Right from the beginning of Virtual Boy’s self-titled album, you have to reset your ears just a bit. Hard rock and vocoded vocal greet you as “Motion Control” gets into motion, and there’s a little shift your brain needs to go through or you might get caught in a quick sound hole. But you’ve been warned, so you know it’s coming if you haven’t heard it yet.
Getting into it:
After the first track goes by in that gnarly three minutes though, everything starts to settle down into a nice, groovy vibe and you’ll catch yourself getting lost in the dream. Their music mixing elements of techno, electronica, and processed big-beats, the story behind Virtual Boy is actually quite an interesting one. An experimental two-piece centered in LA now, they get a lot of attention for being ‘two classically trained musicians,’ because it’s hard to tell where else to start in the description. Their influences range from Mozart and Back to Ratatat, Nosaj Thing and The Glitch Mob.
A Brief History of Time:
Rumor has it that the two developed their eventual sound as they were working through compositional homework when they were in college together at Chapman University’s Conservatory of Music in California. “Sandias” goes into full cinematic mode as the third track on the album, and classical string and flute melodies cut through some scratchy vinyl breaks that form the backbone. Bells and whistles are giving you the airy, high-frequency information that your mind loves to follow up top, and before you know it, the song is fading into the distance, prepping your for the next wave.
The tracks clock from two and half minutes up to six with “Memory of a Ghost,” and though the tracks each tell a story of their own, collectively they are missing a little bit of the glue that might keep it together as a narrative aggregate. You can definitely hear some of the classical influence on “Chariot,” that almost sounds like an online dubstep maker has been engaged, but modernized with some electric beats and quantized MIDI-fied processing injected in there for posterity and curious effect.
The acoustic guitar parts slide in and out while sound effects sit on a couch in the backdrop to give you some texture. “Viking” starts out with a grumbling orchestral bass motif and follows with some more guitar work, shifting through majors, minors and sevenths as the boys show off some of their music theory skills, and a dark reverb on everything give you the sense of being closed in a very damp cave. But then halfway through the track, the sine bassline and some bird chirps let you head outside for a minute with the wind and the water before heading back in for the night. “Corrales” starts out a little more uptempo, and some excellently melodic guitar passages life the mood to start the album into its final stretch.
You can hear the care that VB put into the production of this one in particular. So for those of you who are looking to find new expressions in the electronic music world, groups like Virtual Boy will help lead you into the light.