As one of electronic music's most prolific producers - under various guises issuing circa thirty releases over the last fifteen years - the only inevitability about North Carolinian Travis Stewart's work is that some more will almost certainly be along soon.
And yet against most of the smart betting Human Energy offers something very different to its predecessor, 2013's Vapour City: whereas that was more tonally austere but indisputably polished, the follow up is by comparison a free-thinking wild card, unconcerned with the genre's frequently inhibiting obsession with obscurity and one one-upmanship.
The thing that's changed Stewart's outlook? Why, love of course, that and a new found and doubtless synergistic attitude towards his work by which he refuses to get caught out by taking life too seriously. Accordingly Human Energy is something of a romp, full of impulsive optimism and simplicity and supposedly inspired also by moving to California and embracing both what he describes as "New age concepts" and "Pseudo-sciences".
Continue reading: MachineDrum - Human Energy Album Review
Eden, North Carolina-born Travis Stewart - or Machinedrum as he is otherwise known (among many other a pseudonym) - has undergone something of a cultural upheaval in recent years, one matched by his move to the Ninja Tunes label. This change has been marked by his move to the Kreuzberg district of Berlin; a melting pot of cultural diversity, a proud devotion to its musical past and a hub of emerging talent in many genres with the many clubs and night venues in the area having their say on the proficiency of the local DJs and electronica producers who so regularly impose their own musical values on the area. On 'Vapor City', you can here this mish-mash of ideas that must greet Stewart every day; an amalgamation that sounds surprisingly good on tape.
"Ok, someone's been listening to Burial", was admittedly the first thing that came to mind when listening to album opener 'Gunshotta.' Admittedly, I am not a well-versed Machinedrum listener and 'Vapor City' is the first album I've ever heard by him, so the album was something of an experience to say the least. When the effervescent, urbanite dub is transformed into a Goddamn jungle track, my eyes (and ears) were immediately opened as it became clear that Stewart doesn't like to sit still. What unfolds from the pulsating opener is a mixing bowl of electronic sub-genres smashed to pieces and then re-assembled all over again like some kind of musical kintsugi.
'Center Your Love' is a lulling number where the tenderly strummed guitar chords, synth tickles and off-kilter vocals reel in the tightly processed claps and sprint-paced beat, fashioning a mellifluent piece of music. Stewart can cut back and forth between being almost waiflike and flying off the hinges with a stomping rave number, such as 'Gunshotta', with ease and does so throughout 'Vapor City'. He even does it on single songs, like the steady building 'Infinite Us.' As the luscious piano slowly morphs into a cyclical synth-line, then again transforms into an even grimier synth, so too does the beat morph from a steady flow to a frenzied drum & bass standard. All this before slowing down to that quiet plain once more as the song reaches its seventh and final minute.
Continue reading: Machinedrum - Vapor City Album Review