Sunday, November 11, 2012

Album Review: Enei - Machines

Album Rating: B-
A lot of people would argue that the drum & bass scene has been a little too safe the past couple years. Producers like Andy C, Noisia, Friction, and Cause4Concern have dominated the genre for much of its 20-year lifespan, and as a result a lot of sounds in the genre have been used over and over again. It's one of the reasons why new faces are especially welcomed in drum & bass, and Enei is no exception. The young Russian producer (Alexey Egorchenkov) started making waves in 2007 with his first major release on Fokuz Recordings. After becoming the first and only producer to sign exclusively with Critical Music, one of the biggest techstep/neurofunk labels in drum & bass, Enei has been pleasing people left and right with a series of singles and EPs that take elements from both classic jungle DnB and more modern techstep drums and distortion. He's been so successful with his songs and performances that his debut album has been hyped up to levels akin to legends Calyx & Teebee's new full-length, a startling fact considering that duo helped shape the origins of the genre way back in the '90s and are two of the most famous producers in the world. And, although Enei had previously only released up to four songs at a time, no one doubted that he would be able to continue on his hot streak with Machines.

It's unfortunate, then, that Egorchenkov probably would have been better off releasing Machines as a series of EPs and singles rather than a full-length album. The album contains song after song of booming kicks, gritty, grimy snares, a big, full low end, and a heavily distorted wobble shredding through the rest of the piece. Any song on the album taken alone is unquestionably a good song, but what worked for Enei on two- and four-song releases fails to accomplish the same things over the course of 16 tracks - the whole thing just feels bloated and almost generic. Over half the songs on the album, no matter the intros, have too-similar main sections that end up feeling far more repetitive than anyone was expecting. Whether it's the big-bodied and bassy feel of "Machines," the nasally and bassy sounds of "2012," or a big-bodied, nasally, bassy style in "Elephants," Enei's masterful production skills can't save an album of the same idea repeated over and over again. It's especially sad to see that the few times Enei steps out of his comfort zone of massive techstep result in the best songs on Machines. "Runnin" combines the heavy bass Enei usually uses with a more subdued liquid DnB piano line and Georgia Yates' shimmering vocals, and ends up being probably the best song on the album. "Crawlers" also succeeds, mixing the omnipresent techstep feel of Machines with Mefjus' skillful neurofunk production, and again, the song shines brighter than the rest. Finally, "Situation" sees Ms. Yates return once more for a surprisingly masterful house performance, backed by an unexpectedly subtle clinking beat.

As much as those three tunes try to save the album, though, Machines is still a case of an album consisting of one large plateau instead of the ups and downs of most full-lengths. Due to the ridiculous hype the release has been getting and the almost god-like reverence Enei receives, listeners all over the world will still no doubt scream with joy with every room-filling kick, every wobble and screech piercing the air, every rise and fall of the heavy basslines. But the one-shot appeal of songs like "Cracker" and "Stonehead" simply doesn't work on a release of more than a couple tunes, and people will question whether Egorchenkov will ever be defined by cohesive releases instead of single tracks. There are just too many "Saligias" and "Trainchasers" on Machines for the album to obtain the critical reception Critical has probably been expecting, and unless there are any major changes in Enei's sound it looks like similar things will happen in the years ahead.

1. Machines
2. The Moment (feat. DRS)
3. 2012 (feat. Eastcolors)
4. Runnin (feat. Gerogia Yates)
5. Centrifuge
6. Elephants
7. I Don't Know
8. Saligia (feat. Kemo)
9. Thin Line
10. Cracker VIP (feat. Eastcolors and Noel)
11. Trainchaser
12. Crawlers (feat. Mefjus)
13. Movin Fast (June Miller Remix)
14. Rotate
15. Situation (feat. Georgia Yates)
16. Stonehead VIP

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