Now, I do not have the best grasp of physics. But, I am pretty sure that if you threw any Danny L Hare and Rustie in the Large Hadron Collider, fired them at each other near the speed of light and then looked at the outcome, you would probably have Human Energy, Machinedrum’s new album. The futuristic LP moves towards more sickly sweet realms, conjuring (in my mind, anyway) LSD-infected thoughts of cloud-people skipping across a drum pad.
As a piece to be judged all together, this Ninja Tune release is a seamless ensemble of sixteen tracks, each one blending into the next through similar tones and BPMs, with arrays of drums at the same pitch but with different tantalising patterns . Despite the confines of the 'Human' title given to the album, it is emancipated from its physical form and ascends to a celestial plane of other-wordly themes and sounds. Machinedrum enters with Lapis, which rises and rises towards that celestial plane before evaporating into silence. It builds a level of anticipation which isn't quite found elsewhere in the album.
From then on I found it hard to differ from tune to tune with each sounding like the last, and therefore masking the complexity of the patterns employed by Machinedrum. For example, Angel Speak includes a dancehall motif to provide a contrast to the 45 seconds of a blissful pause in the percussion in Surfed Out, whilst Isometrix also minimises Machinedrum’s drum-machine usage. The result is a somewhat challenging listen, yet I found myself constantly intrigued with each song’s start, trying to guess the trajectory of its journey. Ocean Of Thought demonstrated this immaculately, with the dusty early radio recorded vocals ensnaring my attention for the song to rise and rise until…. Well until it inevitably faded out and I was left questioning if that was a great tune or a questionable one.
What I grasped from this LP is that Machinedrum is reaching for something altogether artistic and challenging, but falls short in creating a deep enough hook in these tunes. None stand out, but whilst some might not take to this album, I can't say I didn't like it. Human Energy is - simply put - engaging and interesting, a move away from the industrial, shadowy rattles of Vapor City into glossier, spiritually charged realms.
Words: Tai Kolade