Last July, New York wild child Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum released a near flawless LP that combined frenetic energy and elegant floating ambience in equal measure. Room(s) came at the perfect time too, when footwork broke out of it’s native Chicago and surprisingly infected itself into dance music’s wide vice. Combined then with the UKs open policy of musical influence, the record became a reference point for the all-styles excitement of non-classifiable dance music. One could reference any style of music as a clear touchstone within Room(s) vast sphere of influence e.g. UK Rave and Jungle throwbacks, Juke, Ambient, Cut up Vocal Garage, but rather than being too overcooked, Stewart seemed to find the perfect blend, and never overstepped the line of maximalist chaos. So a re-extended release of the album for Record Store Day comes as a welcome treat for those enamored by the record.
A combination of both original productions and remixes on the second side of the release is the main focus here. From the original material there is three tunes from the previously released Sacred Frequency EP, a bonus track from the original release and three new unheard tunes. Most Machinedrum fans will feel a little aggrieved with the three previously released tunes appearing here, as all of them sound seemingly removed from the extension of Stewart’s sound between the release of Sacred Frequency EP and Room(S). ‘TMPL’ however is an off-cut of Room(S) and sounds fresher and more accessible. A half-step swing at dubstep tempo places the vibe in 2009 when the more techier sound of the genre became prevalent, yet Stewart’s woozy pads and uplifting yet subtle transitions place it firmly in the present. Of the newer tunes, ‘Mondo Cane’ utilizes an Amen break at a slow tempo lending to a nice swing feel and progresses with echoed voices and nearly overwhelming synths which disperse in and out of the arrangements at perfect intervals. ‘Diepure’ has a more tribal feel within the drum work with timps, rattles and hi-hats being the prominent feature at the start, but once again pads and echoes slowly rise and fall into a glorious cavernous expanse of sound. However it’s the last of the three exclusive originals ‘From Now On’ that really strikes a chord. An accessible yet fresh beginning includes insistent drums in a pseudo-juke rhythm that doesn’t sound unlike Ramadanman’s ‘Work Them’ and also contains low pitch bass wobbles which stay the right side of dubstep. It’s not until just after a minute and a half though that the track then forms a new life. Jungle drums enter the fray yet in equal measure so do Stewart’s signature angelic pads and an intriguing cut up vocal sample. A minute later the vocal finally opens up more and reveals itself hilariously, yet incredibly, as a sample of DB Boulevard’s euro-dance hit ‘Point Of View’. After that realization the listener hears elements of that original 2002 song interspersed through the arrangement and rather than simply becoming a quirky sample, the way Stewart utilizes ‘Point Of View’s uplifting dance melodies with his frenetic drums is a master class in both sampling and arrangement.
Five remixes also appear on the package and all have something to offer as they extend beyond the original material’s target. ‘U Don’t Survive’ gets treated twice, firstly by Falty DL who adds a subtle jungle beat and pushes the vibe for near on eight minutes to an ecstatic effect. Chrissy Murderbot offers a more full-on treatment with hardcore ’92 jungle breaks the focus point. His use of varying drum patterns really strike a chord and it excels over his solo material on Planet Mu. ‘Now U Know The Deal 4 Real’ is also remixed twice. Chrissy Murderbot appears again for more of a re-edit than a remix, but the addition of a futuristic Drexciyan electro beat is welcome. Lando Kal’s re-imagination however is the most out of place yet most interesting thing on the record though. He extends the vocals to create a more yearning plea and through his 4/4 arrangement intersperses great fuzzy pads with acid sounds. Lastly ‘She Died There’ is transformed under the hands of Chicago’s juke maestro Traxman. Once again an inspired choice of remixer, not just for Machinedrum’s immediate reference point of footwork music, but due to the original material’s repeating vocal sample sounding like call-out to footwork’s home city (‘Chicago/Chicago/Chicago’ Or maybe that’s just us?). Traxman though does what he does best using pent up and whirring vocal samples against a bed of hi hats ready for battle.
The remixes and originals here both are a welcome addendum to the Room(S) album and show just what an effect it had last year upon release. If these are anything to go by though, Machinedrum’s next album could and probably will be something completely different, and that’s a wonderful thing.
4 out of 5