Elliot Galvin ‘The Influencing Machine’ (Edition) 4/5

“The Influencing Machine” is the third album from the creative mind of pianist, keyboardist and composer Elliot Galvin. A key member of Mercury Music Prize nominated band Dinosaur, Galvin builds on his reputation as one of the rising stars of European jazz by tearing up the textbook and allowing his idiosyncratic approach to music making to blaze a bold and brazen trail on this latest release.

This sonic exploration of the human mind, technology and our postmodern age features bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Corrie Dick. A disparate world of influences old and new work together to powerful effect as the trio negotiate compelling musical melodies, outlandish ideas and intricate concepts to create a devilishly fascinating whirlwind of a recording.

Galvin’s compositions are inspired by “The Influencing Machine” by Mike Jay, a fascinating historical account of the life of James Tilly-Matthews, a double agent at the time of the French civil war. He was a tea merchant, political thinker and architect, and became the first fully documented case of a paranoid schizophrenic who was committed to Bethlem psychiatric hospital in 1797. Tilly-Matthews lived under the delusion that he was controlled by a machine; the Air Loom, operated by a gang of criminals and spies skilled in pneumatic chemistry. Galvin was fascinated by the uncanny parallels with our modern lives and this album reflects Tilly-Matthews’ life and times in an apt way, bringing together sounds both old and new to identify the chaos, the beauty, the joy and the sadness of the world that was then, and the world in which we live today.

There is chaos in Galvin’s music, yet there is also intricate organisation. Beautiful piano melodies, reminiscent of something familiar you might have heard by The Neil Cowley Trio, crash headlong into broken, twisted musical caricatures, a-la The Nick Sanders Trio. Throw in a dose of The Bad Plus and you get a peek as to where this music might take you. But only a fleeting glimpse… this music at times is just bonkers, in a good way. Crazy themes ride effortlessly alongside twisted childhood nightmares. Like a Tim Burton movie, the darkness is interspersed with light. The ill-tempered chaos at times washed away by a soothing, caring, healing sunshine.

“The Influencing Machine” is like a fairground attraction; exciting, intriguing and more than a little bit scary. But just like a child, walking precariously and nervously towards that ultimate thrill, once you’ve experienced it you’ll be hooked, impatiently wanting to come back for more and more.

Mike Gates