Way Out West

We Love Machine

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Best known for their Joanna Law-sampling hit "The Gift," Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff, aka Way Out West, may have emerged from the same mid-'90s Bristol scene as Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead, but their brand of progressive house and ethereal trance was always more concerned with the dancefloor than the coffee-table lounges of their fellow hometown counterparts. Things haven't changed much 12 years on from their self-titled debut, as their fourth studio LP, We Love Machine, is still very much a club-friendly affair. However, inspired by their love of '80s electro, this time around their trademark trippy soundscapes have been joined by a wave of classic analog sounds on an ambitious concept album recorded on a rare hand-built synthesizer the size of a car. Despite its retro leanings, its 12 largely instrumental tracks still sound resolutely ultra-modern thanks to its organic but polished production and contemporary blend of Balearic rhythms, breakbeats, and nu disco -- none more so than on the Gallic house-inspired opening title track, which begins with some neo-classical Vangelis-inspired synth before merging into a stream of infectious disco licks, languid guitars, and a cavalcade of Paul Hardcastle-style sound effects. The warm and rich electronica vibes continue on the ambient chanting and breezy atmospherics of "One Bright Night," which recalls the blissful dream pop of the Beloved, the squelchy rolling basslines and choral synths of the chilled-out trance epic "Ultraviolet," and the enchanting music box twinkling of the Orbital-esque "The Doors Are Where the Windows Should Be." The album comes unstuck when it wears its influences a little too firmly on its sleeve. "BodyMotion" is a self-conscious attempt at new wave pop featuring some rather clunky old-skool hip-hop mantras; "Surrender" is just a key change away from being the kind of corny pop number you'd expect from Stock, Aitken & Waterman; and "Only Love" sounds like an aimless retread of M/A/R/R/S' classic anthem "Pump Up the Volume." And although the decision to ditch their usual array of female singers for their first male collaboration is a brave move, it's one that ultimately doesn't work, as Jonathan Mendelsohn's overwrought vocals lack the charm and ethereal qualities of their previous guest performers. We Love Machine is undoubtedly Way Out West's most melodic effort to date, but it's just a little too pedestrian to be anything other than a solid slice of "getting ready for the weekend" background music.

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