Review: Drum Machine – Space Suite (Lower Parts)

While the craze for true analogue jams seems to have receded a fair bit over the last year or so (or, at the least, finally settled into its own real niche), there is still a certain amount of romance attached to the idea of the lone producer, head down in a room lit only by flashes of LED light, coaxing all manner of weirdness out of racks of tortured machines. Greek producer Drum Machine, part of the Thessaloníki based collective Anopolis, has a reputation as a serious gear-head and indeed its the sound of collapsing electronics which dominates his new release on Lower Parts.

While the music is coloured with the distorted warmth that goes hand in glove with most modern hardware work, it doesn’t simply kick everything into the red and have done with it. Underneath the noise there is a fine techno mind at work, drawing out grooves which, although hard, never let go of an air of experimentalism and sense of adventure. At it’s most straight forward, such as on opener Jungel where the beats are thickened to the point they almost blur together and the rest of the tune appears only as a heat haze above the rhythm’s molten flood, it can get a bit crowded; a vortex of sound which sucks up everything around it and leaves you elated but exhausted.

But Jungel is by far the most conventional of the tracks. A better sense of drive and purpose on offer is to be found on VCO Ship where Drum Machine finds a natural balance between abrasiveness and a finely honed atmosphere of unraveling emotion. The beats still char the bones, but the ghostly pads and loose, simple riff hold in place an echoing moodiness which elevates the tune far above that of a simple electronic work out and teases out an implausible prettiness.

The collaboration between Drum Machine and Mituo Shiomi, Acute Angel, drives things further away from sanity, drowning the brain with the feeling of things really going off the leash, but using that madness to build a scatter shot monster that seems destined to fall apart even though it slowly reveals itself to be in complete, precise control. The beats rarely sound as if they’ve ever met each other before, so urgent are they in moving around, but as the track unfolds it reveals a demented sense of popiness and light which lends it something bubblegum and cheeky.

The tune I keep coming back to time and time again though, Space Wave, cuts away everything that it should need to make it work and leaves only a single vast and percussive riff behind. Space Wave distills Drum Machine’s penchant for tone and mood wrapped up in heavy sound, reducing down to a burst of rainbow frequency which drags influences of house, techno and day-glo big room rave out of hiding, guiding it with little clatters of metronomic clicks and the riffs own sense of purpose and direction, shining a bright and exhilarating playfulness across it. An explosive finale, and a fitting one for a record that veers between different facets of a common sound.