A master of fusion behind the electronic genre
Notorious for presenting material under various aliases, North Carolina-born electronic producer Travis Stewart restores his renowned stage name with the release of Machinedrum’s ninth solo album, A View of U. This 11-Track LP is a homage to intelligent dance music (IDM) as it represents the grand evolution that electronic music has endured in the past two decades. Having been one of the most prominent young producers of the 2000s, Stewart’s musical efforts have coincided with that process through the establishment of his distinct technicals skills and synthetic sound.
A View of U is a highly diverse and collaborative work that reflects the assortment of techniques Stewart has learned as an artist from the start of his career to the hiatus of Machinedrum back in 2016. Setting aside time to craft duos and work on multiple side projects under the monikers JETS, Sepalcure and Dream Continuum, Stewart returns to Machinedrum to drop a project that represents himself as a solo artist, combining each of his distinctive styles into a fusion of electronica. This album highlights Machinedrum’s ability to satisfy each aspect of the electronic genre, presenting people with the mixing of futuristic R&B with jungle and bass culture and regional hip-hop/club styles.
One of the key inspirations behind this album is derived from the concept of having an out of body experience, which is fascinating as Stewart has become a strong advocate of mediation since his time in the industry. When speaking on the album’s creation process, Stewart explains that mediation is a strong tool for his artistic processes. “Every morning I have an “escape” to the quantum realm of universal consciousness through mediation which allows me to go all kinds of places.”
He further explains this fundamental process as “the ability to step back from his art and view it with greater objectivity.” This is the process of the out-of-body experience that holds great significance to Travis, being that as an artist, it so closely resembles the way one can feel while listening to and creating music. He explains it as your body feeling infinite, “feeling as if time has stopped.” “When I am in the creative zone I tend to forget time, who I am, and where I am. As I became aware of my OOBE through song creation, choosing what songs should go on an album as well as through my meditation, I realized that this was meant to be the central theme of the album,” Machinedrum explains.
The opening track “The Relic,” featuring Canadian R&B artist Rochelle Jordan, is the start to the listener’s electronic journey; the song beings with an intriguing intro consisting of a pulsating, higher-toned rhythm blending with the echoed introduction of Rochelle’s vocals. About 48 seconds in, the track takes a deep shift, transitioning into a dark club beat with strong, darting synths and a cleanly overlapping mix of electro-beats. Following this comes “Star,” another futuristic R&B styled track, differentiated by the collaboration of producer Mono/Poly and R&B singer Tanerelle to create a more dazed track with deep vocals.
The third track on the album, “Kane Train,” is an audience favorite, featuring acclaimed hip-hop artist Freddie Gibbs. Sampling horns from UPC All-Stars’ “Don’t Get Discouraged,” Stewart created an exciting, hypnotic, old-school beat carved out perfectly for a heavily lyrical rapper like Gibbs. Bringing electronic rap to a more lo-fi focused beat, listeners next find hip-hop artist Father on “Spin Blocks,” expressing a more new-age rap style.
“Wait 4 U” featuring Jesse Boykins III and “1000 Miles” featuring Sub Focus are two techno-styled dubstep tracks that shift between quick, skittering drum and bass patterns. Having collaborated with Boykins in the past, Machinedrum mimics a Rüfüs du Sol vibe on “Wait 4 U,” providing people with deep, mellow and drawn-out vocals.
The meditation inspiration reflects highly throughout “Sleepy Pietro” and “Idea 36,” as both featuring artists implement their individual talents to create highly eccentric tracks. Between Tigran Hamasyan’s piano providing a dissonant balance to Machinedrum’s polyrhythmic beat on “Sleepy Pietro” and Chrome Sparks’ indie-electro edge on “Idea 36,” these two tracks resemble a new-age of ambient sounds within meditative electronic music.
Machinedrum takes people back to his true roots of EDM with “Believe in U,” “Inner Eye” and “Ur2yung,” creating pop-styled percussion blended with distinct samples. While each track differentiates in style, they all hold a special cohesion, utilizing natural synthesizers and electronic drum pads in the creation of electronic music. Although A View of U originates from a blend of fusing genres together, it is highly impressive how cohesive the work as a whole comes to be, strongly reflecting Machinedrum’s multiple abilities and techniques established as an artist.