Way Out West – We Love Machine

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If you make your fans endure a five-year wait for a new album, you’d sure as hell better come back with something pretty special, but that’s exactly what Way Out West have done with We Love Machine. It’s a title that’s fairly literal in this case, as it’s a concept album of sorts – the direct result of duo Nick Warren and Jodi Wisternoff’s love affair with old-school analogue music machinery, which saw them investing heavily in vintage synths and spending nearly $100K perfecting their studio while they were putting the album together (described as “staggeringly good” by Warren when chatting to ITM earlier this year). They even purchased one of only several hand-built synthesizers ever made from an enthusiast in Scotland, which is apparently as big as a car. The Chemical Brothers took one, Vangelis purchased another and Way Out West decided they needed one too, and they say it was responsible for creating some of the amazing sounds on this album.

The irony then, if We Love Machine has such an ‘analogue’ focus, is how polished and hi-tech it all sounds. This would have a lot to do with the fact they also strived to unite all this old-school equipment with the latest studio technology, soft synths and computers, giving the pair access to the bevy of instruments in their studio at the touch of a button. They’ve also pointed to the psychedelic soundscapes of Cosmic Disco as a big influence, the sound that emerged out of Norway a few years ago from producers like Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, and those spacey Scandinavian soundscapes are definitely present here. Combine this with the brilliant musicality they’ve developed after more than a decade of working together, and we’ve got what is easily Way Out West’s best and most fully realised album to date.

My first exposure to We Love Machine was back in June, when Armin van Buuren of all people featured Ultra Violet in the opening half hour of his Essential Mix (Armin’s Armada stable is actually distributing the album throughout Europe,). My first thought at hearing the tune’s lush analogue chords and achingly nostalgic vibes was, “what the fuck is that?” The rolling basslines suck you in, and the angelic choral synths that kick in partway through lead you into one of the most spectacular breakdowns you’ll hear all year. And it sets the tone for the rest of the album; there’s just something special about the way the different sounds hold together. There’s so much psychedelic detail here, but it all gels so coherently. More important though is the raw emotion that seeps right through everything that you hear.

There’s a range of tempos on We Love Machine, which is one of the reasons it feels like such a “complete” album. You’ve got the more chilled, ethereal stuff we’ve heard from Way Out West in the past, that mostly defined albums like Don’t Look Now and Intensify, but overall it’s their most club-ready release to date with at least eight or so of the tracks primed and ready for the dancefloor. Future Perfect flows like the most blissful slice of prog house you’ll ever hear in a Nick Warren set, rolling along idyllically until they take it up a notch with a surprise burst of melody several minutes in. Pleasure Control and Surrender are similar-such tunes that you can expect to hear in both of their DJ sets, and Survival has what I’ll class as one of the best male vocals ever heard in a dance tune. Heartfelt and gorgeous without being sickly sweet.

Whether you’re listening to the album’s slower, downtempo moments, or the songs that feature the higher BPMs, the thematic drive of We Love Machine carries through at all times. The psychadelia permeates to the core of what’s happening here; all the swirly synths and trippy soundscapes, there’s so much subtle detail but it’s drawn flawlessly by the superb production. And rather than being a bleepy, difficult piece of electronic music, the emotion is present at all times, often in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on.

It’s like this machine is a living, breathing organism that you quickly grow to love, and musically, it’s so perfectly realised that it leaves their old work in the shadows; and that’s saying a lot. We Love Machine is beautiful electronic music pure and simple, and it’s one of the best dance albums of the year. We love Way Out West.