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Rowland, Jess: The Problem With the Soda Machine

Just look at the titles no prizes for guessing what this amusing little concept album is about. The Robert Wyatt influenced set of 14 short songs are based on work e-mails about the misdemeanours of her colleagues over the Company drink and snacks machine. Starting off with a laid back ditty declaring that they are pissed with the choice about the future of the machines. The song appears to highlight the internal squabbles about the content to be vended which marred the machine's introduction. Piano and slowly evolving organ present the initial theme, developing into an attractive psychedelic ending with sitar accompaniment. I'm reminded of Wyatt's Soup Song in the next track as the management make some suggestions to deal with the problem. The amusingly titled fourth track highlights just how silly the album is going to get whilst the office Moaning Minnie turns up on "The Most used Products". "Clean the Vending Machine" has a Beatlesque quality to it with the organ reminding me of the backing to the Fool on the Hill. This and the following two songs are a witty summary of just how petty office bickering can become over insignificant issues.

The vocal parts deviate in timing and are mainly sung e-mails whilst musically they are supported by jazz-tinged arrangements leading into strange but effective distortions and uncoupling of the music from the song. Here and there we are treated to sound effects such as crisp packets opening, and what sounds like bubble wrap unwrapping etc. The main criticism I have of the album is that there is not much tempo variation on the songs which mostly proceed at a medium to slow pace which can become increasingly monotonous. Only at the penultimate track do we get a really interesting extended bit of improvisation.

I suspect Scott Adams would have a giggle over this musical insight on cubicle world and the arrangements, especially Jess' piano and organ, are very well done but as an album for repeated listening I'm not so sure. File under oddball.

Track Listing
1. The future of the machines
2. The problem with the soda machine
3. Unwrapping invocation
4. Remove the vending machine (but not their contents)
5. Unwrapping Part 1
6. The most used products
7. Changing their tune
8. Unwrapping Part 2
9. Clean the vending machine
10. Happy to have a snack machine
11. Thanks for taking it on
12. Unwrapping Part 3
13. Flavour exhaustion
14. Turk St vending machine

Added: March 18th 2009
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Edgetone Records
Hits: 2774
Language: english

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