Much has already been said about Machinedrum’s latest album, even before its release. Rightfully so: it’s one of those albums that instantly brings to mind the phrase “release of the year”. However it has made writing this review rather tricky.
Travis Stewart, the man behind the alias, can lay claim to a diverse range of titles – from pioneer (thanks to his work throughout the 00s on labels like Merck), to chameleon (especially when you compare his recent output on LuckyMe, Normrex and Hotflush) to great live performer (hint: go see him while on his European tour this summer). “Room(s)” further emphasises all of these.
Following on from the “Sacred Frequency EP”, which dropped in June, “Room(s)” continues to delve into a dance music world that is firmly locked around a 160bpm axis. According to the press release, it is music written on the spur of the moment, with as little additional work as possible - to avoid squeezing too much life out of it. The result is 11 tracks of wonderfully magical, sonically connected yet diverse music that is - quite simply - damn good.
Much has also been made of “Room(s)’s” sonic similarity to Juke, thanks to the bpm axis mentioned above, the rhythmic qualities of many of the tracks and the man’s own admission of his fondness for the genre. The validity of the comparison is ultimately down to the individual – but I would argue that it’s too obvious an analogy to make in current times, the influence is there but not enough to warrant the pigeon hole. More fascinating to me, are the other influences on “Room(s)”. Influences which blend perfectly with the Juke thing and are found everywhere on the album: rave and jungle. Already hinted at on the previous EP, the way Machinedrum brings together the sonic, stylistic and aesthetic elements of these three influences is irresistible – bodily and mentally.
From the opener “She Died There” to “Where Did We Go Wrong”, the energy is quite frankly relentless – although the closing track, winds things down in a mellow and atmospheric way. It’s this relentless energy and fun, which makes “Room(s)” such a special album.
Percussion led rhythms, cascading and colourful melodies, ecstatic drops and breakdowns - alongside plenty of vocal samples and manipulations - are all present throughout the album. Machinedrum never lingers too long on any one idea, to great result. It’s hard to break down any one track, or even pick favourites, as the album feels so cohesive. It’s so strong, that you would have to examine everything to do it justice. This is truly one of those albums that you can sit down and listen to from beginning to end, without once feeling the need to skip. Furthermore it’s also full of great dance-floor tracks that are perfect for DJ sets, a dual quality that very few albums have managed in recent years.
If pressed to pick out a few favourites, I’d have to go with the two tracks on which the man himself lays down vocals – “Sacred Frequency” and “Come1”. The former brings to mind a hip hop swagger blended with dance music ecstasy, while the latter evokes flashbacks (or imaginings if you weren’t there) to early rave moments with its opening bars - before smoothing down into a comfortable groove that carries you along with its hypnotic piano loop.
Ultimately there is nothing to throw away on this album. There: I said it and I’ll stand by it. It’s one of those rare albums where everything is good. Really. So if you somehow made it all the way to end of this review, congratulations and thanks for reading. Now go buy the album and see the man live, it’ll change your life. If you skipped all the way down – this album is amazingly good, go buy it and thank me later.
Now the wait begins as to his next incarnation.