Motion Turns It On
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Motion Turns It On


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"The Silent Ballet Review - Live @ The Southpaw"

Motion Turns It On - Live at the Southpaw


Score: 7.5/10

The easiest thing to hate about so much prog, old and new, is the copious instrumental ability turned towards nothing more than showing off, with the concept of focused songwriting dropped like a vestigial organ. I've reviewed more faceless math rock bands that could play the hell out of their instruments without doing a single interesting thing musically than I want to remember, and, in some ways, the overly simplistic arrangements of so many post-rock bands seems like the reactionary punk rock answer to so much onanism (the truth being more painful: many of these bands have limited abilities). Thank God for Motion Turns It On, who continue to remind me that Herculean musicianship and tasteful songwriting need not be mutually exclusive.

Motion Turns It On caught my attention last year with the excellent and woefully undernoticed Rima, which highlighted the skills of a band that had taken six or so years to really get comfortable with each other as musicians before trying to foist their compositions upon the world. A year later, and the band has unleashed the similarly impressive Live at the Southpaw EP to demonstrate that they are every bit as capable live as they are in the studio.

On this immaculate-sounding live document (seriously, the production here is tits; I wouldn't have thought "live" without knowing it), Motion Turns It On debut three new compositions alongside the excellent "Satelightening" from Rima. The basic sound is the same -- aggressive, polyrhythmic drumming, a manic-but-rock-solid bass anchor, and frantic solo tradeoffs between the guitar and the keys -- but the sound here is a bit looser and more ragged than on record. This is a good thing, as the sheer talent that the musicians bring to bear on these songs becomes more apparent when highlighted by the improvisational, one-take-is-all-you-get nature of live performance.

Singling out a standout moment from any of these fierce, energetic displays is difficult, as I'm continually amazed by how in tune with one another - and with the needs of the songs - the musicians remain while flexing their chops, but if I had to pick one, I'd say at around 4:30 in "Moyedi (The Gazelle Gets Its Revenge)" when the keyboards are tearing through subspace and William Kenny drops his guitar to throw a simple, but effective, trumpet line over the chaos. It's a beautiful moment, one that's as unexpected as it is unforced, and it highlights just how delicate the balance between rehearsed tightness and improvisational flare can be. It's a productive tension that generates a boundless sense of possibility, one that's becoming increasingly rare in younger post-rock bands, The Samuel Jackson Five and The Drift being Motion Turns It On's only real company in this regard (pretty significant company, if you ask me). "Satelightening" clocks in at three minutes longer than its studio counterpart and is all the better for it, further driving home that the point that this is a band possessed of the confidence and talent to experiment successfully with what would be lockstep regurgitation for so many others.

About the only negative to this disc I can come up with is that, at just under half an hour, it leaves me wanting more. Motion Turns It On are quickly becoming peerless in the instrumental scene, and I'd advise you to get on the bandwagon now so you can say you liked them way back when. Live at the Southpaw is chock full of incredible sounds, and I eagerly anticipate this talented, charismatic band's next full-length. The fact that this band remains unsigned is criminal - they're doing backflips around most of the signed instrumental acts out there. Next time they come as near to me as the Southpaw, I won't be so foolish as to miss them.

-Lucas Kane - The Silent Ballet

"Skyline Network Review - Live @ The Southpaw"

Now here�s something we don�t enjoy everyday - a live album. When we were growing up, no doubt influenced by what appeared to be the relative ease with which Primus and the Beach Boys were able to capture the essence of themselves on Suck on This and Beach Boys Party!, respectively, it seemed like a live recording was the way to go. Why even bother with studio trickery! Just show up, plug in, rock out and dub it onto tape! Frankly our views were more hardened by de Schmog�s Fairy Tale, which we, to this day, will swear an oath to blog is a better sounding version of the band than any of their studio recordings. Oh youth.

Fairy Tale, we later learned (aka, when reading the liner notes), had some post-show work done in the studio. And it turns out Beach Boys Party! wasn�t live at all, recorded entirely at a studio, a gimmick cooked up by Brian Wilson himself. Oh yeah, and we liked Primus. Now older, and listening to Rattle and Hum with significantly less frequency, we�ve come to view the live recording as a junior partner to the subtler and more satisfying craft of multi-track recording. Granted there are exceptions, like Spiritualized�s epic Royal Albert Hall and Nirvana�s catalog deconstructing Unplugged in New York, but for the most part they just come off as half baked; something thrown out there by a record label to maintain brand awareness while their hit machine struggles to compose its next opus. Rarely if ever, afterall, can the entire sensory experience of a concert be re-created by a feast only for the ears.

