Album Review: Machinedrum / ‘Vapor City’ (Ninja Tune)

Machinedrum Vapor City


Vapor City accurately pinpoints a post-fallout environment powered by quicksilver scurries and reverbs decorating requiems in dub and bass. Like skimming a blimp across a lake, Travis Stewart’s IQ in dynamics and hydraulics gives the bulky and burdened a frothy quality in subzero.

Sustaining junctions in post-dubstep, footwork/juke, and jungle/hardcore, “Infinite Us” is near enough jungle jazz/intelligence from the 90s, and “Don’t 1 2 Lose U” plays at being Zomby, rave chords picking at the brickwork of a mausoleum. Provocative to a point in rigidly setting out chord structures and triggers, Stewart’s highs tunnelling towards daylight, referee face-offs between the restful and the unsettling, skeletal against billowing. “Center You Love” very nearly aims dubstep for the coffee table, where the atmospheric shaping of layers, hazing and fading on the timeout “Vizion”, close eyes in the infinite space between club and headphone while tugging at the throttle.

With a longing glance at Hyperdub-style electro/R&B on “U Still Lie”, any moments of tension have a way of nixing themselves, and predicted dirges – jump-off “Eyesdontlie” one to fix an unflinching gaze – end up wearing a daisy chain in a world, despite so many signposts, that’s easy to get lost in. When it comes to the continuity of Room(s), the ubiquitous pitched down vocal saps some of the excitement, and similar still, for all its undeniable cutting edge, somehow it doesn’t quite feel it’s doing enough to pull away from its peers.

File under: Sepalcure, Burial, Benton

Matt Oliver

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