Machinedrum - Human Energy

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  • A move from Berlin to LA, a new engagement, pastel imagery, "healing music"—if you hadn't been aware of these things before listening to Human Energy, the album would still seem like a positive turn from Travis Stewart. Sped up and decked out in neon, Human Energy is unfailingly happy. It's the work of an artist already known for fast music trying to go even faster. He doesn't do it through higher BPMs or jungle flights of fancy. Stewart reduces his songs down to their essence and packs action—and drums, lots of drums—into every inch of space he has, turning the songs into dense blasts of energy. The giddy pacing of Human Energy captures the feeling of falling in love—not just with someone else, but with a city, with your own life. It's almost manic, and moments of calm are rare. Stewart borrows from EDM—rapid-fire drum rolls, trap hi-hats—to boost the impact, though he rarely gives into the big drop. He tends to either zoom off into a different idea or drop into a fray of careening drums and basslines. Human Energy is split between brief instrumental tracks and meatier vocal collaborations. When he works with Rochelle Jordan ("Tell U") and Dawn Richard ("Do It 4 U"), he sews their voices into the quiltwork, wielding breaths and syllables like percussive jabs. On the others, he flexes his pop muscle: "Celestial Levels" is bog-standard radio R&B with a PC Music makeover, while the much better "Morphogene" features gorgeous vocals from Ruckazoid. Stewart makes the latter feel head-spinning, surrounding Ruckazoid with high-pitched warbles and tumbling basslines without crowding his honeyed melodies. The record's pace is so breathless that the instrumentals often feel like extended intros or outros. When he doesn't have a vocalist to focus on, Stewart can sound lost. On "Spectrum Sequence," a disembodied voice chants the names of colours (an unnecessary addition to an otherwise fine track), while the sugar high of "Angel Speak" is harshed by pitched-down vocals and skronky basslines. "Ocean Of Thought" gets it across better, with a patient speech laying out some of the new age ideology behind Stewart's "healing music." At 43 minutes long, Human Energy is so dizzy and quick that it's hard to find your bearings. It makes for a fun, if exhausting, ride. One of Stewart's core talents—the thing that made albums like Room(s) so wonderful—is keeping his keen sense of emotion and melancholy in otherwise hard-hitting dance music. There's almost none of that contrast here, just delirious happiness from beginning to end. It's hard to complain when listening to Stewart's illustrious sound design and arrangements, but in his quest for positivity, Human Energy limits itself to just a fraction of the emotional spectrum.
  • Tracklist
      01. Lapis 02. Morphogene feat. Ruckazoid 03. Angel Speak feat. MeLo-X 04. Tell U feat. Rochelle Jordan 05. Surfed Out 06. Do It 4 U feat. D∆WN 07. Celestial Levels feat. Jesse Boykins III 08. Isometrix 09. Spectrum Sequence 10. White Crown feat. Tosin Abasi 11. Ocean of Thought 12. Etheric Body Temple 13. Dos Puertas feat. Kevin Hussein 14. Opalescent 15. Colour Communicator