Travis Stewart AKA Machinedrum has done something different with his debut album on Ninja Tune, titled Vapor City – a concept album.
As depicted by the cover – shown below – Vapor City is about a fantasy industrial urban sprawl; each of its tracks representing one of its districts. The idea is centered around a series of reoccurring dreams Stewart had as a result of living in multiple cities whilst touring around to promote his work. Every night as he lay down to go to sleep, no matter where he was, he would be transported into ‘Vapor City,’ described in interviews, as a “sort of blend of New York and Berlin, but also kind of borrowing from all the places in the world, because that’s what this city was becoming in my head.”
Stewart’s website has been transformed into a partially locked city where each of the districts will be opened to the public in the coming year revealing artwork, videos and brand new sounds. Lucky Me’s creative director Dominic Flannigan and Eclair Fifi worked alongside Machinedrum to produce the stunning visuals for the concept. Stewart shared his tracks and in depth dreams with them and they interpreted these in their own way, in the form of illustration. As trust grew in the collaboration he began to leave Lucky Me to their own devices as he explained, “I knew I couldn’t get exactly what my dream was like because it’s a dream, it’s changing every time.”
The collaborative group produced an interactive album, an experience that isn’t just listening to your laptop speakers indifferently whilst drinking tea and looking over social media news feeds. Stewart wanted people to go back to basics, reviving his youth of “going to record shops and picking out your favourite cover”. Music in those days was about taking a journey and in this new journey he allows people to explore his city – Vapor City – through videos, illustrations and music.
Machinedrum opens with the track ‘Gunshotta’, breathing jungle sounds all over its heavy-hitting bass; beats and whips swirl around, creating thick glossy sound. Shimmering echoes curve around distorted vocals in ‘Don’t 1 2 Lose U’ whilst piano-laced melodies drive ‘Infinite Us’. Boards of Canada influenced tracks: ‘Centre Your Love’ and ‘Baby Its U’ muffle euphoria with loops of gold that romanticise themselves gently, and ‘Vizion’ mirrors the passageway into Stewart’s ambient dream.
Words: Kirstin Valente