In the two years since Marco Machera issued his solo debut One Time, Somewhere, he’s memorably appeared with Adrian Belew — and the connection pays off handsomely on this smartly conceived follow up. A trio of Belew bandmates (both in King Crimson and the offshoot Crimson ProjeKCt) appear on Dime Novels, adding new thoughts and textures to Machera’s always engrossing soundscapes.
Along the way, Dime Novels, newly issued on Innsbruck Records, finds the guitarist and percussionist furiously pushing at the walls of musical convention. There are moments when the album sounds like prog, others when it sounds like an ambient fever dream, others still when it sounds like something that couldn’t be farther away from either construct. Dime Novels is as challenging as it is entertaining — and a huge leap forward for Machera.
I also loved the way this album came alive thanks to a fuller sound palette provided by the likes of Belew confederates Tony Levin (whose bass imbues “Out of the Blue” with a rubbery mystery), Markus Reuter (the Robert Fripp protege adds a current of Crimson-y feedback to “Big Juju Man”), and Pat Mastelotto (he’s energetic, almost relentless on “The Sky”; darkly aggressive on “The Ugly Song”; mathematically intriguing on “Sing for You”).
Elsewhere, additional bass parts are provided by Pete Donovan and Kevin Andrews, while Andrea Faccioli’s lap steel downshifts Dime Novels into an Americana sideroad on “Ham on Rye” — a surprisingly effective aside which finds Marchera happily plucking away on a uke. Machera, who has also worked with Frank Gambale and opened for Marillion, then explores this mechanized new wave terrain on “The Art of Cliches” before closing with a return to the opening “Sky” theme.