Observer: Makeup And Vanity Set & Webdriver Torso

Makeup And Vanity Set

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

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.

Tracks: May 7th, 2018

Things are busy as always here at the ID:UD HQ as we gear up for festival season on top of the usual deluge of new releases that need listening and podcasts that need recording. Fortunately we’re feeling kind of high on life in Vancouver right now, what with the great run of recent shows, respite from the ceaseless rain and the general pleasant vibes that have been floating around the city this past week or so. Say what you will about this town, it’s expensive, it’s hostile to underground arts, it’s grey as fuck for like 8 months out of the year, all true but we love it and wouldn’t ever think of leaving. Enjoy some new Tracks with us won’t you?

Iver look kinda like Iver sound

Webdriver Torso, “Web_006”
Word trickling up from Seattle is that the city’s own relative newcomers Webdriver Torso impressed at Mechanismus Festival this past weekend. We weren’t able to verify that impression in person, of course, but the new EP from the duo is certainly an intriguing mission statement. Rhythmically sharp, the serially-titled “Web_006” shows good darkwave instincts as well as an interest in decidedly 90s industrial rock. Fans of fellow Seattleites Nightmare Fortress should lend an ear.

Missing Witness, “Try Harder”
Speaking of bands from down Seattle way, our pals in Missing Witness put out a head nodding EBM banger to go along with their appearance at Mechanismus Festival this past weekend. The band have dabbled with these sorts of basslines in the past, but this is the purest take on body music they’ve yet put out, coupled with a vocal experimentalism that reminds us Interlace a little. A great regional act who seem poised to break out on to some more prominent stages.

Acid Vatican, “Repent Motherfucker”
We’ve been tracking Antoni Maiovvi’s work for years at ID:UD, though the dark space disco producer has enjoyed acclaim in fields quite a distance from our native post-industrial climes. We were somewhat surprised to see his new Acid Vatican collaboration with fellow Giallo Disco founder Vercetti Technicolor being issued by aufnahme + wirdergabe; the bright, garish splashes of horror disco colour we’ve come to expect from Maiovvi are still present, and the duo aren’t jumping aboard the techno-industrial bandwagon. But the dark, pulsing drive of tunes like “Repent Motherfucker” certainly isn’t too far askance from a + w’s style.

C/A/T, “Retire Theory”
Brand new music from Ben Arp’s C/A/T project, the first new stuff he’s released under that moniker since 2009. We were keen to hear what Ben would do musically since he reactivated the name at last year’s Das Bunker anniversary in Los Angeles, and now we know: the sound of new EP Complex Client is both new and familiar, with the distorted beats that defined much of C/A/T’s history, but layered with the atmospherics that seem more in line with the post-witch house sounds he was exploring in interim project Corvx de Timor. You can check out the whole EP over on Bandcamp and we’ll keep you in the loop as a clearer picture of C/A/T 2018 emerges.

Iver, “Before”
Not since Myspace has there been a platform as good as Bandcamp for randomly discovering new music. True, there’s a lot to sort through, but it’s worth it when you uncover an act like Iver right at the first blush of their career. Their two track demo release is on some classic darkwave styles, complete with automated drums, strummy bass guitar, frosty pads and a mix of sombre male and female vocals. It’s the sort of style we’re always happy to hear from a new act, and is execute with enough aplomb to add the band to our considerable list of new acts to keep tabs on.

The Causticles, “Bad Coworker”
Lastly, Matt Fanale and Brian Graupner’s orbits have once again come into harmonious alignment. However, unlike natural events of uncanny beauty like solar eclipses, they’re just here to fart around and kvetch about officemates. Is this just a one-off or are we just getting the first glimpses of what a follow-up to their far too meta for their own good Eric Gottesman LP? Only time will tell, but until then, enjoy “Bad Coworker”: truly music of the spheres (the spheres are Matt and Brian’s butts in this analogy).