For his first album since Room(s) (and his debut for Ninja Tune), Stewart decided to write a concept album. Vapor City, illustrated by the grey-and-black industrial sprawl on the cover, is about an imaginary metropolis; each of its ten tracks is devoted to one of its districts. But if your eyes begin to roll at such a concept, fear not: Machinedrum's brand of mesmerism is its own instant attraction. Room(s) fans will find plenty to grab onto, from the rabid percussion and floor-bending bass of "Gunshotta," to the cathartic piano-laced footwork of "Infinite Us," or the speed-blurred vocals of "Don't 1 2 Lose U."
But what really marks Machinedrum's growth are the moments that subtly push Stewart's sound into small stylistic corners only hinted at before. He's noted the influence of Boards Of Canada in interviews, and both "Center Your Love" and "Baby Its U" draw directly from the duo's eerie urban bucolica. "Vizion" is two and a half minutes of Gas-eous drone that softens the setting before entering the album's more diverse second half, and "SeaSea" is the sort of free floating, jazz-inflected hip-hop that FlyLo does so well. But perhaps the biggest curveball is the slo-mo fuzzgaze of "U Still Lie," which features Stewart's cloudy vocals and wouldn't have sounded out of place on the last Washed Out LP. These small detours only emphasize the breadth of Stewart's vision as he continues to reroute Machinedrum's sonic voyage.