Doubly so for �local� live albums (again, Fairy Tale being an obvious exception). Frequently, they�re a bad microphone in the audience or recorded directly from the sound-board, neither one being particularly good source mater from which to construct a decent final mix. MySpace is littered with live recordings of local bands that sound so awful it boggles the mind people would put them up there for others to hear. Sure, its great to be stoked about your music and what to put it out there for people to hear, but good biscuits and gravy from AAA Cafe, have a little respect for the shape your art is in. So, with all that on record, you might be just as suprised as we were at how Burt Reynolds as Malone Motion Turns it On�s new Live at the Southpaw EP is (note: Burt Reynolds as Malone kicks ass).

Setting aside the production pitfalls of live recordings for a minute, it actually makes more sense for MTIO to make a live album than almost any other band in town. During the year of the INSTRUMENTAL MADNESS of our lord that was 2007, you could generally wheat and chaff the various vocal-eschewing acts around town with a few simple descriptors. Blades are the guys with the mathy time signatures and angular riffs; By the End of Tonight are the guys who can�t write a song with fewer than one thousand parts; Co-Pilot found the part of outer space that has lots of clouds; Rustler builds slow and steady to shredertaining metal heights; Golden Axe WILL MELT YOUR FACE; MTIO are looser and more improvisational. That right there is why Live at the Southpaw works so well.

Their debut outing, Rima, though a fine piece of work, froze their songs into a static, repeatable artifact. So while we enjoyed it, we felt it wasn�t as �genuine� as the band was live, when it felt like anything could happen and their songs a stack of Mad Libs waiting for whatever outside influences might make one outing so distinct from another. Here, like a rock solid jazz quartet doing its thing in black and white photography cool, the songs are freer, and the improvisations more organic than the could be in a studio where second takes are allowed. �Satelightening�, a track on both, clocks in a full three minutes longer here than on Rima. And granted, while anytime you put something to tape you run the risk of making it definitive, the effect here is making us want to head out the door to their next show and see what noun, verb and adjective they throw in this time. - The Skyline Network

"Houston Calling Review - Live @ The Southpaw"

Motion Turns It On
Live At The Southpaw

With hints of jazz, modern post-rock, and a heavy dose of prog, the album�recorded at Brooklyn�s Southpaw�gives listeners a taste of the four-piece in their best environment: live. Many times, instrumental rock bands fail to capture the intensity of their live sets, but Motion Turns It On have avoided that trap in the past. Last year�s Rima EP was impressive, but Live At The Southpaw cements the group�s place as one of Houston�s most technically proficient and inventive bands making music today. - Houston Calling

"Amplifier Magazine Review - Rima"

Rima, the freshman EP from Houston indie/experimental rockers Motion Turns It On, is an exquisite tidbit of appetizing proportions. Having played together for years, honing their skill before they took their vision live, Motion Turns It On has a sound that is not easily defined - no matter how badly one wants to pigeonhole it. Their songs have a familiarity to them not so much because they sound like other bands, but more so because of the genuine and comfortable way in which they write and play their songs. �Rima� is rife with jovial intensity and highlights Steve Smith�s nimble drumming techniques. �Satelightning� is a melancholy crescendo of harmonious instrumentation. Billy Kenny�s guitar weaves masterfully between Derek Sinquefield�s bass lines and Andres Londono�s aptly placed keystrokes. From beginning to end, Rima is a delightful journey of melodious noise. Rarely does a first release so deftly illustrate the soul and maturity of a band the way this EP does.

-- Brigitte B. Zabak
- Amplifier Magazine

"The Silent Ballet Review - Rima"

Do you like Tortoise? Motion Turns It On sure do, and like Samuel Jackson 5, they're plying a similarly solid take on the Chicagoan's smoothrockin' "is-it-jazz?" style. This sort of sound was all the rage for about three years before a few bands that need no mention showed up and then every band without a lyricist started tripping over each other to out-epic/precious each other. For that reason alone, Rima is a pretty refreshing listen circa 2007, but it's more than a merely passable imitation of its influences.

Motion Turns It On aren't as prone to electronic experimentation as Tortoise was, nor are they quite as satisfying and unique, but I don't know--something about this is totally hitting my sweet spot. Maybe it's because it sounds detached without ever being dispassionate, maybe it's because they breathe new life into old forms (something 99% of bands seem to fail at), maybe it's because they're packing the kick-ass musicianship--loaded with dexterous leads, smart call-and-response playing (check those keyboards in "Alphanumerica"), and some sweet in-the-pocket drumming from Steve Smith--that used to be a requisite in this genre, or maybe it's how they manage all of this muscular showmanship without ever showing off or forgetting to write songs, but Motion Turns It On have the indefinable "it" of a band hitting its stride.Rima hijacked my opinion from "meh" to "whoah" in only two listens and it's been uphill ever since.

