Too many electronic releases fall within two extreme aesthetics: icy cold or super dance party warm. It’s hard to make non-traditional, machine-made notes sound humane, simply because they’re not. With Small-Time Machine, Cassettes Won’t Listen’s Jason Drake makes a strong effort for the relatability of modern electronic music.
A relatively short full-length, there are seven songs here, most of them with a relaxed pace. When he does get into dance mode on “Two Kids,” it’s not so intense that you feel obligated to pump yourself full of ecstasy or mushrooms and find the nearest dance floor with strobe lights.
Drake uses a lot of piano and guitar, which works in his favor here — the piano-electro contrast of “Paper Float” makes it hard to ignore. The delicate piano melody clashed against an awkward, bumbling robot-like theme makes for an interesting comparison of the old and the new. Drake uses this kind of juxtaposition throughout Small-Time Machine, but it’s here that it’s most apparent.
Like many before him, Drake’s muse seems to be romantic frustration, as most of the lyrical content is confused, angry, and/or resigned. On opener “Metronomes,” he suggests, “let’s give up / the feeling’s gone / I’m sorry we do this again and again.” He sounds unsure on “Large Radio,” “it’s nights like these I wonder who I really love” and on “The Broadcast,” “try to find a meaning / to the reason you keep me around.” Everything is full of enough wistfulness and longing that you almost want to console him, but there’s enough strength in a song like “Finishing Line,” that it doesn’t seem like you have to.
Drake is a young artist, still in the development stages, but it already feels like he has something new to contribute. This was originally just a bedroom pop project, but it’s really taken off: he recently played SXSW, has been featured all over blogs and teamed up with New York’s Brooklyn Industries to do an in-store tour of all of their shops.
Small-Time Machine is self-released, so he’d probably appreciate it if you purchased a copy through iTunes or his website.