After first rising to prominence in 2015 as a guest vocalist on Grimes’ exhilarating Art Angels cut ‘Scream’, Taipei-based artist Aristophanes returns with her full-length debut Humans Become Machines. As its title would suggest, it’s a future-focused collection of glitchy, industrial and electronica tracks that manage to thrill and surprise in equal measure.

The titular opening track - featuring production from Grimes - is a descent into dark, oddball electronica that wouldn’t feel out of place on an album like Visions. Elsewhere, ‘Fly To The Moon’ features heady soulful vocals from Tien over swirling, skittering synthesizers and an electronic drum beat operating at double-time. ‘Dreams of Caves’ takes the album in a completely different direction as noted footwork producer DJ Paypal chops Aristophanes breathing into an intense, infectious beat that matches her quick-fire rapping.

The vast majority of Humans Become Machines is performed in Mandarin. Whilst it’s a shame that some audiences will lack the deeper connection that comes from lyrical understanding, Aristophanes’ delivery often helps to convey the tone, if not the message. ‘3001: A Space Disco’ is pure protest, its industrial instrumental clangs and hums under Aristophanes’ charged vocals, and seems to be willing the listener into rising up against injustice.

Elsewhere, Aristophanes’ performance is slower and quieter, offering a woozy hedonistic tone that recalls the trip-hop of early Cibo Matto. ‘Space Bird’ is a great example of this with a jazz-influenced bass riff and sparkling, falling keyboard melodies. ‘Pass Through Me’ meanwhile, features one of the album’s more minimalist instrumentals, eschewing traditional melodies for much of the song in favour of quiet glitchy electronica and samples of trains passing by. Aristophanes’ vocal cuts a lonely figure against this backdrop and the result is one of the album’s most emotionally affecting moments.

Humans Become Machines is arguably at its best in these slower moments. Whilst Aristophanes was thrilling on ‘Scream’, her faster paced vocals can often seem to lose pace with the backing, making it feel like the two elements (vocals and instrumentals) are in conflict. When the album slows down, Aristophanes really comes into her own. The spacey production and Aristophanes’ vocal delivery are really given the chance to shine and, despite the language barrier, become far more engaging.