Inevitably the end of year lists always uncover a few gems you'd some how missed and for 2011 it would appear that for me that gem was Machinedrum's Room(s). I'd not even heard of Machinedrum, or Travis Stewart to give him his proper name, before about a month ago but it would appear he is rather prolific. He has actually appeared twice on a number of 'best of 2011' lists as his other album release of the the year, as one half of Sepalcure, has also got a lot of love (I'm yet to get to it).
On first listen Room(s) reminded me of the spooky urban decay of Burial meets the experimental electronics of Gold Panda but after a few more listens and a bit more time it's clear there is much more going on here. To me Burial's music always felt a bit too much like a one trick pony - the chilling vocal samples and skittering garage beats were a great depiction of the darker side of urban sprawl but they feel very one-dimensional, oddly detracted from the alternative that is the abundance of human life and the warmth of the city.
Room(s) feels like a full representation of city life. It has moments of isolation, contemplation and melancholy but also takes in parties and people and life. 'She Died There' is dark and brooding but 'Come1' starts pure Chicago house, laced with soulful keys and 'Funky Drummer' vocal snatches, before disintegrating like a move to the exit via the cloakroom - the music becoming fainter and gentler. This is an album of genres being smashed together and manipulated to make something new, yet everything feels right. It's one album, every track here sounds like Machinedrum and yet they take in house, soul, electro, techno, dubstep...
Some albums sound like their time whilst some sound like the future. Somehow Room(s) feels like both - it's unmistakably now, but it also feels like a way forward.