Album Review: Machine Girl – The Ugly Art

By Kiah Easton, Contributor
[Kitty On Fire; 2018]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Status”, “NWOFKA Skullboy”, “Full Metal Dipshit”

With little to no warning, Pittsburgh-based cyber-punk duo Machine Girl have released their latest project, fittingly entitled The Ugly Art. Leaving Orange Milk and debuting on Kitty On Fire, the band continue to deliver a variety of unique styles, mashing together breakbeat, jungle, house and punk into an assaulting, high-energy aural experience. The project consists of 16 tracks ranging from their most invasive punk yet, to sweet melodies that could easily be found on an artsy, eight-bit platformer. Marking a critical period in the band’s career, touring drummer Sean Kelly enters the studio to live record Machine Girl’s previously-digital drums. The Ugly Art sounds like cyber warfare created by Machine Girl if they were an extremely intelligent AI programmed for punk. Their mission: break the ears of fans without a single complaint, totally brainwashed by each infectiously-harsh dance track.

Read more: ACRN’s Top 25 Albums of 2017

The fourth track on the project, “Status”, bursts into your ears with no hesitation; like a club banger if it was infused with a deep-web, anarchic agenda. Steady house kicks and digital woodblock melodies serve as the platform for a slightly more coherent version of Machine Girl’s typically distorted vocals. His flow fits tightly over the pumping dance beat causing for an abrasively charged, make-you-want-to-do-aerobics-to-it experience. The track switches up toward the end, descending almost helicopter like, into hints of full-blown heavy metal. Machine Girl let loose and screams his most screamo-esque verse yet. This deviation only sticks around for a few seconds, smoothly transitioning back into a classic Machine Girl beat with the repeated sample: “A message from the freaks, you are what you eat.”

Easing off of the nightmare throttle, “NWOFKA Skullboy” bumps along with a video-game-esque melody not unlike many from Machine Girl’s earlier works. A marching band bass drum beats steadily under some of the softest drums on the project, with the track transitioning into a sample of a man proclaiming “this is daytime shows for children” into the bridge’s gurgling bass and high-pitched vocal chops. The repetitiveness leans more on their footwork influences, as the track slides back into its main progression. Without vocals, the track harkens back to an earlier Machine Girl.

“Full Metal Disphit” stands out for its jerking rhythm. Shaking violently in your seat until the person next to you calls your mom for help is an appropriate initial experience. Mostly drums and vocals highlight the beginning, separated by digitally-simulated cries of a small animal until the track is panicked with a full sonic release. After a short, clicking build, the track fills the empty space with Windows ME Millennium Edition startup pads. Machine Girl’s vocals become soaked in reverb, and after each cryptic chant, his screams ring out in dark ambience.

The Ugly Art lives up to the experimentally-brutal cyber-punk legacy paved by their past releases. Surpassing expectations, Sean Kelly performs drums with precision matching that of software used in the past, while bringing a new form of raw volatility. The band have taken elements of juke, breakbeat and electronic found on past releases such as Gemini, and fused them with the electronic punk sounds of …BECAUSE I’M YOUNG ARROGANT AND HATE EVERYTHING YOU STAND FOR, creating yet another fresh and unapologetically-grating sound for the duo. This innovation and skillful execution demand The Ugly Art be remembered as a defining record within the group’s discography.

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