Gordon Moore, original co-founder and eventual CEO of Intel, formulated an observation in 1965. Moore’s Law states the projected doubling of transistors in integrated circuits exponentially every year; basically meaning our computers get smarter and more powerful as time goes on and technology improves. Eventually, he morphed his Law to every two years, and in 2022, we can see the outcome of this self-fulfilling prophecy. Humanity has landed spacecraft on asteroids. We created and mastered the science of cloud computing. We’ve even gone as far as bringing the Mexican Pizza back to Taco Bell through the power of social media.
Now, do I think Gordon Moore listens to Machinedrum? No. But do I think his law could predict the merging of drum and bass with virtual reality? Absolutely.
I had the absolute privilege to attend a technology showcase by Volta, a free to use virtual reality software capable of crafting visuals through augmented and virtual reality, with the added benefit of audience input. As Volta CEO Alex Kane put it, leading up to Machinedrum’s performance and the congruent livestream: “People around the world can affect what they’re watching in real time, for themselves at home and for us here in this room.”
So the stage was set. Travis Stewart, AKA Machinedrum, was to play a monumental set, with the visuals procedurally altered by those of us in the room, as well as those watching the livestream from their homes. Sounds good? Alright, let’s do it.
Stewart wasted no time aligning the vibes immaculately, starting his set with the fan-favorite single “Star” from his 2020 album A View of U, launching into the A$AP Ferg-assisted remix and transitioning to a house rendition of the track all within a matter of minutes.
Several A View of U tracks worked their way throughout the night as Stewart further flexed his genre versatility. The skittering and lush drum and bass cut “Wait 4 U,” featuring Jesse Boykins III, carried through a beautiful stretch of liquid euphoria as Stewart let the propulsive and danceable breaks bring the audience toward the stage, in the glow of the procedurally generated Volta visuals. The thumping dub waves of “The Relic” set the room ablaze as heavy basslines, like rolling thunder, cascaded from the speakers and wafted throughout the room.
Behind it all, through every possible modern electronic style with an emphasis on heavy bass, be it IDM, drum and bass, dubstep, or heady techno, Stewart never falters. He maintains a consciously composed maestro, melding these sonic worlds all while transfixed in his craft. Visuals aside, watching him formulate his set, transfixed on the decks while only occasionally shooting a glance upward, is a meditative and transformative experience.
After closing out the set with some deeper cuts, including his tracks “Goji” with Holly and “Gunshotta,” as well as his track with Angelica Bess “The Leap,” Stewart finished the show with a crescendo of thudding bass, and finally, a smile. The hoots and hollers from the audience proved the versatility of Stewart’s DJ’ing, as well as his prowess for curating an hour and a half-long set of epically spacey, entrancing, and intense tracks from across the bass spectrum.
And without faltering, the visuals offered us a glimpse into the possibilities of virtual reality interspersed with the live setting: alien worlds formulating from metaversal data, vibrant explosions filling digital skies, and visages of Stewart himself, taking shape from floating pixels, all while being filmed in real-time.