Spirit Within is the debut album from Washington DC area band Machine Made Pleasure. Their material combines elements of traditional synthpop with some gothic overtones and a (usually) club-friendly beat. Those who have been listening to the AeschTunes station will likely have already heard the song “Ghost,” which recently topped our top 40 chart. This song provides a fairly accurate picture of the album.
Overall, there’s a lot to enjoy on this disc. Some of the songs are a little on the slow side for dance clubs – at least, the ones that I’ve ever personally been to, which haven’t been many or very recent. However, there are strong elements here that transcend this disc as simply a dance album. The lyrics have some dark, emotional overtones to them. Thematically, the songs tend to focus on the idea of love lost and resignation to fate.
The disc opens with the brief, mostly instrumental “Don’t Bring Me Down (Intro)”. This isn’t a cover of the classic Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) song, but simply a lead-in to the first full song on the disc, “Fast As Ever”. “I’d Die For You” is one of the most dance friendly tracks on the disc, with a high energy beat and interesting piano riffing. “World Of Sadness”, the song that immediately follows “I’d Die For You”, is one of the least dance-friendly songs on the disc, particularly among the first ten tracks. The strength of the material doesn’t come from being dance music, however; the strength of the material is from the writing of the tracks. The songs are engaging lyrically and melodically; whether they make good dance music isn’t necessarily the point. At least, to me it isn’t, but I’m not much of a club-goer, so who’s to say that I’m right there?
The last five songs on the disc are remixes of three of the songs from the main body of the disc. There are three versions of “Ghost”, plus mixes of “What Would You Do For Love?” and “Fast As Ever”. My biggest gripe with this section is that the remix of “What Would You Do For Love?” comes too soon after the original version of the song (since there are only two tracks separating them). “Ghost [Haunted Mix]” is an interesting track from an intellectual stand-point for me – the song has been slowed down and more emphasis put on the drums. The slowed down vocal, however, is a bit of a distraction. “Ghost [Spirit Within Mix]” is a more dance-oriented mix, and the “Poltergeist Mix” is a slightly scaled back and extended version of the original track.
On a personal level, I have to admit that the use of vocal distortion and echo that is overly present on the disc tends to wear on me. This, however, isn’t enough to not recommend the disc to those who enjoy modern synthpop. If you’ve heard “Ghost”, either on AeschTunes or through an MP3 download, you should have a fair idea of what to expect. Be sure to go by their website and you can hear samples of most of the tracks from the disc, plus a download of a remix of “I Can’t Take The Pain” that isn’t included on the album.
(reviewed by Daniel Aeschliman on November 11 2005)