MAQUINA. - PRATA (Album Review)

May 9, 2024


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Listen to MAQUINA.

Portugal’s MAQUINA. made an impression last year with their debut DIRTY TRACKS FOR CLUBBING, which saw the trio injecting elements of krautrock, EBM, and other electronic styles with a significant dose of noise and punk energy.  There was a heavy emphasis on repetition and looped beats that built into layers of louder feedback but still had a very danceable feel to it, giving the group a bit of a unique edge over some of the others out there.  A little over a year later they have returned with PRATA, which adds another six tracks to the band’s repertoire and makes some noticeable tweaks to their approach.  The noise level has been toned down a bit but the sound is just as dense, making for a hypnotic listen that still has just the right amount of bite to it.

Compared to the noisy, feedback heavy guitars that opened its predecessor, PRATA opts for a much mellower introduction as “body control” kicks things off with a dense, groovy bassline and repeating guitar lead that hovers over the recording with a sparser quality.  There are still some rougher edges to the tonality, but the atmosphere is a bit more hypnotic this time around and things come off as just a bit calmer.  One track later MAQUINA. does make it clear they haven’t completely abandoned the more jagged side of their sound, as “denial” is a more aggressive track where the guitar tone and effects sound a bit more industrial and noise rock while still keeping the krautrock/EBM beat going.  The loops used on “denial” also remind me quite a bit of more recent synthwave artists, but with the guitar being used as the primary effect and noise driver MAQUINA. has a different overall feel.  PRATA gives off imagery of a dark and smoky club where the patrons are dancing in a more hypnotic fashion, but are jolted back to attention by the occasional burst of feedback, giving it both a gritty and warm and inviting atmosphere that you can get sucked right into.  Admittedly even with that being the case, there are times where PRATA comes off as best suited for the live space versus the recorded one.  Some of the tracks follow very similar patterns of repetition, making them run together and it can be hard to pick out specific moments even if the album is likeable from beginning to end.  When I think of groups like Brainticket or even some of the other krautrock artists, they used repetition in a similar fashion but there were particular loops or hooks that stood out a bit more on each song, and this is where MAQUINA. has room to expand and really find that killer edge.

Based on the description above, you might be wondering if MAQUINA. opted to keep things entirely instrumental similar to a band like Maserati.  But this is another area where they pulled a bit more from the krautrock side of the aisle as opposed to the EBM or techno one, opting for reverb heavy singing/yelling that moves in and out of the layer of sound.  The initial pitch on “mind control” gives off more of those Brainticket vibes with its very authoritative pitch that comes booming out of your speakers, but it gives way to higher pitched and slightly harsher ranges later on.  During these sections there’s a bit more punk and even indie rock to the sound, giving a lot of early to mid 2000’s vibes.  There are some tracks on PRATA where the vocals aren’t a highlight and instead come off as an extension of the instrumentation, fusing together to add to the density of the material.  But I still appreciated that MAQUINA. included them, as it’s another element that makes their sound just a bit different.

Despite the short turnaround time between albums, MAQUINA. has made some noticeable tweaks to their sound and emphasized a bit more of the hypnotic and smokey atmosphere while toning down the noisiness just a bit.  It’s an enjoyable listen for anyone that enjoys krautrock, techno, industrial, and everything in between, though the trio still has room to further emphasize individual details and have moments that jump out even with their repetitive structures.  I’ll be interested to hear where the trio goes from here, and seeing how active they’ve been already it may not be too long until we find out.  PRATA is available from Fuzz Club Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg