Martha Tilston – Machines of Love and Grace (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
MARTHA Tilston is determined to turn folk into a thinking person’s art form on the evidence of new album, Machines of Love And Grace. The result, while lyrical intelligent and boasting plenty to say, isn’t always an easy listen.
There’s a non-accessibility to it at times, as well as a low-key style of delivery, that undermines its ability to be properly enjoyed; although a handful of songs do stand out.
The title of the album, alone, is a nod to a beat poem by Richard Brautigan and the BBC2 documentary that lifted the poem’s title, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, which blew Tilston away.
Hence, her album ponders the conflict between human life and the machinery of modern age.
When she gets it right, the results can be highly effective. Album opener and lead single Stags Bellow, for instance ,offers a stirring paean to freedom and the wild deer that roam the Royal Parks and is an acoustic folk track underpinned with more Celtic influences at times. It’s a great start.
While Wall Street is a great reflection on the disastrous ebb and flow of stock market tides that has more edge than a lot of the album, having been inspired by the then-emerging Occupy movement.
More, too, offers a compelling look at consumerism with some quietly stirring guitar licks to accompany the hard-hitting (but real) lyrics, while album closer Let Them Glow slow-builds beautifully to include some great vocal layering and touches of electronica and Eastern musical influences. It’s one to arouse the interest of the Peter Gabriel fan-base, particularly with where it heads late on.
Unfortunately, the album as a whole could benefit from a few more changes of pace and sometimes falls prone to complaints of being a little too under-stated and even one note. It’s almost the polar opposite of a loud, shouty punk album in being a little too quiet in delivering all that it has to say.
That being said, the standout tracks make the album worth checking out and are strong enough to download separately.
Download picks: Stags Bellow, Wall Street, More, Let Them Glow