Following up the band's second live album, A Night in New York, Durutti's composition changed slightly, with both Kellet and Metcalfe off to pursue other ventures, the former ending up in Simply Red. The core Reilly/Mitchell duo settled down in studio to create another striking development in Durutti's story, The Guitar and Other Machines. So named because of Reilly's choice to explore and use newer instruments, specifically a Yamaha Sequencer and a DMX Drum Machine among others, while also trying out new approaches with his guitar playing, first signaled on Circuses and Bread. Opening track "Arpeggiator," one of several cuts originally previewed on A Night in New York, gives a sense as to the result. There's a more straightforwardly soaring lead guitar line; quick, gently perky synth loops; a heavy drum punch; additional strings; and other touches to fill out the busy but strong arrangement. While technology in general was no stranger to the band, these instruments and approaches were, resulting in a generally lusher record than most recorded by Durutti before it, with more rather than fewer instruments being the key motif while still retaining an economy of performance. Both Metcalfe and Kellet appeared on an album highlight, "When the World," recalling the band's mid-'80s highlights while Reilly turns in a surprisingly loud, kick-ass solo, contrasting his acoustic work on the immediately following "U.S.P." Otherwise, a variety of other performers assisted the duo as needed, including producer Stephen Street, who sat in on bass on "English Landscape Tradition," and guest singers Stanton Miranda and Pol (a high point of "When the World" who ironically enough doesn't appear on "Pol in B"). Rob Gray's mouth organ work adds a nicely rootsy feel to "What Is It to Me (Woman)" and "Jongleur Grey," a notable contrast against Durutti's generally futurist approach. Continuing the string of excellent Durutti reissues, its 1996 reappearance included several other studio tracks done around that time, notably the moody and mysterious "LFO Mod," which only appeared on the Valuable Passages compilation in the U.S., and "Dream Topping," featuring a reunion with A Certain Ratio singer Jeremy Kerr. Concluding the reissue are four further tracks from a performance at Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival, with guest appearances from Chinese opera singer Liu Sola and Swing Out Sister keyboardist Andy Connell, both of whom would feature on the Vini Reilly album.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett