Tstewart: Living Exponentially

Interestingly, Merck is touting Travis Stewart's Living Exponentially 'debut' album as “his most mature and personal work to date”—presumably, one shouldn't interpret the phrase to mean that his Syndrone and Machinedrum releases are any less “personal” but that the latest work exposes Stewart's artistic inclinations more nakedly (interestingly, too, Triskaideka, his Syndrone debut, inaugurated the Miami-based label's catalogue). Regardless, while Living Exponentially retains hip-hop and electronic elements like those on his other albums, the new release's opening pieces reveal marked stylistic breadth: lush ambient sparkle (“That Love”), horn-flavoured soul-jazz (“I Owe You Not”), driving Latin (“This Year Kindergarten Starts at 10pm”), jitter-glitch paradises (“Taci,” “Jess”), and classical Minimalism (“I Waited Til Morning and Everything Was Fine” suggests Stewart's been absorbing the music of Steve Reich), making for a dramatic fusion that ranges beyond the ferocious glitch of Salmataxia and stuttering hip-hop splatter of Bidnezz.

Stewart brings a feverish enthusiasm to the material plus an insatiable appetite for complex, multi-layered constructions (the dense mix of galloping beats and storming horns that dominate “My Trip To Jekyll Island” and the merging of vibes patterns and roiling drum & bass in “Become Another Eagle Returning To Korea '34” are but two of many examples). So many ideas jostle for attention, a typical song slaloms through multiple episodes before it's done: check out the skanky clip-clop groove that drives the first half of “I Owe You Not” before hypnotic neo-fusion bluster takes over, or the glitchy dancehall juju that morphs into rambunctious breaks in “No Fun King.” Though the closing track's thirteen-minute duration suggests it may be an epic closer, “Living Exponentially” turns out to be a brief collage of orchestral string samples and voices followed by nine minutes of field noises and industrial sounds—an outro that could have been omitted at no great loss. Even so, the album, a travelogue of sorts with each of the twelve tracks flowing into the next, strongly evidences a significant expansion of Stewart's sound.

February 2006