Monday, August 15, 2011

Machinedrum - Room(s)

01. She Died There
02. Now U Know Tha Deal 4 Real
03. Sacred Frequency
04. U Don't Survive
05. Come1
06. Youniverse
07. GBYE
08. The Statue
09. Lay Me Down
10. Door(S)
11. Where Did We Go Wrong?

We've been waiting for an album that encapsulates all that's really happening in the clubs right now, and it seems to have arrived in the shape of this beauty from Machinedrum. With his uniquely exploratory and free approach to beat-making, New York producer Travis Stewart has long been an acknowledged hero to the likes of Rustie, Hud Mo et al; his recent work has seen him cultivate a harder, leaner club-oriented sound, evidently inspired by juke, dubstep, early jungle, Detroit techno, nu-garage and especially the present mutant house sound of the UK. But there's nothing token, touristic or box-ticking about this new material; far from trying to ape them, Stewart has absorbed these disparate influences into his own strong and singular sound signature, making for an album that's cohesive as well as intrepid. Opener 'She Died There' lays down the law, existing at the brain-frying intersection between footwork, rugged 2-step and dub-house styles; Stewart's talent is to take the toughness and energy of ghetto styles and work it into advanced, highly polished studio arrangements without diminishing it. The mood is celebratory yet sombre: key track 'Now U Know Tha Deal 4 Real' is stripped steppers' techno at once lightened and made heavier-hearted by chopped R&B vocals. There are still traces of Machinedrum the hip-hop experimentalist: 'Sacred Frequency' is precisely the kind of low-slung jeep-banger that's so endeared him to the LuckyMe crew over the years; albeit crafted with a subtlety and poise that his Glasgow fam are some years off matching. The heaviest cuts are those that reference early 90s Brit soundsystem culture: stripped d'n'b roller 'U Don't Survive' or 'Come1' with its plangent rave pianos and jazz-brushed breakbeats - imagine 2 Bad Mice if they'd if they'd taken as much influence from Alice Coltrane and opium as from Shut Up & Dance and ecstasy. Other highlights come in the form of the limpid, syncopated house bomb 'Gbye', and the strung-out finale 'Where Did We Go Wrong', dub-shattered R&B ambient that comes over like The Weeknd remixed by Echospace. The whole album is just rude as f*ck and astonishingly well produced; there's substance and artistry to even its ruffest riff and bashiest beat.

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