"The Ballad of a Broken Machine" by Euan BlackmanReview
Following the release of "Burn", the lead single from his upcoming second EP (which we reviewed in July), Euan Blackman today shares the second one: "The Ballad of a Broken Machine", which like its predecessor which was created entirely by Euan in his home studio & was mastered by Jim Spencer (Johnny Marr, New Order, The Charlatans etc) at Eve Studios. Let's hope it received the same level of support and attention as "Burn" was picked up by both BBC Introducing and featured on the Fresh Finds UK playlist by Spotify and his music has been praised by the likes of folk artist Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Radio 1's Jack Saunders and Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda: so it clearly appeals to a broad range of tastes beyond the alt-folk scene.
Melding the futuristic (it concerns "a robot/machine that finds love and begins to malfunction due to the emotional intensity") and traditional folk instrumentation, it really boils down again to his interest in the human heart and its anguishes, just expressed in unusual terms this time: seeing our habitual impulses in terms of programming. Euan also cites "..the books of Sally Rooney in the storytelling…" and "…all the sounds and ideas of bedroom pop (such as Clairo, Mac Demarco).." in helping to shape the sound of the track: so plenty of cultural capital is on display here.
Timelessness is a key idea and aim for Euan and he can manifest this in several ways: the juxtaposition mentioned above contributes to the blurring of precise temporal location, but so does his delivery (is it a coincidence too that he favours such out of focus photos for his artwork?). "The Ballad of a Broken Machine" sounds like it's being delivered from several miles away, so dreamlike & detached is his vocal: I'm sure a sense of emotional objectivity may be what he's going for here. If you were expecting some sort of electro-pop clinical precision with the robot content, you'd be wrong. While Tubeway Army approached the story of intimacy meeting androids in "Are "Friends" Electric?" with a harsh alienated sound, Euan opts for something much softer & humane. Forget Blade Runner too: the dangers of AI are not on the menu really except as a wider analogy for failures (or partial failures) to process emotional inputs and make sense of signals.
Euan specialises in the introspective and I'm sure the heart of his artistic explorations can be found in reflections of this nature: that he has identified a fresh contemporary means of expressing some of these in "The Ballad of a Broken Machine" testifies also to his sense that timeless ideas need rejuvenated contexts in order for audiences to be inspired by them.