Back up a minute--dexterous leads, I say? That's right, scarcely a week after un-famously soliciting the board for help in locating post-rockers who trade their reverb and circular three-note riffs with some searing solos, I find myself reviewing a band that knows exactly where, when, and how to shred, straddling the fine line between taste and technical ability. Ever wanted to hear John McEntire backing up John McLaughlin? Don't hold your breath, but here's the closest you'll get, and it's just as gnarly as you might hope. Most of the songs have some sweet and soulful fretboard fireworks that at the very least compliments the main action of the track, but on sublime jams like the title track and "Spytekite," William Kenny's ferocious, urgent lead playing elevates the songs to a classy, proficient plateau whereon the band gaze down with contempt on all the lesser instrumentalists cluttering up the playing field. His solos achieve exactly what solos should (yet so often fail to)--they take the songs to a place they couldn't have reached otherwise.

I suppose it's a little ironic that 30 years after punk rock, that same DIY ethic is being peddled by bands like Motion Turns It On that have all the chops of the prog bands the punks used to castigate, but whatever, I'm over it.Rima is a textbook example of how a little extra talent can go a long way towards fostering creativity and a sense of individuality. It's not exactly an original sound, yet I'm hard pressed to name anybody else that sounds "like" this. Although the band is calling this an "EP," don't be fooled--38 minutes of acrobatic, graceful avantstrumentals that achieve everything Maserati have been aiming for is a full-length by any other name. The gauntlet has been thrown down to jazzy post-rockers everywhere, and there are very, very few bands right now with the ability to pick it up.

- Lucas Kane - The Silent Ballet

"Sound As Language Review - Rima"

In reading the bio/press for Motion Turns It On as I always do before writing a review (how professional of me), it was stunning to see the amount of descriptions for the band. Progressive, instrumental, post-rock, math rock, psychedelic, ambient, spacey, dreamy, etc. The band�s sound had already lost me before even listening to one note. Rima quickly brought me back though and as I listened I understood the descriptions. Motion Turns It On actually do occupy a wealth of space in all those aforementioned territories. It is actually quite amazing the depth and diversity of MTIO�s sound. The band can lull you into complacency with beautiful sections before heading off into a math rock frenzy to make sure you are paying attention. MTIO�s schizophrenic nature makes it difficult for comparisons though. The band is not as hectic as By The End Of Tonight but not quite as epic as Explosions In The Sky. For obscure comparisons, MTIO remind me mostly of the eclectic, keyboard-laced instrumentals of the underrated Crime In Choir. Call it Tortoise on speed if you will. Technically an EP, Rima clocks in at 6 songs and a healthy 38 minutes. That is plenty of time for MTIO to show off their incredible chops in whatever genre they choose at the time. Fans of instrumental juggernauts take note. Motion Turns It On can rock you in any number of ways.

- Sound As Language

"Amplified - Motion Turns It On"

Every city, large or small, has nurtured some incredible bands and sent them out into the wild. Houston, Texas is a strange anomaly in the respect that it is so unbearably huge, but at a superficial glance there doesn’t seem to be much going on in the ways of an indie rock ruckus. Chances are when someone hears music coming out of H-town, they are listening to Beyonce, the late, great DJ Screw, or Mike Jones. Unfortunately, many people may not know that over the last few years, a subculture of driven, gifted, and innovative artists have emerged in Houston and are performing original music that is polished and unpretentious.

Motion Turns It On is one of a handful of local bands that are taking their homegrown sound out of Texas and sharing it with the rest of the world. MTIO is a quartet of quirky and lovable gentlemen from the suburbs of Houston. Their sound is a rambunctious combination of haunting calm and poignant cheer and their first EP Rima is a truncated taste of their tremendous ability.

Persistence and determination definitely pay off when it comes to MTIO. Having grown up in the same North Houston neighborhood, the guys have had plenty of time to get to know each other well. In the summer of 2001, a couple of them decided to get together and make some music. Since their inception, MTIO has gone through a band member or two, but have settled comfortably into their current structure. Regardless of the band’s formation, they have consistently created delectable and novel noise.

One of the reasons their music sounds so fluid and familiar is a direct result of the amount of time the guys took to themselves before unleashing their rock madness to an audience. Drummer Steve Smith talks about how their extended practice sessions contributed to the overall feel of their music. “We’ve gotten good at playing music with each other. I feel like we’ve gotten a little head start over most bands. We’re just now starting to get out there and play and we’ve already managed to get our sound together really well - instead of going out and playing and figuring it out later.”

