Having established a signature style of incorporating melodic hooks and emotive synths to typical drum & bass and jungle rhythms, Berlin-based producer Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum clearly has a rare and distinct ear for pop sensibilities as well as, ‘the drops’. However, he’s managed to maintain musical freedom gracing labels like LuckyMe, Planet Mu, and Hotflush Records via productions under his own name as well as double-teaming with Praveen Sharma (aka Braille) as Sepalcure for more ambient electronica pieces, as well as the more dancefloor-centric JETS project with fellow Berliner Jimmy Edgar.
Stewart’s new LP Vapor City, set for release on Ninja Tune on September 23rd, is something of a concept album. Based on recurring dreams he has had for years about a vivid metropolis which he can describe in detail district by district, Vapor City is his fully-formed soundscape as a map into this imaginary universe. We spoke to Dominic Flannigan of LuckyMe, who designed the grainy, dystopic album artwork.
"Having worked closely with Travis (Machinedrum) as a creative director since his return to releasing music in 2010 we maintain a certain synergy for how his music 'looks'. He's continued to be my favourite artist to work with – approaching each project with a formed concept and palette. For his last release Room(s) I took the approach of finishing a sketch in the time it took him to finish a song – for Vapor City, it feels like a more invested project spanning different moods and medium. Travis wrote us these long notes about a recurring dream he'd had – a city of different districts each intimately tied into him. The album was a soundtrack to this space. This is exactly the sort of brief I love. The idea is there, it's formed, and my job is to make some aesthetic decisions. Nothing more. My role in this is to merely convey his vision of the work.
I feel like we've made as many attempts to get this right as Travis, who originally sent me over 60 tracks to be whittled down to the final album. We've mapped a city, taken suitable photography to evoke each place and then screenprinted the images. We then asked Eclair Fifi to hand render pointillized and japanese brush illustrations of them to try break down any solid lines – make the work feel more dream like. Our final step was to screen print again. Then I derived type from a fusion of Berlin & New York's underground signage – Travis's two home cities. Our final step was to design a single Vapor City 'seal' that would carry across all the work.
There's a lot of process behind a finished work that I'm not sure people will unravel on first impression – but again I stress the point that all our work comes from the music and the writer. Ultimately to understand the artwork, one should listen to the album."
As well as unveiling the artwork, we've also got our hands on an exclusive DJ Shadow remix of his "Eyesdontlie" track for you to download. "Vapor City is an album inspired by a dream city," explains Machinedrum. "It's become such a recurring dream of mine throughout the past few years that I began creating music to it, a collection of different songs each representing different districts in the city. 'Eyesdontlie' represents the first district, welcome to Vapor City."
MACHINEDRUM’S TOP 5 REMIXES
Push Button Objects - Non-Existant (Keyed in by Gescom)
Slag Boom Van Loon - Poppy Seed (Boards of Canada Remix)
Skinny Puppy - Killing Game (Autechre Remix)
Machinedrum - Let It (Edit remix)
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