by Kyle Fleck
on Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 1:38 PM
Machinedrum's latest album, Vapor City, is more focused on sustaining a mood of reflection than making you dance your ass off. His last record, (the marvelous Room(s)) and subsequent singles suggested something a bit more in-your-face, but I love this latest turn, being a sucker for the melancholic melodies of jungle at its finest (see "Renegade Snares (VIP Remix)" to fully understand the wondrous juxtaposition of hard-as-fuck breaks and beautiful keyboard lines.) So I was curious to see how he would pull this off live.
First off, though, was 17-year old Marcel Everett, aka XXYYXX, who got the crowd moving with a DJ set combining his original material with a variety of intriguingly curated beats. His head-banging proved to be infectious, and to be honest I'd never seen Aphex Twin's "Ziggomatic 17" played to such an enthusiastic crowd. Witnessing an ocean of backwards hats going ham to that track's convoluted breakbeat science was an early highlight of the evening.
Machinedrum, nee Travis Stewart, started things off in a curious fashion: he donned a guitar and played some contemplative jams off his latest record. The crowd initially seemed unsure, still reeling from the opener's crowd-pleasing and frankly amazing mashup of a Cranberries song and a rave anthem. Was he going to get shown up by his opener? He even half-sung his trademark vocal samples into his mic, making me wonder if all the backlash against "laptop sets" had set us forth on a path of electronic musicians trying to put on a real live spectacle.
About 20 minutes in though, he dropped the guitar, manned the MPC, and shit got real. The big, dirty singles came out, one after another, in an endorphin-releasing stretch of mania: "Gunshotta.""Eyesdontlie." "Body Touch." The bass, the beats, the woeful atmospheres, the head-tripping screen projections of endless tunnels: it all hit at once.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the drummer, who kept pace with these 160+ BPM drumbeats with unnerving and unswerving ability. And finally, the catharsis that is "U Don't Survive,"Room(s)' crown cut of blissfully sad juke music. I link to these songs because I implore you: if you enjoy electronic music in 2013, and are somehow not already down: get with Machinedrum. A character in Thomas Pynchon's latest novel says, "Paranoia's the garlic in life's kitchen, you can never have too much." This is what Machinedrum's music reflects: the alienation and anxiety of urban living, touched with the beauty of the sun setting between skyscrapers.