[3 April 2014]
Following on from 2013’s Under the Sun album and their split 12” with I:Gor, Machine Code – the duo comprised of Current Value and Subsistenz boss Dean Rodell – return with a bang to their signature, neurotic, techno-influenced DNB on their new dancefloor-destroying new album Velocity. Combining Current Value’s signature drum tracks with almost early-era Metalheadz ambience and tough, rugged, analogue CV-modulated basslines, Machine Code continue to deliver the goods, managing to straddle the line between accessibility and experimentation with subtle aplomb.
Working in the upper bpm registers (in both full and at points half time – where they truly shine – see “Drunken Master” for a compelling exercise in experimental drumstep), Machine Code is an act that’s fully aware of the longstanding lineage of the genres they work within. Referencing classic tunes from within drum ‘n’ bass and rave-influenced music as a whole, the pair bask in the glow of aural experimentation, constantly re-inventing their sound, whilst at the same time staying true to their roots. Their experimentation with half-time drum tracks, their re-introduction of the moody memes that made drum ‘n’ bass so exciting after its split from jungle, the punchy, neurofunk style riddims, the ‘non drop’ drops and the more minimal arrangement styles normally associated with the more trendy, RAM styles of DNB all rear their heads over the pulsating parapet of beats and bass the producers have carved out, in the process, in my opinion, finally providing the DNB public with a credible, ultimately still accessible alternative to the minimal, loopy, autonomic sound that has gained in popularity since the early ‘00s.
The tunes, although being sound design-heavy in the low-end registers, ebb and flow in a delightfully controlled way, tempering the aggressive nature of some of the tunes’ synth lines with pepperings of organic instrumentation and the aforementioned, dark ambient treatments.The juxtaposition of technical ability and organic, melodic instrumentation is what really sets Machine Code apart from their peers with tunes such as “Drag Me” uniting organic melodies and harmonies with heavily filtered bass lines and soaring vocal refrains or “Insomnia”, a number that references both Ed Rush and Optical-style biological techstep as well as Metalheadz-era ambient treatments. The basslines, which are compellingly syncopated with the drums, smack you in the face and the chest simultaneously, whilst never overwhelming the rest of the instrumentation, as is so often the case when working at the more experimental end of any genre, let alone drum and bass. Vocal fx and piano lines swim up from the depth to add their color and flavor to the party at pertinent moments, providing melodic moments that season the dark rolling beats and bass.
As an album there are peaks and troughs in energy levels, due to the deployment of the aforementioned half-time tunes and different styles of bassline. It runs the gamut from rolling, melodic, lushness all the way through to hard banger territory and everything in between. In the process they give us access to probably the best work both of the producers have ever done.