They definitely have their sound together and the confidence and maturity that the band members exude makes their music that much more enjoyable to hear. The process they go through to create each melodic morsel is a calculated method that starts with something simple and evolves into a complex piece of instrumental fury. Even explaining their collaborative writing process is a joint effort. Guitarist Bill Kenny and keyboardist Andres Londono discuss the inner workings of a MTIO song. “The bulk of the time we’ve been together was our formative period - but it’s always based off of a small idea at first and then we build off of it. We don’t write in terms of regular song progression - we pretty much try to match up parts that we like and flow stuff together. It’s definitely a live writing process.”

It’s hard to imagine these guys ever having a small idea when the final product always results in a bold exclamation of rock savvy. From the moment the then-trio struck the opening note at their first live gig - they knew they had a good thing going. Although a friend, Londono was not an original member of the band. He actually became interested in what the other three guys had going on after seeing them perform at their first live gig. Kenny, with a mischievous grin, recalls that first show as his band mates listen on, “We were playing at this guy Travis’ house - and we were just a three piece then - I remember the first note that we played right when the first song started - knocked three pictures off the wall simultaneously. Yeah. It had a pretty good effect.”

Years after that gig, Motion Turns It On has found its niche as a band that is more cohesive and comfortable than it’s ever been. Having just finished a short East Coast tour that ran from Louisiana to New York, the guys will be settling back into Houston to eventually begin working on new material. There is a chance some of the new stuff will include an extra layer of goodness with the addition of vocals. Whatever the sound, listeners can be assured that these guys will continue to push the bar and experiment with rhythm, texture, and volume. They have already blown the door off the indie music scene in Houston and will no doubt be blazing a trail through your town soon.

--Brigitte B. Zabak - Amplifier Magazine

"Top 30 Tracks of 2008 for The Silent Ballet #17"

17. Motion Turns it On - Timber!!!
A band acting as lumberjacks: polyrhythmic drumming and an avalanche of guitar riffs and old-school keyboard improvs tear through wood, and as they yell their warning, we can’t help but follow every bit of the seven minute, prog-infused fall of our minds into the musical frenzy of this live recording. Impressive stunts come a dime a dozen, not as mere circus displays, but as one of the most fluid, coherent dialogues of the year, that are, if anything, enticing us to participate by rocking, jumping, or however it is you want to move around. (David Murrieta) - The Silent Ballet


Kaleidoscopic Equinox - 2010

The Silent Ballet Volume X-2009

Live@The Southpaw-EP- 2008

Music from Rima was used for the independent film "Discretion" which screened at the Austin Film Festival that same year.



Behind every great band lies a story waiting to be told.
Some of those stories are layered with clever anecdotes and inside jokes, while others illustrate the oscillating journey of musicians finding their way to one another in the hopes of making music that sounds good.

For Houston-based Motion Turns It On, that rollercoaster ride began, as stories of this nature often do, as guided youth living in the suburbs. Manufactured living leads young ones to the kind of restlessness that occasionally sparks dormant creativity. Lucky for us � the ever endearing members of Motion Turns It On had their creative bug turned up full blast.

MTIO got their start in the summer of 2004 and though the band�s configuration has changed over the years, most of its original members have stuck around to help transform their vision into something truly cutting edge.

With a solid lineup in place, the members of MTIO embarked on a new journey in their musical relationship - producing a stunning freshman E.P. release titled Rima. That one little 5-track gem garnered rave reviews from all over the country and their live gigs did the songs much justice. Each song meandered with great passion and intensity. Rima proved to be a thoughtful representation of the band�s ever-expanding range. It was quiet where it needed to be and raging with power and volume in the spaces quiet couldn�t fill.

Fast forward to 2009 and you�ll find Motion Turns It On is a bassist-free trio with two albums and two extensive tours behind them. Their sound is expanding in unforeseen ways, but having the ability to communicate with one another on multiple levels makes the new direction work seamlessly. Drummer Steve Smith reflects on how the band has progressed since their first E.P. release. It speaks to their commitment and drive to constantly push the proverbial bar � they are the music they create. �The sound we're going for now is less parts mashed up in a song and more development of a certain idea to build a cohesive song. In the beginning we were all just flexing our music muscles trying to grow collectively as a unit, not knowing what our sound was. These years later we are more confident and able to steer each other in a given direction with less ego bruising.�

A significant reduction in bruised egos lends itself to all sorts of experimental endeavors � musically that is. The years of wandering have long since passed and what replaces the serration is clean lines and focused imagination.

These days, the last thing you will ever see Motion Turns It On do is stand still.