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Friday, December 12, 2014

Machinecode - "Samurai"

Artist: Machinecode
Album: Samurai
Year: 2014
Label: Ad Noiseam
Genre: Drum and Bass
Website: www.adnoiseam.net

Man, these guys never sleep. In addition to their project Underhill, which had a new release on Ad Noiseam earlier this year, Tim Eliot (aka Current Value) and Dean Rodell are already back with their drum and bass leaning project Machinecode (not to mention this project has an earlier 2014 release on Subsistenz). Let me open by saying that I am absolutely no expert on drum and bass. It's one of those genres that I know of only in a peripheral capacity - I like a bit of it, listen to it every once in a while and know of several key artists, but couldn't tell you much beyond that. For that reason I won't be able to delve into this album in the way that other zines might; though I do have some familiarity with Current Value and his discography, so here is my take on it.

I got into Current Value somewhere in the middle of his career when he was forging the "skullstep" sound. It seems that he has since moved away from that - the opener here "It's Time" contains fragments of that sound, but it has a lot more going on. It feels like a combination of his older, more progressive (or whatever the correct term is) work a la Seeds of Mutation, his heavy darkstep, and classic old school drum and bass that had those great rave-y synths. I really liked that period of drum and bass so this appeals to me quite a bit. "Wires" is one of my favorites on here; it opens with a long intro of pleasant pads, beeping & muted synths, and eventually bits of melodious piano which gives the feeling of drifting underwater. Then about 2 minutes in the drums kick it full force and it instantly reminds me of classic 90s melodic dnb, LTJ Bukem style. I absolutely love that stuff. "Urban Drum" has a somewhat similar vibe and it has an MC on it (Coppa). Normally I fucking hate MCs, but he has a good flow and his voice actually fit pretty well and it's not a fucking obnoxious NWA/whatever gangster rap mashup, so props for that. I've always appreciated Current Value's penchant for long ambient intros and I dig that they bring that to the table here on a number of the tracks including "Seraphic". Ironically, "Labyrinth" features Balkansky which pretty much makes it an Underhill track; as expected, this one is slower and more gritty - though not quite a "dubstep" sound per say. The title track "Samurai" is another great throwback piece that reminds me of "dnb I liked" from the 90s (kinda similar vibe to CV's "Dark Rain"). Towards the end of the album there are a couple of tracks that I couldn't really get into including "Red Nova" and "Mining"; the production was muddy and they didn't have a driving groove I could connect with. However, the album bounces back with the very chilled out, moody "City Lights" which reminds me of, not surprisingly, a futuristic city at night. The album ends with the seemingly odd-fitting remix from IDM producer Huron, of whom I am a big fan. This remix is excellent and is one of the highlights of the record. He slowed things down and crafted an extremely spacious, atmospheric, IDM-infused mix filled with melodious bits of his trademark piano, which manages to retain a modicum of the Machinecode/Underhill gritty dubstep vibe (I'm pretty sure this track actually comes from the "Current Value & Dean Rodell" release Sparse Land from 2009 and was my favorite piece of that record - side tangent: if I remember correctly that was the first Current Value "dubstep" release and it still had a cool skullstep vibe and it was neat & groundbreaking so check it out).

I don't know what's going on in the wide world of drum and bass music these days and how this compares to other contemporary stuff, but I enjoyed Samurai quite a bit and I'm sure others would too. If you like the Current Value darkstep sound and are looking for a more variation with a bit of atmosphere and some throwback synthwork, than check this out. I like that this album contains a large amount of diversity and different types of tracks - different sounds, different bpms, different vibes, etc. That's one thing that turns me off from a lot of dnb - way too same-y, so it's great to hear a full length that thinks outside the box a bit in that aspect. Definitely a worthy addition to the catalog of these prolific producers.

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