Maschine: Maschine

Maschine's self-titled debut album would appear to have arrived at an unusual time, given that the group is now the sole concern of Eoin Coughlan after Aza Hand left the band last year to concentrate on a sound engineering career. What makes that unusual is that the album's ten tracks weren't produced by Coughlan in a sudden outpouring of activity but were instead produced between 1997 and 2006 and are therefore Coughlan-Hand creations, presumably. The collection blends crisp drum'n'bass, intricate breakbeat patterns, and electronica into a satisfying seventy-minute package.

Mangled track titles such as “FRaXeyeNEss” and “NewBInc” invariably draw connections from Maschine to Autechre, and Coughlan's music is sometimes reminiscent of the Warp act's: the bass drum throb and distorted voice effects dominating “NewBInc” and snappy beatwork and chiming melodies in “Mute” certainly suggest some degree of affinity between Maschine and Chiastic Slide-era Autechre, as does the closer “Marbley.” Another Warp reference that comes to mind is Squarepusher, given how easily Maschine's “DnB” could pass for a track left over from the Hard Normal Daddy sessions. That doesn't, however, prevent the cut from being any less engaging, especially when the powerhouse mix of electric piano, bass, and beats proves so ear-catching.

At the album's start, “Dubbed” rolls out with a snappy stealth that ably showcases Coughlan's beat programming prowess and his talent for getting maximum mileage out of a simple dub bass line. “Ebsolute” is likewise distinguished by intricate beatsmithing that might be complex but never loses sight of a fundamental focus on jazzy swing, and the mid-song interjection of an orchestral segment shows that Coughlan's aiming at something more than just a beat workout. An inspired dreamscaping-styled take on drum'n'bass, “Cordmash” stretches out for ten minutes of languorous splendour and avoids feeling overlong by changing the scenery ever so rapidly throughout. Why material created between 1997 and 2006 is only now seeing the light of day isn't made clear, but Maschine nonetheless can be experienced as a solid exploration that spans multiple genres.

April 2011