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Machinedrum is handily the most well-known alias attributed to American electronic musician Travis Stewart, who has also released material as Syndrone, tstewart, Neon Black, and Aden. Initially credited as Machine Drum (two words), he was one of the primary exponents of glitch-hop during the early 2000s, finding common ground between hip-hop rhythms and the tightly programmed experimental electronic sounds of IDM labels such as Skam, Warp, and Rephlex. His sound mutated as the decade progressed, incorporating more club-friendly styles such as house, dubstep, and juke, and he collaborated with numerous artists, including Praveen Sharma (as part of the acclaimed duo Sepalcure) and Jimmy Edgar.
Although Stewart's first album, a set of drill'n'bass meanderings titled Triskaideka, was released under the name Syndrone in early 2000, the first track he released as Machine Drum was a hazy, skittering melange that owed more to hip-hop and ambient than to early Squarepusher. Indeed, the bursting "Izey Rael" proved to be the template for Machine Drum's early output. In 2001, the brilliant Now You Know was released to underground acclaim and firmly established the 19-year-old producer as one of IDM and left-field hip-hop's brightest hopes. The album was released by Merck, a Miami-based glitch-hop label which was highly prolific during the first half of the 2000s. It was followed by Urban Biology and remix album Half the Battle (both 2002), Bidnezz (2004), and another remix collection, double CD Mergerz & Acquisitionz (2006). Also in 2006, Machine Drum shared a split EP with Drop the Lime, released by Tigerbeat6's dancehall/jungle imprint Shockout, and he released an LP of DJ battle tools titled Cached on the Inside.
Stewart took a break for a few years while he finished up his college studies, after which he moved to New York City. With Merck defunct, having ceased operation in 2007, Stewart (who had shortened his moniker to Machinedrum) started up a label and production company called Normrex, which released his full-length Want to 1 2? before falling apart. Following this album, Stewart's sound became more frenetic and incorporated a number of styles, particularly Chicago's emerging juke/footwork scene and various permutations of the U.K. bass music continuum. He hit another creative stride during the 2010s, signing with Planet Mu for Room(s), and Hotflush for the self-titled debut by Sepalcure. Both were among the most acclaimed dance albums of 2011.
In 2012, Stewart formed a duo with Jimmy Edgar called JETS. He also collaborated with Om Unit on a side project called Dream Continuum which explored the sweet spot between jungle and juke. Planet Mu released their Reworkz EP in 2012. Machinedrum continued this hybrid with the conceptual full-length Vapor City, his first release for Ninja Tune, in 2013. He produced material for rapper Azealia Banks and R&B singer Jesse Boykins III, and began splitting time between New York and Berlin. In 2014, after he produced the majority of Boykins' Love Apparatus, he released Vapor City Archives. Two years later, Hotflush released Sepalcure's second album Folding Time, and Ninja Tune released Machinedrum's most pop-leaning effort to date, Human Energy. ~ Mark Pytlik & Paul Simpson
- Eden, NC
- 4 Mar 1982
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