Ok so Machinedrum’s high-concept for his 2013 album Vapor City can be mostly goofy lots of times, but there’s a nestled inherent truth that tends to show itself about halfway through your fifth listening. It is, as he intended, a soundtrack for the city, a soundtrack’s soundtrack that crosses neighborhoods as it changes moods.
Moodiness isn’t something we look for in our electronic music – or in our cities for that matter – but it is something that often finds us, Gen Y, millennial, sadsacked and confused as we walk from one part of the city to another. With that in mind, I thought I’d try an experiment – where does each track fit in NYC and in Boston? (The cities I know). Stewart has said that his landscape for Vapor City is an ephemeral fiction, but fiction is based in fact. As fleeting as are our city’s demons, as go these.
Gunshotta – Sub-bass heavy and unrelenting in fervor, this track leads off the record as we start in Dorchester and in the South Bronx. Both of these places – and the track – have a hard edge and an unrelenting need to eschew dramatics for change. Urban fortitude is a great place to start a record and a great lead for a city’s diversity to a newcomer.
Infinite Us – has a dreamy piano arpeggio and a hard-hitting, but syncopated 808-hit. These two sounds in the past would have seen asynchronous, but now seem to compliment the notion of urban renewal through synchronicity of old and new, and hard and soft. Here we find ourselves in Bushwick and in Somerville. The track is also among the longest on the record, broken into unofficial suites, perhaps mirroring the subculture within each section and the extended time one might take to wander around, get lost on purpose, then find one’s way back.
Don’t 1 2 Lose U – Stewart is obsessed with place (his last record, a claustrophobic and clear mission statement called Room(s)) and it shows. He’s able to masterfully jump around the electronic spectrum, carefully sprouting warped vocal samples around more condensed and repetitive (but not endless) synth breaks. I’ll take Chelsea in both cities, both of which are searching endlessly for identity.
Center Your Love – A flourishing centerpiece for this record, CYL offers a real jazzy feel and a real swing shuffle. I hesitate to offer up any Midtown references and Financial District comparisons because both of those places feel urbane and stiff, so instead I offer a more sociocentric description: Cambridge and Williamsburg. They’ve become titans of development and growth in the past few years and I worry they’ll both collapse under their own efficacy once the dollar decides to step down from centrism – either on purpose or not.
Vizion – Ah, here’s boredom and an uninteresting reprieve. Financial Districts.
Rise N Fall – An urban jungle grows without contempt around you. You look up and see a building that wasn’t there yesterday and a crowd of people who uncomfortably are simultaneously lost in their own heads and judging you for you. It’s claustrophobic and telling of a society that has lost its handle on a moral compass. Cupidity and self-preservation have taken over inalienable duty to serve fellow-man first, foremost and completely. No Soylent Green; only Greenback. Midtown East and Downtown.
SeeSea – Naturally, this track has an aquatic feel – the title gives it away and the washed out synths carry it forward. Way up in the high range is a shimmery sound and way middle in the mix is a delayed and compressed 707 (?) drum track. The combination of these sounds over a very wavy master mix sound like they were fished out of the bay. I think these sound like the Seaport and Design Center.
U Still Lie – What am I waiting for with this track? His thesis is quite soft and the cringeworthy chillwave has seeped into this one. This is an annoying and painful drag through the mud: Allston and The Fucking West Village.
Eyesdontlie – Lots of talk of love, loss, lies and lack of lucidity. This track is a man-up, fists-up declaration that we can see through you and that the judgment is both patient and well-deserved. There’s lots of bad development and profiteered real estate that passes through shady dealings with shady people who value personal wealth as the only motive. No names here, but this track reeks of valueless and instantaneous dissatisfaction. Hola, Times Square. Boston has nothing like this.
Baby It’s U – Is sexual, soft, loving, sensual, purposeful, silky. It’s a love letter to the places we’ve come from and the people we’ve known and lost –if we’re lucky we’ve held on to one of each. It’s a lamentation of heartache and overthought. It’s a demonstration of self-awareness and unrelenting love, or at least the search for love. It’s Otis Redding with a synth-half and it’s Billie Holliday on holiday. It’s The Beatles in a trap and Led Zeppelin after the hydrogen burn out. Most importantly, it’s my home. Allston and Fort Lee, NJ.
Here’s to you •