A Beginner’s Guide to The Mechanisms

Photo: Nicole Williams

This article first appeared in The Cherwell on 22 April 2016. This was part of a new feature designed to introduce readers to obscure bands they might not otherwise have heard of, so naturally I chose my own personal indie darlings, the Mechanisms.

The Mechanisms are utterly unique. Each of their albums feature sci-fi re-imaginings of classic folklore, from Grimm’s fairy tales to Arthurian myth, perfectly capturing the nerdy passion of Oxford at its best. Most of their songs consist of folk standards, re-written to suit a plotline, making them a sturdy base line from which to work, and the performers sell their roles (of bloodthirsty space pirates with a penchant for storytelling) with arresting conviction.

Recorded in 2012, their debut album Once Upon a Time (in Space) tells the story of a brutal interplanetary dictator and the rebellion led against him. It is probably The Mechanisms’ most accessible album. There are rookie errors – the voice acting, for example, is rather weak – but there’s an absolutely mesmerising story at its core, along with some of the band’s catchiest tunes. Their second album, Ulysses Dies at Dawn, contains an even headier combination of styles and images, this time creating a grim cyberpunk version of Greek mythology. While a bit less accessible, the final image is absolute genius. Their recent EP, Frankenstein, is strong, with a lean and disturbing tale of a rogue AI, even if the underlying composition feels fairly workmanlike.

The Mechanisms still play Oxford occasionally (you may remember their appearance at the Bullingdon in January), and are currently working on a new full-length album. For fans of folklore or folk-music, this is not a band to be missed, and the fact that it’s right on our doorstep gives us even less of an excuse.

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