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It’s been a month since I saw the world debut of Machinedrum’s Vapor City album for Decibel Festival 2013 in Seattle. I still haven’t recovered.

I want to delve into the ridiculously impressive and varied delivery of Travis Stewart’s newest album but first..

I feel like that live show didn’t get the proper credit it deserved. After searching through over 50 reviews of Decibel Festival this year, Machinedrum’s Vapor City performance was mentioned 5 times. This is a travesty to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but many of the reviews/mentions or lack thereof add to my frustration when it comes to music journalists. The way of writing used by many who about music can be boring as hell to me. Saying the bass was “heavy” for one, so dry. Aren’t there more ways to describe the bass? How does it make you feel? It just comes across as lazy to me. Now, it’s not that all these reviews were bad, I just had trouble connecting with them. I’m no expert when it comes to writing, but my approach here is to be more personable and speak from the heart, instead of this sometimes distant, analytical place.

Many journalists probably don’t take nearly as much time thinking about their writing, as the artists spend creating their art. They pour their lives into music, just to have it regurgitated back online in a less imaginative way.

So here’s my perspective on the Vapor City show from someone that was IN IT; goin’ wild in the crowd as an ecstatic fellow fan, artist and music journalist for Disco Droppings. There was absolutely no way my roommates and I were going to miss this. We got there early and saw Giraffage open. Really kool dude, his set was uplifting with it’s own personality. He seemed to understand the weight of importance, playing alongside a titan like Travis Stewart. When it was time for the main event, Travis quietly came on stage, picked up the guitar and started playing the chords to “Center Your Love”. I had heard the whole album many times already via a leak (shh), so I knew every track. I was dumbfounded to see drummer Lane Barrington feverishly playing alongside Travis. I would be lost in the music, freakin’ the fuck out and would forget the drummer pounding out these super fast, meticulous rhythms. Then I would look over at him, and just freak even more. Travis was also singing throughout the set, demonstrating his versatility as a performer.

I knew what kind of visuals I was in for after watching the futuristic/cray “Eyesdontlie” music video, directed by Weirdcore. A press release states, “The video, directed by Weirdcore, was developed from visual references and art work for the album and the upcoming live tour. Weirdcore worked with the midi data from the track and used the track stems to create the video. The neon images react to the midi and some of the distortion is reactive to the sound as well.” Watching the show, we got to witness an expanded display of the Vapor City districts. The visuals cut out early,  but just that small amount of imagery was powerful enough to say the least.

 

I’ve never heard it that loud in Showbox Market. I’ve also rarely experienced a performance that pushed the crowd to such a rapturous and primal place. The only other time I’ve felt this utter abandon of the self, was at Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 show in Seattle. The crowd became a pack of wild apes, and Machinedrum alongside his drummer and visuals were the monolith.

A friend came up to me right after the Vapor City show and said something like, “that was everything I wanted from music and so much more.” About as big of a compliment as you can get as an artist I’d say.

Ok, I got that off my chest.

A piece of this release that isn’t getting much recognition (besides the music itself, which is beautiful from beginning to end) is the website. If you head over Machinedrum.net you’ll see a gray landscape with the Vapor City districts colored in black. All the pieces together resemble Africa to me, and as you move your cursor over each section you’ll see things like “Gunshotta Ave”. Click, a small quiet loop plays “Gunshotta” with the music video embedded.

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The “Njord District” is also available now, coinciding with the release of Machindrum’s RA Podcast mix, centered around the same location. All the other districts are currently offline, saying “‘Vizion Centre’ will be unlocked in Dec 2013”, “‘Vapor Park’ will be unlocked in Jan 2014” etc. It’s a magnificent idea; spreading out the release and giving people additional content and deeper understanding of this world Travis has dreamed up. Become a citizen of Vapor City through the site for updates on the districts, and Citizen-only bonus downloads. 

 

In addition to all this we have the Vapor City tour itself. Boiler Room did a 3-part series for the album in NYC, London and Berlin. We got to see the first ever performance of Dream Continuum (Om Unit + Machinedrum), plus Lando Kal, Fracture, Braille, Mike Slott, Jimmy Edgar, Scuba and of course Machinedrum among others. The tour runs until December 14th, with upcoming stops in Belgium, France, Ireland, England, Italy, Canada and the USA. It would be a sad, sad thing to miss.

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– Jimi Jaxon

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Lately, I’m either thinking about Machinedrum or talking about his music at least once a day. I am buzzing over his new productions, which only add to my sheer amazement of this artist. The amount of ideas and fresh vision coming out of Travis Stewart is so huge. Some don’t fully understand everything he offers to the world.

This “Eyesdontlie” video astounded my friends and I. What resembles those Roller Coaster Simulator rides carries you through a district of Vapor City. The environment becomes increasingly trippy, kinky and colorful, eventually fading into nothing.

 

In this interview with The Creators Project, Machinedrum talks about the dreams that inspired this new album on Ninja Tune..

“I would kind of be transferred to this same city in my dreams where it felt familiar, even though I knew I’d never been there. In the dream I felt like I knew all the places, I kept seeing the same streets, the same shops and clubs. Same amusement parks and weird little details that I kept noticing were recurring and it really started to freak me out that this kept happening—and it was also happening the first half of the year that I lived in Berlin.

So it started to form this sort of combination architecturally between New York and a bit of Berlin. A sort of old-meets-new sort of architecture. But it was very vast. And I could almost, in the dream, sort of zoom in and see the city for what it was, and kind of get an idea of where I was in the city. But it was crazy that I kept having this dream and it started fading out as I was living in Berlin but I thought it was definitely something I should explore more creatively, there was definitely a reason I was having this dream.”

When you make it out to Decibel Festival 2013 next month, make sure you experience the world debut of Vapor City Live on Friday, September 27th @ Showbox Market. It’s a part of the What The Festival Showcase with additional performances from XXYYXX, Giraffage and Timeboy (visuals by Zach Walker).

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Vapor City will be released on September 30th

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– Jimi Jaxon