Travis Stewart returns to LuckyMe in fine form for his first release of 2012. The four track (plus one intro) SXLND follows on from his incredibly well received Room(s) album as Machinedrum on Planet Mu and his debut LP as one half of the Sepalcure duo. Playful and refreshing on the surface, this EP is nevertheless deceptive in its depth. Brimming with flavour Stewart has slowed the pace from the frenetic compositions on Room(s) that imagined and stretched the excesses of what juke or footwork music could be and in taking more pointers from classic Chicago house and glossy r&b, he swings and bounces through the four subtly infectious numbers.
‘SXLND’ is the subject of a collaboration with one of the internet stars of the moment, Azaelia Banks, and it’s pristine, crisp sound would have been just as effective if she wasn’t currently racking up the youtube figures – his tribal percussion patterns pervade underneath Banks’ bright, glossed vocals. Machinedrum has few equals when it comes to vocal sample manipulation, and throughout the track (and the EP as a while) this notion is completely justified; the cuts and chops feel deeply embedded along with all the other elements, becoming key cornerstones of his mixdowns. ‘No Respect’ showcases the house leanings that will undoubtedly come to define the EP; there’s a controlled intensity that festers throughout where Stewart finds a happy medium between reserved and forthright and the result creates an understated kind of effectiveness that simply oozes out from every part of SXLND.
‘Van Vogue’ is the positive swinger of the pack, showcasing the lighter, dancefloor face of the EP. Samples of dogs barking and howling are overlaid with a soulful vocal sample that triggers the progressive nuances in the track. It’s unsurprising in its effectiveness given Stewart’s previous dalliances and despite the common influences, all of the EP tracks can stand well alone, each conveying their separate tendencies – whether it be the immediate grittiness of ‘No Respect’ or the reserved, informed patience of ‘DDD’.
The closing track in particular positively thunders when it hits its stride with the alliance of synth chords in particular providing SXLND with one of its most colourful and satisfying moments. It’s the span and range that Machinedrum demonstrates throughout this releases that never ceases to impress though and off the back of it, 2012 promises to be another stellar year for the New Yorker.
Words: Seb Merhej // Out: Now