By Kiah Easton, Editorial Director
[Ninja Tune; 2020]
Key tracks:”Kane Train”, “Believe in U”, “Inner Eye”
Machinedrum, a.k.a. Travis Stewart, delivers a product fitting for his moniker. A View of U is a clean, percussion-heavy project hosting a total of nine different features, from Father to Tigran Hamasyan. Reflecting this lengthy list of collaborators, the sounds found on this project range widely as Machinedrum attempts to tailor his sound to each of the features.
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“Kane Train” features the project’s first rapper, Freddie Gibbs. Lofi horn samples stab the air, making room for Gibbs. Although Machinedrum does incorporate a trap-adjacent 808 sounding beat, he doesn’t stray far from the Drum and Bass influenced drums found on many of his other tracks. With Gibbs’s disjointed syllables and his nimble flow, he fits snuggly into the beat, unlike some other features on this project.
“Believe in U” is electrifying, borrowing energy from a Jackson Sister’s sample that drives the piece. The hard-hitting kick drum frames a repetitive fluttering chord stab, sporadically being interrupted by an inorganic ascending keyboard glissando. The composition is catchy and magnetic but lacks variability throughout its duration.
“Inner Eye” stands out among the tracklist. Bouncy crapface-like plucks immediately make this song warmer and more pop-influenced than previous tracks. A faint, inhuman voice floats behind the melodic elements, mixing into the mesh and giving the melody the feel of a lead vocal.
Machinedrum’s production and composition are interesting on the surface level but struggle to maintain value after further exploration. All of the elements are there but don’t seem to click together in the way that they should. With as many features as this album has, it is disappointing how many of the vocal additions feel disconnected from Machinedrum’s production, resting passively on the top of the instrumentation. Most of the songs on A View of U pulls the listener in with hard-hitting drums and otherworldly sound design but also fails to go much deeper than the initial intrigue, lacking variety through the average track run time of 3 to 4 minutes.