Teis Semey shows ambition in third studio album Mean Mean Machine
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Teis Semey shows ambition in third studio album Mean Mean Machine

"My inner forest is a pine forest." - Teis Semey

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Teis Semey shows ambition in third studio album Mean Mean Machine

Formed in 2019, Teis Semey (or the Teis Semey Quintent) is a five-piece jazz-punk group based in numerous locations around the world. The leader of the group, Teis Semey, is from Denmark and plays the guitar/compositions for the band. The rest of the group composes of; Alistair Payne from Scotland and plays the trumpet, José Soares from Portugal and plays the alto saxophone, Jort Terwijn from the Netherlands and plays the double bass, and Sun-Mi Hong from Korea and plays the drums.

Together, the band released Where the Fence is the Highest in 2019 via TRPTK, and Throw Stones in 2020 via Loumi Records. The group most recently put out their third album entitled, Mean Mean Machine in November of 2021 through ZenneZ Records and can be found on all major streaming platforms.

The cover of Mean Mean Machine is an anger-filled red, and incorporates a boy wearing a mask who sits alongside the name of the album. On the inside of the physical CD case Semey includes a collage of presumably photos of himself with the band. Alongside that collage, the listener’s eyes wander to a letter written by Semey. In the letter he writes, “This is as honest as I can get. My inner forest is a pine forest. It grows in my chest and sways, slowly, in a constant soft harmonious eagerness. Outside of my forest, my wish for authenticity and honesty suspends like a spider web between the tall buildings of my imagination.” He goes on to describe that this spider web is in a constant state of danger from the elements, which tear at it like “biting dogs.” Further on he states, “The machine is a mass grave of ideas, flooding the sewers beneath the factories of tired backs with desaturated creativity. The machine fuels your Uber. This machine tied your shoes. The machine is drooping eyelids and the forced smile from the other side of the counter.” Perhaps most notably, Semey writes, “Start with yourself!” and, “The machine has outlived its days. And I watch the machine collapse as I sit through a seasonal cycle, in my pine forest.”

Although we don’t need to dissect everything that Semey is describing in this letter – the takeaway is that everyone has their own naturalness, or “forest” inside of them. Whereas the “real” or industrial world that we actually live in, seeks to tear down anything organic. As an example, when the typical person thinks of jazz music; artists such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, or even Louis Armstrong might come into their minds. This sets the listener’s standards, or precedents, for what jazz is. Rather than letting the artist naturally describe what their own music sounds like, they are automatically put in a box in which they cannot escape because that makes everything simpler to define. This is where Mean Mean Machine shines it’s brightest; because this album proudly stands in defiance of these limited borders or boxes. By using his own unique style of punk, Semey proclaims true freedom and blends forms of traditional jazz, with punk, and indie, together to create something truly wonderful.

The album opens with the fast-paced track “Sun Song” in which the punk-like trumpet, guitar, and drums blare rhythmically together to grab your attention. Following that is the song “A Strange Absence of Birds” whereby the group slows down the tempo down a bit, and focuses on more traditional jazz elements. “Bamboo Eyes” follows this slow tempo and began with some light guitarwork and fed into the accompaniment by the rest of the group. Track four “Requiem” was the creepiest song off the album due to it’s eerie, slow, and lull sound. Every so often in “Requiem” the alto saxophone plays for a few seconds in the background and sounded like some sort of spider scampering about. “Monday in Turquoise” followed the same punk-ish style as “Sun Song,” and I really enjoyed the way the trumpet and double bass fused together. Track six “Glue or the Eternal Struggle of Beauty” follows a similar format to “Requiem,” but wasn’t anywhere as creepy. The final song “Tragedie” was a great track to close album on because it not only followed a similar sound to “Bamboo Eyes,” but it actually felt like the group was wrapping up everything they had intended to say.

In all Mean Mean Machine is a pleasure to hear and I find myself constantly revisiting this album. Everything about it is interesting and unique, and is a must listen to before the year ends. Given that this is the group’s third album in three years, I am hopeful that they will release another album in 2022.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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