Considering the intense pleasures of the last Machinedrum LP A view of you, it is with great joy that Travis Stewart returns so early for six more tracks. There is nothing that explicitly indicates that this is a musical continuation, of course, but Machinedrum has been conscious over the past 20 years to give each project its own aesthetic form, deliberately reflecting the gold and pearl figures against a blue color gradient backdrop was a bit lighter than last year’s crisp record. Fortunately, this was a space that seemed open and full of unrealized ideas due to its creative fertility, so this new six-piece set looks more like a newly discovered luminous flower than a tired retread.
What that means for listeners unfamiliar with the last album is that we get more waves of futuristic IDMs, breakbeat, and footwork mixed in with the earlier heavily quirky ’90s techno. these tracks have vocals, from rapper Deniro Farrar to independent musician Jorge Elbrecht (who has a killer black metal record to his credit under the name Coral cross by the way), two being instrumental cuts. The color palette here, despite the different set of ingredients thrown into the jar, is not far from the contemporary record set of Oneohtrix Point Never in the post-Delete Garden time. Both have emerged from the dissociative haze of vaporwave and its experimental subgenres to pick fruit from the branches of electronics’s long and rich history, actualizing the previously haunting impulse of their horrific and at times moody music to force instead in reality a bright and colorful future. It gives an impression of weight and sincerity to the futurism invoked on this record, from the biomechanical lute of the cover to the brilliant biosynthetic sounds. The mist and the lair of Rooms) now feels completely dissipated, those oppressive atmospheres replaced by overflowing and boundless hope. It’s a great feeling, well deserved by the creative richness of this EP in Machinedrum’s corpus.
One important element that makes it work so vividly is the bounce and pulse of hip-hop. It’s a flavor that has always been present in a toned down form in his work, but that lasted until The Incredible of 2019. ZOOSPA arrived via the mutated form of trip-hop and all the depressive and downcast instrumental permutations like precocious grime and British dubstep that emerged in its wake. Discovery a-ha! moment of ZOOSPA, a wickedly underrated that featured on my Best Of 2019 newsletter, remains intact here, transforming the ’80s synthgloss retrofuturism we’ve seen on Thundercat and Flying Lotus records as well as an emerging flavor across hip- contemporary hop into a now enraged future-oriented sound. There is a passion in Machinedrum’s use of hip-hop, a genuine love that bleeds through the speakers. He doesn’t see himself above it, as some experimental producers might, and there’s no ironic withdrawal from the sounds, either. He puts them on exactly the same level as the craziest bangs of college electronics experimenters of the past, and that heartfelt love shines through in the way he uses the textures, microrhythms, and friction of hip-hop. This is no white music school funk, where syncopations and rhythmic shifts are clearly calculated rather than felt; the language of psyconia is second nature to Machinedrum, smoothing out the distance between the eruption of these bursts of color and chrome and the composing phase.
psyconia does not move either its last two discs of the immaculate Rooms) of their position near the top of his work, but luckily he clearly does not intend to. psyconia instead, it’s a shiny, juice-filled pleasure, like biting into a ripe, red and purple plum running down your lips and chin to the shiny grass below. It’s a pleasure and one that provides an accessible entry point to the colorful experimental and artistic depths of Machinedrum’s work. This is sufficient for an excellent EP.
Label: Ninja Music