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[Album Review] Circle of Dust – alt_Machines

While Klayton’s most playful persona was recently revisited with Scandroid’s latest remix album, Dreams in Monochrome, Circle of Dust easily represents the most aggressive side of things for the Detroit producer/musician. Following almost two decades of inactivity, seeing the project resurrected in 2016 with newly remastered versions of the original material was certainly surprising. With label issues being cited as a primary reason for the project’s abandonment and Klayton himself having moved on to release material under the far more successful Celldweller moniker, Circle of Dust seemed well and truly finished. But seeing Circle of Dust revisited was something fans never seemed to truly let go of throughout the years; there was something about the slamming industrial beats of ‘Demoralize’ or the pulsing electronics and moody guitar riffage of ‘Chasm’ that fans kept hold of, and seeing the project finally returning to the point of even a brand new album coming to light, with Machines of Our Disgrace, proved that Klayton himself still had plenty to offer under a musical identity long since assumed discontinued.

With Machines of Our Disgrace’s re-energized offering of blistering, aggressive instrumentation, absolutely stellar production quality, and some of the heaviest vocals of Klayton’s career, it honestly comes as no surprise that the project’s newest effort is a remix album; considering the producer’s general track record in welcoming other artists to ‘Take & Break’ his material, alt_Machines is primarily rooted in remixed versions of Machines of Our Disgrace tracks, and while far heavier compared to the likes of Scandroid, it’s easily just as fun to see these tracks completely ripped apart and pieced together again. If there were any doubts of this perhaps not being the case, Bret Autrey’s ‘Humanarchy’ remix opens things with exactly the kind of infectious energy to be expected of a Blue Stahli track; in what essentially acts as a massive sledgehammer through the mix, Blue Stahli’s groovy bounce of popping electronics and reworked guitar riffs add a hugely entertaining vibe to one of the most aggressive tracks found on Machines of Our Disgrace. If you weren’t paying attention before, you are now.

Continuing Blue Stahli’s opening momentum, FiXT veteran Voicians swaps out the far heavier, glitchy instrumentation of ‘Neurachem’ for a far more synthesizer driven offering, coming that much closer to the likes of Scandroid, while Sebastian Komor’s ‘Contagion’ remix stays relatively true to the feel of the original, albeit shifting away from the thrashy metal guitar leads to instead focus on huge, abrasive bass electronics that drive the track forward. Slowing things down a little, newest addition to the FiXT roster, The Anix, follows things up by adding a far moodier spin to ‘Hive Mind’, alternating between gorgeous electronic atmospherics throughout the verses and implementing The Anix’s established electronic rock style throughout the choruses;it stands as one of the most refreshing remixes of the album, staying faithful to the original while also standing comfortably apart from it. As previously observed throughout Dreams in Monochrome, it would appear that once again Klayton’s compiled team of artists are completely on board in giving the alt_Machines remixes the love and attention they deserve, and as soon as the huge guitar riffage and blasting percussion of The Plague’s ‘Embracing Entropy’ remix enters the fray, it’s incredibly difficult not to find yourself having a hell of a good time.

And indeed, having a good time certainly seems to be the focus for much of alt_Machines, with drum and bass orientated ‘Outside In’ remix seeing Eastern European group Raizer upping the tempo of its far more mellow original counterpart, to include much of the quartet’s established style seen throughout the group’s debut studio effort, We Are The Future, while 3FORCE’s ‘alt_Human’ remix keeps in line with much of the original, albeit giving the track a boost into far heavier, metal territory. At 15 tracks, the album once again displays a similar attitude to Dreams in Monochrome, having plenty of material to enjoy and as a result catering to virtually all styles while staying faithful to the spirit of Machines of Our Disgrace; DJ Hidden and Zeromancer both enjoy exploring the more electronic side of things with reimagining’s of ‘Machines of Our Disgrace’ and ‘Neophyte’, while Zardonic’s signature combination of aggressive drum and bass electronics with underlying guitar riffage leads to an extremely chaotic, intense incarnation of Circle of Dust’s newest single, ‘Dust to Dust’. Rounding things off before the album’s final act, Klayton himself steps in to offer his own original Circle of Dust mash-up track, ‘Drum Machine of Our Disgrace’, an eclectic endeavor that leaps happily back and forth between the likes of ‘Machines of Our Disgrace’, ‘Contagion’ and ‘Humanarchy’.

Now, while it can be considered the final ‘bonus’ section of the album, with the four remix tracks already having been seen throughout previous re-releases of Circle of Dust material, it’s incredibly difficult not to recognize the efforts of the album’s most prolific contributor: Blue Stahli. Featuring on remixes of Circle of Dust tracks ‘Nothing Sacred’ and ‘Bed of Nails’, Brainchild’s ‘Deviate’, and Disengage’s ‘Yurasuka’, Bret Autrey is clearly completely at home here and adoring each and every moment of it. The remixes of ‘Deviate’, ‘Nothing Sacred’ and ‘Yurasuka’ all bounce with a similar groove to the introductory ‘Humanarchy’ remix, and yet still retain enough personality to keep things from being repetitive, while the ‘Bed of Nails’ remix sees the electronic rock artist taking a far more reserved approach, embellishing the haunting, dreamlike vocals with tinges of Eastern instrumentation and wonderfully absorbing atmospherics. As the final act for the album, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to also proclaim it as the strongest – it’s a fantastic finishing chapter for alt_Machines and displays Blue Stahli’s versatility perfectly.

Ultimately, alt_Machines easily stands as an immensely enjoyable follow up to both Machines of Our Disgrace and Dreams in Monochrome; completely deconstructing the original material and including their own style rebuilding it,  while retaining much of the heavier direction of the newly resurrected Circle of Dust, there’s enough variety to be found throughout alt_Machines that, similar to Dreams in Monochrome, ensures there’s going to be something here for everybody. All in all, as a compilation of reworked material, it’s loud, aggressive, and a damn good time once again.

alt_Machines releases via FiXT Music on June 1st;
https://circleofdust.bandcamp.com/album/alt-machines

M. Stoneman

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