Review of Human Energy Album by MachineDrum

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.

MachineDrum Human Energy Album

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".

Neither of which seem very much in the ether during Morphogene, a track whose title makes it sound like some grim 3am German banger but via the pitch shifted scatter of Ruckazoid ends up sounding like Frank Ocean with his MPC running some Disney patches. Better still, Angel Speak is a laser precise twerk-quake waiting to happen (Metaphorically of course, Cali heads), whilst the wistful, refracted post r&b of Tell U has a Kindergarten charm punctuated by Stewart's mischievous re-working and effortless beat science.

Stripping back all the hokey aphorisms about early listeners feeling spiritually energised, us average Joes will find it hard to not be carried away by the enthusiastic West Coast vibes, even if we're slightly weirded out: the soulful glitch of Celestial Levels cuts both restless and serene, the oddly twisted funk of Spectrum Sequence reads your aura and Isometrix is full of harmless dancehall swagger like Jar Jar Binks.

All of this creativity comes wrapped in a high concept which is to be admired too, Stewart explaining his new philosophy in stating "We're living in dark times and with so much negativity existing in the world I want to be a rare voice of positivity."  We applaud. And although he appears to have deliberately stolen some Crystal-bothering titles for them, Ocean of Thought, Opalescent and Human Energy's finale Colour Communicator are each separate dimensions of a convincing, uplifting whole that undeniably means their creator has delivered on his mission statement.

For a man so apparently restless, settling down appears to have spurred Travis Stewart into splitting the atom that lies between spirituality and the cold logic of the machine. In the process the end product is possibly his finest hour, under any guise: All it needed it seems was love.

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