Machinecode – Mechtropolis LP
Words by Mat Taylor
Current Value and Dean Rodell, AKA Machinecode, have been producing techno flavoured drum and bass for a while now and there are still very few who can match their combination of precision engineering and raw power. Since 2011s ‘Environments’ and 2014s ‘Velocity’ we have heard the duo experiment with extreme, kick drum laiden dubstep that would make a thrash metal drummer blush as well as their continued experiments in brutally digital drum and bass. Released on the consistently excellent Eatbrain Recordings, this album shows Machinecode heading in a slightly different direction once again. I’ve been listening to this album nonstop for a few weeks so here are my thoughts on each track.
The opening to the first track, ‘Imagine’, caught me off-guard. The effect on the vocals reminds me of chart friendly hip-hop so I was initially quite alarmed. Thankfully it doesn’t last long and as the soon as the bassline drops and Coppa starts to rhyme, everything is forgiven. The lyrics are fairly political without being preachy and both the content and delivery are flawless. In my opinion, this is some of Coppa’s best work to date. The track itself is also extremely good. With a flavour of neuro and a dancefloor friendly edge, it signals the opening to this epic album brilliantly. The title track ‘Mechtropolis’ is then Machinecode at their very, very best. This track has that combination of funk and angular, mechanical noise that is almost impossible to execute properly. There’s a latent savagery here, some of which is unleashed during the end section of each few bars in the form of a screaming burst of raw noise that made me extremely happy. With a depth and clarity to match the infectious, hypnotic groove, this is one of the best tracks on the album in my opinion.
Next up is the minimal, rolling ‘7.88’. This is pure techno drum and bass that evolves and develops as it progresses, building up and layering extra percussion and sounds as it goes on. The strangely hypnotic sample ‘our planet, had a pulse’ takes the tune to another level but it doesn’t have the same urgency and feeling of energy as some of the other tracks. ‘Space Goat’, on the other hand, is a truly ridiculous but brilliant name for a drum and bass tune. Possibly a reference to Baphomet’s undiscovered satanic shuttle program or maybe a nod towards astrology, I have no idea how tunes get named but it’s better than just calling them ‘Untitled’ or writing some numbers in a random order. This is more techno drum and bass that will please the diehard fans. The lead synth line has an element of dirty, free party acid techno and the bass and drums sit very comfortably beneath it. ‘Flintlock’, meanwhile, is a savage stepper of a tune with a pulsing bassline that fits perfectly over the drum pattern. It’s definitely nothing new, but it works well alongside the other tracks here.
As you move into the middle of the album you encounter ‘Sonic Tower’, which is a thumping, half time track that will make you think Amit has been abducted by aliens. To sound less like a lazy hack who expects everybody to know who Amit is, this made me picture a mutant insect with the body the size of a seal and tiny wings, bouncing along the floor in time with that thunderous bass drum. This is another exceptional track that will no doubt grow in your subconscious and resurface years later, like all the best unsung underground tracks too. Machinecode are pushing techno influenced drum and bass beyond places it’s ever been with this kind of composition and it’s a brilliant thing.‘Skaro’ is the perfect track to follow ‘Sonic Tower’, it’s slow intro acting as a well-considered segway in to the chaos that lies ahead. When this drops, things in the room will start vibrating like road drills. Phace, Mefjus and co have been experimenting recently with how far it’s possible to push the limits of noisy, ridiculous basslines and with this absolute monster, Machinecode are doing the same. This sound is closer to jump up than to what we know as neuro or techno drum and bass, but having said that the sample in the breakdown taken from a Dalek (hence, presumably, the name ‘Skaro’) would gesture otherwise. This has such sheer force and presence; I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a firm favourite for most people.
Next up we get ‘Battlestar’, which is a simple and extremely powerful techno roller and one of my favourites from the album. There’s not a great deal of melody to the track but the percussive sound that hovers above the drums and the bass is kind of all you need. As soon as this drops, your head is in the club. To be more specific, your head is down, your arms are battering the air like a windmill and your legs are stepping around the place like you’re that Irish Flatley bloke who can’t move his arms. In other words, this isn’t an anthem, it’s a heads down stomper of the finest order. The vocal from ‘Exit East’ has also been haunting my daydreams for two weeks. It’s truly bizarre. Maybe Value and Rodell have hidden something subliminal in there. This is an oldskool sounding track that nods towards the Wormhole days, but it’s extremely polished finish is leaps and bounds ahead of even the most popcentric producers. The difference here being that this still sounds like raw, undiluted drum and bass, rather than something you might hear on a Take That (or Sigma…) album.
‘Can’t Breath’ has a distinctly European trance sound that I’m not really into. Fans of Ben Sage and Rawtek will love the melodic, melancholy vocal in the introduction as much as the deep, warm bass after the drop. Although this isn’t my thing at all, it does show that these two producers are more than capable of making melodic, vocal driven tracks as well as noisy bangers for joyless chinstrokers like me. Next up we have ‘Test Run.’ This is a close second to the title track for me; it’s another glorious dancefloor roller that makes me want to skank around hard. I can’t get enough of this ultrahard, ultraclean sound that Machinecode are so good at creating. Building on the formula that has served them so well over the years, Value and Rodell now seem capable of making tracks like this in their sleep.
There are usually some average tracks on a drum and bass album and ‘Planet 9’ is unfortunately one of the few tracks that didn’t grab my attention particularly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong here, the production and arrangement are flawless as always, it just lacks something that makes it stand out from the others. ‘Mirror,’ on the other hand, is very special indeed. This unusual combination of supercharged techno and the kind of minimal sound you would expect to hear from the likes of Skeptical, Ruffhouse and Overlook is distinctive and unusual enough to take you by surprise. This tune definitely grew on me and by the fourth or fifth listen it had climbed the ranks in to my top three tracks on the album.
Next up is ‘Manouvre’, which rolls like a Break track but with the unmistakable Machinecode gleam. The shimmering, noisy top layer of effects above the bassline takes this chunky roller in to tech territory without losing that sense of energy. Like most of this album, this would sit comfortably among a few different styles of drum and bass in the mix rather than destroying all comers with its skull shattering snare. Penultimate track ‘Submerged’ features MC Coppa once again. Although it’s not quite as powerful as the opening track, this still shows off his vocal talents well and his presence lifts the track beyond the ordinary. Finally, the closing track ‘Speaker’ is an understated end to an album that has a few incredible high points and very few lows. These two producers seem to go from strength to strength with each release and this LP is no exception. By creating another incredible alien soundscape, Machinecode will have certainly pleased their fans but their approach to making dancefloor friendly rollers will definitely win them some new ones. Whether you’ve been in to this sound since the start or whether you’ve only just discovered it, I recommend you pick this up as soon as you can.
The Mechtropolis LP is out exclusively on Beatport on the 5th of September, and you’ll be able to grab it, along with all the other wicked Eatbrain releases, by clicking here. General release is the 19th of September and there’ll be a vinyl at some point too!