Sky Machine is the sci-fi inspired jazz fusion act hailing from the west coast
08.12.2020

Sky Machine is the sci-fi inspired jazz fusion act hailing from the west coast

Words by Keegan Bennett

50's sci-fi storytelling and jazz fusion epics are at the heart and soul of this new project.

Imagine an alternative universe where a chance alien encounter in New Mexico leads a secret society to develop an advanced human colony on Mars. Perhaps that isn’t an alternative universe at all? Has anyone checked up on Mars recently?

Regardless, Perth’s Sky Machine is creating an incredibly interesting mixed-media project, comprising of two elements. A four-chapter story that tells of a secret mars colony made from reverse-engineered alien technology and a four-part jazz-fusion epic, this project borrows all the best parts from sci-fi of the 50’s and experimental jazz and throws them into a melting pot, offering listeners music that connects to an underlying narrative, or at the very least, a handful of exciting and engaging tracks to listen to.

O’Brien says that despite studying jazz at WAAPA, he grew up on heavier bands like Slayer, Korn, and Slipknot, influences that can be heard in Sky Machine’s composition if you listen hard enough. In particular, funky, slapping basslines throughout the 10-minute ‘Prototype’ could be a nod to ‘Follow the Leader’ era Korn.

The progression of this piece pulls the listener through the narrative the band is trying to establish, layering elements on top of each other and solo sections that become more and more complex are akin to the scientific development the accompanying story chapter tells of. O’Brien says that when recording ‘Prototype’, any time constraints were set aside for pure musical creativity, “It’s really up to how long each soloist wants to go for… Once the soloist is finished, they just cue to the next section of the song or the next soloist. It feels really organic to record in that way” he says.

One of the stunning accompanying illustrations for the project

The band’s director, Nathan O’Brien says the project was bubbling away in his mind whilst studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), “I met the guitarist David through a teaching practicum placement in 2017 and we started chatting” the rest is history as they say.

The dialogue between the keyboard and the saxophone at around the 6-minute mark sounds like some of the jazzier sections of An Endless Sporadic’s discography (Guitar Hero veterans will be familiar with this artist, check out ‘From the Blue’ to hear what I mean) and as a whole, the idea of a narrative-driven musical experiment seems picked from the realm of prog-rock, pieces like Rush’s ‘2112’ and Dream Theatre’s ‘Octavarium’ spring to mind.

For O’Brien, the intention behind the series is to world build, “We’re creating a backstory that sets up our debut album” he says regarding the story. “We decided to do it in four chapters to give us space to plan out the next few years. I think it makes sense for a new band to release a few singles first before launching into an album. It gives us time to grow our audience and to get them familiar with the concept of the band”.

If the concept of Sky Machine’s debut record is anywhere near as strong as that of the preview tracks, then audiences are in for a treat when the band eventually return to live performances. Sky Machine has a show at The Rechabite in Perth on the 20th of December but hopes to organise some east coast shows too once the pandemic situation allows for it.

Check out Sky Machine’s website, including story chapters and accompanying pieces here.