Machine Drum
Urban Biology
Merck
2002
B

it seems as though the artists behind the moniker Machine Drum have been doing their homework. Information on the internet is sparse, much of the music on their newest offering Urban Biology has easily spottable influences from the Warp catalogue, and their on an American label. As most people that follow IDM closely, information gathering can, at times, be an arduous task for smaller artists without websites, Warp Records is probably the best known IDM record label in the world, and America is now the breeding ground for a large portion of the talent within the genre. In fact, it’s almost as if Machine Drum is the Britney Spears of the IDM world- prepackaged to meet all of your independent music fan’s needs. And, as Spears’ music is tailored to an audience that truly enjoys her music, Machine Drum delivers the goods as well.


Cut up voices fill the cracks between the snare drum on “Icya”, evoking Prefuse73’s more spacious moments. This trend of quick cut and paste vocal samples continues on “Countchocula” where the simply keyboard line floats unaware beneath the stuttering and jumpy percussive effects of a broken MC. This keyboard line gently evolves into something close to a Boards of Canada-like ambience. The effect is perfectly euphonic. Its originality is the only thing that can be brought into question.


The finest track, by far, is “Realization”. The track, which should have been the album closer, has two tracks following it, which finish the album. It mixes a glorious synth line with a hip hop beat that marches at a glacial pace. In the middle of the track, however, the drum beat goes into double time and races the track to a very satisfying conclusion.


The title track mixes found sound of what sounds like a train station and a warbly synth line that, once again, reminds of one of Boards of Canada’s codas on their earlier EP’s. This nod to kitschtronica, though, is tempered by a heavy helping of hip hop influenced rhythm on nearly all of the tracks on the album. It’s as though Machine Drum has taken the most interesting portions of the Warp roster and synthesized them into one record.


And being over an hour’s worth of music, the album does fulfill in terms of length. While nothing could be emphatically deemed filler on the record, it seems as though if a few cuts had been made that the release would have a much larger impact. That being said, the sheer volume of music on here points towards being a very productive artist, which is something often not seen in the IDM community. And as any community has its innovators, Machine Drum follows in the fine tradition of the synthesizers. Machine Drum takes the most interesting and palatable features of IDM and molds into a satisfying whole. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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