It’s been just a few months shy of four years since Machinedrum and Holly released Berry Patch, their breakthrough collab EP on Vision, and punters and DJs alike have been wistfully wondering if the duo would release another such crossover epic. Both artists have released loads of killer tracks on their own since January of 2020, as they’re each so talented in their own right, but there’s no denying these are two great tastes that taste great together. Now, finally, this peanut butter cup of a new collab EP is almost upon us. Get ready for River of Heaven.
What’s really cool about the long-awaited River of Heaven from the Portugese-American duo isn’t just that it picks up where Berry Patch left off. This is truly a coming together of the evolution of two artists over the last three years. Fans shouldn’t go in expecting similarities; this EP is really only a follow-up in terms of chronology. It’s made clear from the opening title track, written in Japanese script as 天の川. With this track, the duo announce they’re firmly in crossover territory and they will be thus for most of the EP, with only two tracks at or around 174. That’s not too surprising, as much of Berry Patch had loads of tempo changes and other crossover elements, but genre aside, there’s also a lot of difference stylistically.
With three of the tracks, “Novaform,” “Blueshift” and “Hide Sun” already out, fans will likely already see a lot of differences in style, especially in “Blueshift.” While the experimental dubstep-tempoed “Novaform” has a lot of the heavy, grimy bass of Berry Patch, it’s also much more polished with loads of atmospheric work. “Blueshift” and “Hide Sun” are stronger indicators of what’s to come on River of Heaven: funky, liquid in nature and full of clean, crisp sounds. Machinedrum and Holly also experiment quite a lot in this EP with both tempo and general sound. Where Berry Patch was somewhat easily classed as neuro-leaning, it appears as if the guys have made it a point to challenge anyone to classify River of Heaven. The mashup vibes never end here, and it’s clearly deliberate.
The main example of this purposeful fusion of styles, sounds and genres is also our YEDM premiere, the illustrious “Luminae.” Slotted as the penultimate track on the EP, it’s also an apotheosis of the sound Machinedrum and Holly set out to create this time around. Starting off as a bit of a trickster track, listeners will likely think the intro is a slow yet complex build into a D&B drop. Instead, the audience is met with a slower (160?), unclassifiable beat that’s so broken, one could call it fractured. This gives loads of space for the artists to build up a huge track around the beat, but they keep it minimal, drawing a surprisingly funky structure with impeccably clean snares by the time the track gets to the break. Ambient sine wave synths swirl in and out of that open space before said break, which is another trick as a lone amen pulls the pitch up before dropping into the mindfuck that is that broken beat once again.
There’s so much going on with the beat and sound design in “Luminae” that fans may not even notice that there is a substantial crunchy bass drone a’la Berry Patch underlining most of the track and giving it depth. Even among all this experimentation and new, mind-boggling sounds, the boys still like their bass. Updated as it may be after nearly four years, there’s no mistaking this classic combo the collab between Machinedrum and Holly creates. River of Heaven, in that sense, is less of a follow-up and more of an evolution; another stamp in time for these two innovative artists.
River of Heaven drops on Vision Recordings this Thursday, August 31. Pre-save or pre-order here.