Son Raw can’t Juke in this weather.
It’s safe to say that 2011 was good year for Travis Stewart. Even if you weren’t over the moon with the lushness of his Sepalcure project (I wasn’t,) his Machinedrum release caught the zeitgeist in a choke-hold, combining a nostalgia for old rave music with Juke’s avant-hood stylings and Hip-Hop’s current obsession with ethereal dreaminess. That he never sounded much like blog bait was all the more impressive: Room(S)’ success went beyond a critical checklist, its unabashed emotion cutting through the noise like few other electronic long-players last year. Call it proof that 10 years of under-the-radar work beats riding the hype-cycle any time, although producing for Azellia Banks probably qualifies as the later. Thankfully he’s got plenty of Banks-free releases on the docket, all of them expanding his sound in a multitude of new directions. Dream Continuum with fellow Footwork-Junglist Om Unit (aka Philip D. Kick) takes the rave sampling madness of the Ecstasy Boom EP to it’s logical conclusion, combining manic 808 booms to hyper-speed breakbeats and futuristic jazz backings. The Jungle/Footwork connection is an obvious one but that doesn’t make it any less interesting – the inherent compatibility of the two high-speed styles in no way diminishing their combined impact.
The Machinedrum Nastyfuckk EP is even further out there, taking his high-speed mutations into darker Dubstep-influenced directions before trying on based/cloud/stoner/whatever Hip-Hop. It’s a clever move, connecting the dots between sounds from Chicago, New York, LA and London through genuine appreciation rather than dilettantism, a welcome change from the “mash-up everything” aesthetic that informed this kind of stylistic fusion for most of the aughts. The secret is that none of those styles are as far off as you’d be led to believe – they’re just the result of similarly isolated incubation processes in cities worldwide with each hood repping with their own particular idiosyncrasies and tempos. Stewart may not pledge allegiance to one of those scenes in particular, but if there’s anyone who can make sense of their commonalities while still retaining an individual voice, it’s him. Still won’t get me to listen to Azellia Banks though.