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The Difference Engine - The World According To The Difference Engine Album Review

02 Jul 2014 // A review by RodrigoHidalgo

The World According To The Difference Engine is an album mainly written and performed by electronic genius Michael Travis who roams the streets of Auckland. The Difference Engine is a mainly instrumental project started by Michael (2005) and is now collaborating with a number of different artists. Michael is 6 albums under his belt with two of them being dropped this year… although one of those two seems to be well done remixes of a previous album.

The World According To The Difference Engine… Listening to this album, the first thing I realised I liked so much was how to me, it felt almost instantaneous to listen to, maybe a little too instantaneous that I couldn't really put my finger on it. At times there were a lot of weird abstract, spacious trip-hop like sounds on this this album but the next song would be a full blown outrage of music. Even after one listen of this album I couldn't help find it really dark, ambient at times and almost gratifying which makes this album one of the electronic albums standing out for me in 2014. To me this album is simultaneously genre embracing and genre defying. The Difference Engine have certainly taken their influences and ripped them up, manipulated them and twisted them so much that it's kinda difficult to tell where they are coming from which is always a thumbs up for me. It's just so cool to see Michael Travis take something as simple as the parameters of house/trip-hop music and dismantling them and then construct them back up but with some dusty drum beats and some catchy melodies.

Some of the tracks here are loud, raw, hard hitting and fast, others are a bit more atmospheric but still featuring some very strange, vivid sounds and I felt had a strong sense of place. Every single song on The World According To The Difference Engine (Lets call it TWADE for now) has its own unique characteristics that I could certainly go into deep detail describing each one. With all of the 13 songs collectively adding up to 46 minutes of electronic goodness I couldn't help hear the diverse dynamic range this album outputs, musically. The 10th track Forever December which was a collaboration with Room Noir was probably my favourite song on the album. The song starts with a series of minor chords played on an acoustic guitar with some modulated effects on it like some reverb and a hint of vibrato and builds up from there with vocals, synth and some low sub rumbling following it. The song gave me this comfortable, comatose feeling with the first lyrics being 'Standing by the window, with whispers out to sea', sung with a drone-like voice. The reasons why I like this song are the same reasons I love the 7th Track The Nothing which starts with simple piano melody recorded with what sounds like simply a room mic to capture the sound of the room more than just the direct sound which gave it more a spacious, atmospheric, distant feeling.

Another song I liked was the 4th track Newly Absent Sky which was a bit more upbeat but not by far. I love how the subby bass from the kick is nicely sitting below the synth with while the synth does these weird synth 8bit like noises following the rhythm of the kick. while theres what sounds like a wooden xylophone playing a simple melody in the middle of the mix. I loved the build up to the song, especially when the first lyrics come in singing 'Now the rain has turned to glass and cuts the sky'. 

Undeniably, this album covers a massive range on genres and most are executed quite well, although I felt that at times the genres were a little too sporadic, one minute I would be in the mood that a song spend such a long time building me up to then the next song would just be an uneasy, change of mood/pace which didn't work to well for me. That aside. I enjoy most of the songs on TWADE even though the songs seemed a bit dispersed to me. I certainly think that after listening to TWADE a few times I think that this album cover certainly gives a great visual representation to the album, of how diverse and intimate it can be.

Overall I ended up loving the experience I had listening to these tracks, The Difference Engine brought a lot of things to the table I didn't expect like its appreciation for airy atmospheres, face pummeling hard melodies, sound manipulations and some strange as vocals. There were a few underwhelming songs along for the ride for this album but in general I recommend this album to anyone who appreciates some underground ambient, experimental, electronic music.

-Rodrigo H

The World According To The Difference Engine
View Track Listing
 

About The Difference Engine

The Difference Engine (Michael Travis) has been recording/performing electronic music since around 2005, and spans genres such as triphop, breakcore and Lithuanian folk/IDM. Alternatively, it's been described by listeners as: "An eclectic mix of techno blended with clouds, sunshine and Air."

Download or stream albums for free at Bandcamp:
(http://mtravis.bandcamp.com/music)
or LastFM:

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Difference Engine

Releases

Colony
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Vectors of Attack
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Residential Evil
Year: 2015
Type: Album
TDE2-1
Year: 2014
Type: EP
TDE1-1
Year: 2014
Type: EP
The Difference Engine
Year: 2006
Type: Album

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