MIKE DRED First Machine Codes 93-97

Straight outta Lowestoft, Mr Dred is the man responsible for the fantastic "Macrocosm" single released on R&S a few years ago, a burbly bubbling acid device that sounded a bit like Hardfloor without the ever-present sense of, well, tubbiness that pervades that German duo’s work, and also for feted tracks recorded for the Aphex Twin’s Rephlex label. He was also behind half of the mysterious "Universal Indicator" EPs of the early 90s, the other two being produced by the (uncredited) Richard D James.

Quite an impressive track record in techno terms, which brings me to "First Machine Codes" a five-album box set of tunes released between 1993 and 1996. Something tells me that this may be a low-key release: perhaps its the absence of any identification on the outside of the box, or the lack of a label name or catalogue number. It could be the way my copy was signed by the man himself and numbered 010 out of 167, or the fact that the normally reliable Diverse hadn’t heard of it ("The trouble with this sort of stuff is that there’s so much of it..."), but my suspicions are that you wouldn’t get far trying to find "First Machine Codes" in Our Price.

Which is a pity, because when he’s good Mike Dred is very good indeed. His early music consists of big beat analogue synth thrashes reminiscent of the classic "Macrocosm", but also not dissimilar to the kind of sound the Aphex Twin was popularising (or, being realistic, not popularising) at the time under the Caustic Window moniker. If you enjoy the sound of serious TB303 abuse - albeit not to the same degree as the likes of Josh Wink have pushed it since - you’ll probably like this.

However, halfway through "First Machine Codes" Dred junks the Rolands and starts making strange, clanking music - kind of Captain Beefheart goes industrial, but much less attractive than that would suggest - in collaboration with one Peter Green (not that Peter Green, I think it’s safe to say). Despite the occasional outbreak of synthesised string-section soundtrack music, most of the last three or four sides is painful on the ears. Change and progression may be natural, desirable things but sometimes, well, not for everybody. But for the most part "First Machine Codes" passes the difficult ‘armchair dance music’ test with flying colours.