Virtual Boy – Symphony No. None EP (Alpha Pup)

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The L.A. duo Virtual Boy examine the cross-section of sweeping film scores and intergalactic synths so thoroughly that much of this EP sounds like it’s angling for a spot on Daft Punk’s recent Tron soundtrack. The opening “Thrust” alone stokes that vibe with a gradual parade of the following elements: a yawning backdrop, pixelated melodies, mutating beats, a syrupy buzz, synth strings, and a rich organ hum. It’s at once wide-screen and head-nodding stuff, recalling the solemn yet weird, synth-saturated creations of Ratatat, Acid Washed, and Black Moth Super Rainbow alike.

The molasses-paced “Breach of the Descendants” moves into opaque vocoder parts and echoed drums, again conjuring vast inky space until it’s time to set great bursts of star-bright synths in the foreground. “The Future Holds a Beat” is both more pop and more funky, trying out clapping beats before stopping midway to immerse us in bass and then change tack. There’s a strong whiff of eight-bit videogame music in the track’s shinier moments, which makes sense: Virtual Boy is named after a short-lived Nintendo product. As forecast by its title, the closing “Mass” revels in holy organ as well as John Carpenter-esque progressions and Theremin-ish highs.

It’s an effective and compelling suite that sums up this aptly titled EP. When an album finally arrives from this duo, its scope should be even huger. And rumour has it some of the newer material is influenced by Phillip Glass. Watch out, world.

Doug Wallen

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