04. Take it From the Edge (6:08)
05. Gadzooks (1:19)
06. (Across) Lunar Fields (8:06)
07. Blast From the Past (6:23)
08. The Machinery of the Heavens (14:32)
Total Time – 54:21
John Irvine – Guitar, Keyboards, Bass
Rich Kass – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 16th October 2020