Current Value – Scalar EP
Words by Mat Taylor
If you read our site, you’ll know how I feel about Current Value. Other than believing he’s some kind of sentient algorithm that thinks in breakbeats and expresses himself in alien frequencies, I also consider him one of the all time greats of our genre. Ten years ago, when the much maligned “pots and pans” tag was applied to any drum and bass that used broken, complex break patterns and loud, distorted kicks and snares, a lot of the most respected DJs within the scene would refuse to play his music. “It sounds like heavy metal!” they would bleat. “It’s a whole different genre to drum and bass!” they would squeal, while wringing their hands and wittering something about “funk” and “musicality” as I rolled my eyes and pretended to listen. Things change, though. Now Tim Eliot, one half of Machinecode, also known as Current Value, has produced and remixed music for the likes of Bjork and showed even the most cynical of detractors that he can turn his mechanical hand to any style of drum and bass that he feels like. Now Doc Scott, one of my other personal favourites, has signed a four track E.P to his unassailable, cutting edge label 31 records. I would never have believed this could have happened ten years ago, but as I said, things change and you can never predict what’s around the corner. Here’s my track by track run down of one of the best releases this year.
Title track, Scalar is laced with that eiree synth vapour that hangs in the background like a fog until that amazing, factory production line buzz of the bassline kicks in. Like every track on this E.P, this has that characteristic Current Value sound that is somewhat reminiscent of his Back to the Machine album, but with a less aggressive, more rolling vibe that takes the sound in a different direction. I can imagine any of these tracks being dropped alongside something minimal and moody by Skeptical and Jubei or something tough and techno heavy by the likes of Forbidden Society. Somehow, Current Value has come up with an appealing middle ground for a sound that has always divided the crowd and split opinion without compromising the essence of what makes his music so great.
Next up, Bigger Picture has that sharp, clear Current Value sound right from the introduction. The swinging, shuffling beat dies away only momentarily before a brief silence and that super clean drop. The twisted, alien baseline growls and squelches its way through the track as we would expect from this veteran producer but as he proved with his slew of releases on critical and various other labels, understatement and minimalism can be as powerful as the sheer force & chaos he established his reputation with. I’ve heard this track out in a club and over a good sound system, it has that innate power to rearrange your insides like only good sub bass can. I’d like to criticise this and say something about it all sounding the same, but the fact is, it doesn’t. This is still Current Value, but stripped back, refined and re adapted to work with the rolling back catalogue of the label that gave us some of the scene’s staple tunes.
Major Fracture takes us back to the sinister, gleaming metal structures of the imagined dystopian future that Value’s music so often evokes. The short, subtle introduction is rudely interrupted by the crushing weight of a bassline that will leave your face tingling and your lungs breathless if you’re too close to a good set of club speakers. Like all of the tracks on this album, this is an energetic but rolling track that skates the line between savage, peak time neuro funk and understated, rolling funk. There’s nothing really like this out there at the moment. There are certainly a few things that might aim towards this level of clarity and precision, but I’ve yet to hear anything that comes close.
Final track “Reconsider” is another subtle composition that has all of the shimmer and polish we expect from a Current Value track but none of the face melting intensity. This is probably his most subtle yet. It’s unlikely many people will be dropping this in a warm up set but it would sit very comfortably among bass heavy, minimal steppers and rollers, rather than the screaming, noisy, headbanger anthems by Donny and Limewax. Some fans of that sound may be a little disappointed but all those who enjoyed his album on Critical will absolutely adore this.
Overall, this is one of my favourite release of 2017 and just another step forward in Current Value’s seemingly never ending rise to drum and bass domination. Perhaps he won’t be working on Rihanna albums any time soon, but it’s safe to say this producer continues to go from strength to strength with every release he puts out. For a label like 31 to embrace this sound means a great deal, especially to the die hard fans of left field, underground drum and bass. They’ve proved that although they support the minimal, rolling, moody sound, they are also a label that can still surprise us, even 23 years after they changed the face of drum and bass the first time around.