Album Review

Strange Mechanics – Cirque De Strange

By Randy Harris

Strange Mechanics, the five-piece band from Ohio, seems to have found a niche in the new wave of progressive instrumental jam music we are currently in the midst of. A heavy dose of funk is on the menu at each and every turn, never knowing whether they will burst into head-banging rock & roll or a mind-altering wave of electronica. Strange Mechanics’ debut album, Cirque De Strange, was released earlier this year, and what follows is a look inside the madness.

“Jellyfish” kicks off the album in a deep, melodic groove with rolling bass, hypnotic instrumentation and uplifting chord changes. Immediately noticeable was the band’s deft utilization of isolated instrumental riffs to drive home the lyrics. The album floats along with “Be Somebody,” which features an interesting dichotomy between the care-free instrumentation and the go-getter lyrics. The combination results in an overall vibe of encouragement and enrichment. The title track, “Cirque De Strange,” certainly lives up to its name, although without reaching too far into weirdness. I can definitely see this one turning into an epic journey into the ether in a live setting, however. “Slide into This Groove” breaks down in a sexy, jazzy groove. The lyrics speak of that all too well known feeling of letting the music take over our bodies. Finishing off the first half of the album, “Groove” brings out the super funk. The laid-back tempo, a common theme throughout the record, allows the band to dig deep and release sonic blasts into the airwaves.

In the second half of the album, it’s time to let loose, starting with “Whatever the Funk.” This progressive tune represents a middle finger to anyone trying to keep us down, singing “I can do whatever the funk I want.” Teasing synths highlight the saga of “Take it Slow,” which reminds us in the lyrics that things have a way of working themselves out if we just take a step back. A guitar vs. keys duel puts the icing on the cake for this one. “Funk Warts” finally takes us down into the rabbit hole with a swirling, mesmerizing groove. “Samson” and “Plight of Samson” are obviously connected in some way. It seems to me that “Samson” lays a bit of background on a character named Samson with the lyrics, followed by an instrumental section that allows us to get to know Samson a little better. Then, “Plight of Samson” comes in the form of an entirely instrumental, progressive tune, allowing every listener to interpret Samson’s plight in their own way.

Cirque De Strange is an incredible follow-up to the band’s 2014 Circles EP. The tunes are progressive and well-written, keeping listeners hooked and on their toes every step of the way. Creative lyrics add some unique flavor to the tunes, but the primary genius behind them is definitely in the instrumental sections. The solos are crafted masterfully in order to build anticipation without giving too much away, almost like a first date. It seems that Ohio continues to pump out great jambands, as these Cincinnati natives make their mark and work their way onto the scene.