Album Review: Machinedrum – ‘A View Of U’

As Machinedrum, LA-based producer Travis Stewart has been steadily outputting innovative records broadly influenced by rave, jungle, hip hop and soundsystem music for the past two decades. 2011’s breakthrough album Room(s), released on Planet Mu, came the same year as the Sepalcure, a collaboration with Praveen Sharma aka Braille, self-titled debut album. He’s since gone onto to release further albums with both projects and also as J-E-T-S with Jimmy Edgar.

A View Of U, his third album for Ninja Tune, is a collaboration packed entry, apparently indebted to meditation and out of body experiences. An expert at blurring genres, Stewart fuses future RnB, bass, house, DnB and even jazz, with his recognisable production style, particularly on beats, keeping a Machinedrum umbrella over the many heads involved.

Standout tracks include the future-soul-dub-shuffler Star with Atlanta singer Tanerélle and Mono/Poly, Sleepy Pietro, made in collaboration with Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, has some very clever shifts in mood, and killer jam Believe in U is constructed from the Jackson Sisters’ most famous moment through deft MPC finger work.

There’s also more clearly focused strands of his influences on display. Featuring acclaimed rapper Freddie Gibbs, Kane Train is a hip hop banger, similarly Spin Blocks with Awful Records founder Father. Wait 4 U is almost straightforward DnB, which is taken to its full conclusion with the Sub Focus collaboration 1000 Miles, but the more commercial stylings here feel like a misstep within the rest of the album. 

While the individual tracks are solid, A View Of U is not as singular in vision as Room(s) or even Vapor City. The channel flicking between genres makes sense in today’s playlist culture but it’s where the album loses impact as a long listen. Still, taking the album track by track, A View Of U provides a wealth of solid electronic bangers that land both on and in between today’s spectrum of musical moods and genres.

A View Of U is out now on Ninja Tune.

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