Observer: Makeup And Vanity Set & Webdriver Torso


Makeup And Vanity Set
Pris
self-released

Matthew Pusti’s work as Makeup And Vanity Set has favoured a cinematic sound, forgoing some of the neon markers of his synthwave peers to ply soundtrack-inspired compositions that owe a debt to pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. The latter influence hangs heavily over new EP Pris, which as you can probably surmise from the title draws a great deal of inspiration from Vangelis’ legendary score for Blade Runner. Tributes that particular landmark in electronic music are plentiful, but Pusti can be commended for digging into some of its more interesting rhythmic and structural components. “Lover(s)” invokes both the film’s “Love Theme” and “Like Tears in Rain”, finding some commonality between the smooth and smokey jazz and the mournful synth strings that define each track. “Last Shuttle Home” digs deep into the use of arpeggiation, shifting the range of notes from bright and melodic to dark and bassy, and altering the shape of the envelope to suggest different moods a la Blade Runner‘s end titles theme. The most original track, “Crush”, departs from broad homage in its use of rubbery bass and wavering pads, speaking to some of Makeup and Vanity Set’s own previous work in soundtracks both real and imaginary, and in the project’s capacity for classic synth composition that doesn’t begin and end with retro sound design.

Webdriver Torso - Listen_Die_EP
Webdriver Torso
Listen_Die_EP
self-released

It’s not unusual for a contemporary act to be drawing from the legacy of 90s industrial. But when that act has one foot in contemporary underground darkwave and another in the most garish examples of 90s crossover acts, well, interesting things happen. Seattle’s up and coming Webdriver Torso proudly cite their generational markers (“Chris & Cosey raised on Marilyn Manson”), and even if their debut EP isn’t quite at schismatic as that pairing might suggest, it does a nice job of bringing some day-glo excess to today’s more dour stylings. Croaks and growls hang about the background of “Web_006″‘s wistful croon before seizing the controls and kicking the next number through pinball-machine rubbery kicks and screwball synths. Despite being relatively lo-fi, enough consideration’s been given to the shape and sound of the EP’s elements to keep things interesting, and the pitch and presentation of Webdriver Torso’s material doesn’t overshadow the actual tunes themselves. Regardless of the eras of their influences or differences in their style, the duo are able to bring them to heel when it comes time to put themselves forward.