When Machinedrum‘s Travis Stewart says his album Human Energy is “healing music,” that doesn’t mean a collection of ambient sounds made of meandering drones and singing bowls.
“I think music can be the simplest form of healing for people,” he says. “It can take someone from a dark place to a brighter place. It could take them out of a bad mood. It’s just as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face when they need it. Anything from that to inspiring someone to make music and that can have a positive change in their lives. There’s so many ways to look at it.”
Human Energy is far from the new-age CDs of the ’90s. It’s hyperactive and busy with noise, but not overwhelming. It’s quick-paced but soothing, like a hectic splatter painting made with soft pastels.
“(I wanted to make) something that grabs your attention but makes you feel in a good comfortable space,” he says. “I wasn’t really happy with the direction that my new songs were going post Vapor City, my last album. I felt like they were too connected to that world. I hadn’t really let go fully of that sound and that vibe that I was in. I wasn’t really feeling it anymore, so I just decided to start from square one.”
In January of 2016, he replaced his studio, got a brand new computer, moved to a brand new city (Los Angeles). He asked his girlfriend to be his wife. She said yes. It was a lot of craziness, but it was all positivity. That frenetic and optimistic energy is the life blood of Human Energy, and unmistakable finger print of notes and feeling.
For three months, he cut himself off from the outside world. He wasn’t going to listen to any music other than what he created or take any new gigs. He wrote a new template in his Ableton software, effectively curating a sonic palette of synths and effects that gave the album a sonic foundation. Instead of using illegal samples from classic house and ’90s R&B, he used only original vocals he’d collected through the years from collaborators, friends, random recordings, and the like. It made his publishers happy, but it also made for a more original final product.
Take “Do It 4 U” featuring D?WN. The London-based singer wrote and recorded those lyrics a year ago to a different beat entirely. Stewart never released the song, but when he sifted through his vocal bits folder looking for a match to “Do It For U”’s bright and bouncy rhythm, the bossy-cool romantic lyrics gelled perfectly.
“She makes it really easy for me,” he says. “D?WN and I had been working on a lot of music last year when we first met, and she’s amazing. I’ll send her a bunch of beats, and she’ll send me back a fully thought out song for every single one, and she’ll let me do whatever I want to with them.”
After three months of intense, secluded composition, Stewart found himself amazed at what he’d done. Human Energy is a hefty 15 tracks in total, “and that’s not including any of the B-sides,” he jokes. It’s exactly the musical message Machinedrum wants to share with the world, a cohesive story of his true self in this moment, an exploration of one human’s ability to effect emotional and even physical change in another through shared energetic experiences.
“I’ve been playing most of these tracks out in DJ sets recently,” he says. “I’ve never really been able to do that in the past without having to make edits of the songs to make sure that they fit. The only time my own tracks would really work was if they were all played together. Now, I feel like I can throw in a lot of the tracks from the new album into sets that I’m playing with ease, and that means a lot to me. It’s taken a really long time for me to get to that point, and its always been something that I’ve been self conscious about. Getting the super positive feedback form the crowds and seeing people’s visual and audible reactions at shows when I drop some of the new tunes is incredibly validating.”
He and his fans will get even more in tune when he hits the road with an all-new audio/visual experience. It, too, will no doubt be infused with hopeful energy and thoughts of positive change. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself elated to a higher consciousness of being on the dance floor when Machinedrum comes to town. Listen to Human Energy in headphones and be transported to a better place wherever you are. The album comes out Sept. 30 on Ninja Tune, but you can listen to “Do It 4 U” right now exclusively on Billboard Dance.
Human Energy Tracklist
- Morphogene (ft. Ruckazoid)
- Angel Speak (ft. MeLo-X)
- Tell U (ft. Rochelle Jordan)
- Surfed Out
- Do It 4 U (ft. D?WN)
- Celestial Levels (ft. Jesse Boykins III)
- Spectrum Sequence
- White Crown (ft. Tosin Abasi)
- Ocean of Thought
- Etheric Body Temple
- Dos Puertas (ft. Kevin Hussein)
- Colour Communicator