Album Reviews

Machinedrum – A View Of U

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 9 October 2020

Machinedrum - A View Of U Almost 20 years have elapsed since Travis Stewart first released music under the Machinedrum name. During that time he’s built up his status as a producer immersed in the possibilities of electronic music, dedicated to exploring its many facets and micro-genres. A View Of U is his ninth solo album. It shows him continuing to pull from different sources and packaging everything together into a compact yet fluid whole. It also further extends his collaborative way of working that he showcased on 2016’s Human Energy, working here with his most diverse range of artists yet.

The early stages have an R&B flavour courtesy of guest appearances from Toronto-based artist Rochelle Jordan and Californian singer Tanerelle. The Relic delivers a pulsating start as blunt beats and swiftly darting synths interact with each other under the smooth vocal. Similarly, Star has a woozy, early morning feel further aided by the involvement of Brainfeeder-signed producer Mono/Poly.

The most memorable moments arguably come with the more unpredictable link-ups. Freddie Gibbs blasts his way through the rugged, high velocity Kane Train and, at the other end of the spectrum, Armenian musician Tigran Hamasyan sprinkles piano over Sleepy Pietro, lending the track a glossy, ambient veneer that contrasts appealingly alongside Stewart’s beat-making excursions.

Ahead of the album’s release, Stewart spoke about how regular meditation helped in allowing him to develop a more distanced, objective approach to his art. Musically, it feels best represented in the detached, gently bubbling synths found on Idea 36 which help establish a brief New Age-like interlude in the centre of the album. Elsewhere, there are additional nods to other styles – Wait 4 U has a brisk dubstep feel, 1000 Miles is propelled by a skittering drum and bass energy, and American rapper Father helps create a softer, more pastoral sound on Spin Blocks.

As we get deeper into the album, Believe In U sees shifting electronic pads rub up against spiralling synth lines while the last two tracks, Inner Eye and Ur2yung, display more of a pure Machinedrum sound, both heady and beatific but also boasting sturdy percussive underpinning. They put the seal on an accomplished album that combines meticulous attention to detail with fresh, well-executed ideas. It’s hard not to view it as the most successful instalment in his career to date.

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