Machinedrum: Vapor City Archives (Ninja Tune, 2014)

November 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Machinedrum: Vapor City Archives

Machinedrum: Vapor City Archives

Travis Stewart was always one of IDM’s more hip-hop-savvy producers. He arguably beat Prefuse 73 to the game when glitch-hop was a thing in the early ’00s, and his early albums on Merck still sound futuristic. Having morphed through several sounds and labels since then, we find him now on Ninja Tune doing a sort of juke/jungle hybrid. He explored this connection more explicitly with his 2012 side project Dream Continuum, but now he seems to have integrated the elements a bit more subtly into his sound for this album. Where the Teklife crew is pushing the jungle elements so far in their recent work that they’re mangling breakbeats with almost breakcore-level intensity, Machinedrum is smoothing things out a bit, adding loads of ethereal echo and flourishes like acoustic guitars and female vocals (both on “Safed”), generally making the equivalent of LTJ Bukem’s ambient jungle. Which is not to say that this album is the 2014 equivalent of the first Logical Progression compilation (the only ambient jungle album you will ever need), but it’s a pleasing listen. “Only 1 Way 2 Know” slows the tempo just a tad and adds relaxing male vocals and insects chirping in the background, creating something that would probably be way too soft for Chicago juke purists, but would definitely be an accessible entry point for fans of current electronic music (especially fans of recent Ninja Tune and Ghostly) who are curious about the genre. “Vizion (Centered)” is an ambient interlude that functions sort of like the ambient interludes on Burial’s albums. 6 had a dislodged, echo-swathed sample of Chuck D saying “3!”, and a wobbly d’n’b bassline floating in the ether. “More Than Friends” is another track that chops up some tasty breakbeats, but still keeps it soft and snuggly, with petal-like notes and a voice saying “friends”. If cuddle-juke exists, this is it. “Tried & True” is another ambient interlude, but this one has cosmic synths and slightly distorted guitar, and some far-off voices in the background, overall coming off more like a rougher-edged Boards Of Canada. “2 B Luvd” is another love-themed track with harder-edged breaks than the previous tracks, and “Endless <3" is another cosmic, Berlin School-inspired ambient track, with some Burial-like disembodied vocal samples.

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