CD REVIEW: The Frank Horvat Band - Strange Machine
by: Cyrus Rhodes
The Frank Horvat Band
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Progressive Ambient, Chill, Electronica, Dub
Sounds Like: Moby, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Digby Jones, Oakmen, Canis, Sutra, Flipside, The Man Behind C, Bhangralution,
Technical Grade: 6/10
Weakness: Winded songs, more live instrumentation, more solos, overly synthetic and one dimensional, no liner notes, more vocal risk-taking
Formed in 2013 by Canadian composer/pianist Frank Horvat, The Frank Horvat Band’s uncreative name hides a wildly creative sound and a revolving roster of ultra-talented musicians. An indie art rock band with an electronic edge, they create a textured atmospheric sound that envelops you with soaring sounds. Their highly anticipated follow-up album, Strange Machine, comes just nine months after their debut album and was crafted like a playlist with different singers, textures and feels entrancing you from song to song. The pieces portray the machines that control us, both external and internal. In a world surrounded by machines, this music will help keep us human and in-touch with ourselves. So, turn the speakers up!. Front man, Frank Horvat, acts as songwriter, keyboardist and sometime singer but leaves the parts you really want to hear to TFHB’s revolving main vocalists. TFHB’s first two albums were produced by the wonderful, Jean Martin, and feature an array of really great musicians that make up The Frank Horvat Band’s distinct sound: Ghislain Aucoin (vocals), Kismet Cooper (vocals), Michael Davidson (vibes),Christine Duncan (vocals), Oleksandra Fedyshyn (violin), Th9m Gill (vocals, guitar)), Bram Gielen (bass), Justin Haynes (guitar), Frank Hovart (Keys, Songwriting), Jean Martin (Percussion), Erika Nielsen (cello), Joseph Phillips (Bass), Evan Tighe (Percussion) , Felicity Williams (vocals)..
The CD methodically takes off with the title track an ambient intro piece that serves up hypnotic rhythms, with pulsating bass painted against a colorful canvass of music box sound effects, to guitar. Hypnotic keyboards and that comes at you from every which direction. Track 2 “FishWorshipper” presents a kaleidoscope of soothing sound featuring vivid vocals, dynamic melody, eloquent strings that that flow and ebbs its way through fruition. By track 2 you realize “Strange Machine” may be on to something very creative here as these ambient recordings are diamonds in the rough – but diamonds nonetheless. Track 3 “The Drill” shifts gears a bit with its rock steady beat against mesmerizing vocals, keyboard and synthesizer accents with hypnotic walls of sound that are infectious and hypnotic. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear so many elements of Trance, Ambient, I could be wrong but Influences perhaps are: Moby, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Digby Jones, Oakmen, Canis, Sutra, Flipside, The Man Behind C, Bhangralution, Techno, Chill, Dub & House rhythms painted against a clever industrial canvass of NES gaming-type sound effects. You will also notice lush layers musical instrumentation layered everywhere from low end beats and rhythms, to pulsating moog and bass segments, to ambient synthesizer and keyboard accents layered along the way. You will also notice keyboards, Violin, Electric Piano, Cello, Moog Bass, Piano, Eloquent Strings, Sporadic Percussion, Orchestral accents, sonic vocal and sound effects, electronic beats and sporadic percussive accents, exotic phased sampling layered within the music. The songs themselves are extremely unique, highly original, and in itself highly original. The sound-scapes are interesting, infectious, and hypnotic. The grooves and rhythms are methodical and well placed and the ambient accents are well placed and flow and ebb extremely well song for song. I like the multi vocal delivery from Aucoin/Cooper, Duncan, Gill and Williams. The CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing an impressive songwriting and arranging core craft. This CD has something for just about everyone. It’s definitely a dynamic and somewhat electro-progressive that offers a lot of musical variety and vivid sound imagery that push the envelope. From dynamic “Wasteland 2” to grooving “Do You Ever Notice” to melodic “Human Cyborg” to robotic “Tool” to hypnotic “Song From the Bluebird” this CD has something for just about everyone. CD ends with Track 10 “Take From me” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
I wish there were more solo segments like on Track 10 “Take From Me". At the end of the day this CD and all its instrumentation come across as overly synthetic and sounds a bit one dimensional - although some of this is par for the course for the genera. Rhythm section lacks thick low end frequency and punch. To go with the first comment - adding in a live drummer to go with the Electronic Drums, or bringing in an experience beat master would totally clear this last issue up. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line, all songs under 3 minutes feel like incomplete statements to me. Mix is adequate but doesn’t swim in the deep end of the pool with pro-caliber ambient recordings. Typically you want your recording, Mixing and Mastering Engineer to be separate individuals to get the broadest perspective on your music during post production. Vocally I wish all vocalists took more vocal risks overall as they elect to play it safe overall.
Overall this release from The Frank Horvat Band entitled “Strange Machine” is actually quite amazing. Make no bones about it – this CD took some time to craft and piece this collection together. Equally as impressive are the hypnotic dance grooves, electronic rhythms and beats that come with the territory. This will also appeal to those who enjoy Techno, and House-type music. Finally let's give credit to musical mastermind Frank Horvat who wrote all this music and brought it to our ears in the first place. The CD works best for those who want musical ambience to fill their sonic space. I found the listening experience quite refreshing, highly original and unique. It fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively. It flows extremely well song for song and note for note. The Frank Horvat Band is a force to be reckoned with if he can incorporate some upgrades into his overall sound.