Once you get through "The End" (which is actually near the beginning) — with a barrage of cymbals care of Brian Blade — Flesh And Machine is a relatively subdued affair: "Space Love" warmly bloops and bleeps as if you are in an incubator and can't quite make out what's going on the other side of the glass, while the more abstract "Tamboura Jah" ambles like the soundtrack to a science fiction desert film. Speaking of films, the charming and kind of dorky waltz of "My First Love" is a tip of the hat to Mexican film composer Esquivel! — Lanois might be breaking his "no out of the box sounds" rule here by employing omnichord to futuristically nostalgic effect. At its best, Lanois' ambient music evokes the angels. Rocco DeLuca's high and sustained vocal pitch sounds like a church organ on "Two Bushas"; elsewhere, on "Opera," Lanois has created an unsettling marriage of techno and symphonic music.
On this album with no words, it is nice to be reminded of human elements, like the comforting groundedness of piano on "Iceland" or the moment in "Aquatic" where you're not sure where your submarine is drifting off to and you stumble back into the studio, where there's a man teasing penetrating tones out of a guitar. (Anti)