Machine 69 iPhone app a maze of altered zones

Dec 16, 2010
OMG

Entering the Machine 69 app is like stepping into a funhouse. Fun in the sense that I had an enjoyable time poking around, but even more so, that the app itself is like being in a literal funhouse, like the one from your town carnival, replete with distorting mirrors and a sizeable ball pit. Well, […]

Entering the Machine 69 app is like stepping into a funhouse. Fun in the sense that I had an enjoyable time poking around, but even more so, that the app itself is like being in a literal funhouse, like the one from your town carnival, replete with distorting mirrors and a sizeable ball pit. Well, no, of course there wasn’t really anything three-dimensional coming from the iPhone app, but it did truly feel that way. Which I think was not far from what the app’s creator, Mark Wernham, was going for.

Wernham is an author currently working on his second novel, and Machine 69 is created around that novel, despite its still-in-progress status. Wernham describes the app as a “fractured digital entertainment experience,” and he’s exactly right. Essentially, you enter the universe of Jefferson Greenspan, the main character in Wernham’s new book and a time-traveling salesman trying to save the world in the ’60s (you wouldn’t necessarily figure this all out unless you read the description on iTunes). And his world is weird, but kind of awesome.

Navigating through the many media-filled squares that appear on your iPhone screen (15 come up at a time, but they’re constantly shuffled around), you’ll find music by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto, plus excerpts from the novel read aloud and backed by photographs (I assume they were taken by the author, who is also a photographer?). You will also find a “From the Author” note, in which Wernham explains how he got to make an iPhone app. This gesture gave the app somewhat of an endearing, intimate quality, as if the author was speaking to his fans directly, which I liked.

Above all, though, it was the music aspect of Machine 69 that I dug the most. From Mothersbaugh, we got loopy, trippy tunes that fit perfectly with the carnival theme of this app. (Wernham had curated an art exhibition of his a few years ago, and asked if he could use a piece of his music for Machine 69. Lucky for us, Mothersbaugh said yes.) And Dangers made driving, intricate rock music that played when you clicked on a Rolling Stone article from 1968 about the band La Grupo (which Dangers was in). I couldn’t have come up with a better soundtrack. Machine 69 is like a haunted amusement park meets an ’80s rock concert meets story time. In other words, it’s pretty hard to argue with.

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