Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Past Greatness: July '18

Welcome to the 20th installment of Past Greatness, a monthly series I'll be doing showcasing great, older works. All albums listed below are of 8+ quality. This month's album stretches Electronic music to the limit, combining the endless Breakbeat of the 1990's with the maximalist aesthetic of Vaporwave

Machine Girl | WLFGRL
2014 | Hardcore Breaks | Listen

When Death Grips made their foray into excessive, Electronic manipulation on 2013's Government Plates, many were predictably perplexed. Even by Death Grips' then-established standards, schizophrenic industrial synthesizers that relished in controlling the shrill didn't exactly go over well with their fans. That no-fucks approach continued with Niggas On The Moon, Fashion Week, and most recently Steroids, heightening their meme-culture whilst expanding their sphere of influence. One such name, a then-unknown, kept creeping up in conversation; Machine Girl, and his debut project WLFGRL. Designed as an embrace, and spoof, of the alternative meme culture that adores Japanese anime, shock and awe cult films, and nauseatingly vigorous breakneck beats, WLFGRL dives headfirst into the futuristic, Electro-Industrial world Death Grips merely entertained as a gimmick. 

If it weren't for the litany of genres eager to label WLFGRL - like Hardcore Breaks, UK Bass, or Deconstructed Club - one such curiosity would peek through the surplus; Vaporwave. Throughout, but mainly in the art style, sample choices, and gaudy titles, Machine Girl effectively uses the genre's platform for retro-fitted music reincarnation in a society dependent on information overload. Right away, after 'MG1' reaffirms the visual aesthetic that's been driven home, 'Ionic Funk (20XXX Battle Music)' goes for that jugular. While Vaporwave's been driven to death, ironically, by the same product patenting that defined it, Machine Girl reenergizes the swarm of TV themes, mall ambience, and acid rain cityscapes with flashy Footwork and sleazy 808 infatuation. It's glorified future trash, evoking the overlapping reverb of a strip club alleyway illuminated by holographic dancers flashing neurotically. The first handful of tracks embody this sight, scratching together kitschy girl talk (not unlike Girl Talk) that reiterates (sometimes literally, as best seen on 'かわいい' with "if you like Japanese movies, Machine Girl's definitely for you") precisely what the artist created by Matt Stephenson is about. The hallucinatory acid trip disguised as a carnival mad mirror house erupts in the form of 'Krystle (URL Cyber Palace Mix),' WLFGRL's most Vaporwave cut and the bearer of similarities to Death Grips' 'Whatever I Want' and 'This Is Violence Now.'

However, after the palpitating mania of 'Ginger Claps' - a worrisome moment of potential bass inundation - 'Ghost' eases off the blitzkrieg with something more melodically in-tune with 90's-inspired Breakbeat. The simple loop, that nears the whimsy charm of Katamari Damacy's legendary Picopop soundtrack, quells the disarray while showcasing Machine Girl's appreciation of past Electronica flair. Much of this carries over to 'フレネシ - 覆面調査員,' a track that features heavily vocalized Picopop panache despite the off-the-charts BPM's battering the background. Completing this trilogy of peace-offerings to WLFGRL's demonized, rabies-induced chomp is 'Out By 16, Dead On The Scene,' another psychedelic loop that's easily the most accessible instrumental here, nearing the hypnotic Wonky of Nosaj Thing or the saturated UK Bass of Clap! Clap!. As to be expected with WLFGRL's asthmatic pace, this placid provisional is short-lived, interrupted by psychotic standout 'かわいい.' In it, Machine Girl kickstarts the album's second half 'Phase' tetralogy with beaconing sirens, deranged bass blows, and general club pandemonium: Dubstep drops included.

'Phase α' officially marks Machine Girl's transition into elaborate beatsmithing, something foreign to the copy pasted Jungle staccato of the first half. Onset by the cries of a problematic teenager, 'Phase α' bleeds into 'Freewill (Phase β),' which affixes to 'Excruciating Deth Phase (Phase γ),' which scrapes along to 'Hidden Power (Phase δ).' These three power towers represent the longest material WLFGRL has to offer, giving Machine Girl a place to flex his formal Techno wherewithal. Instead of resting on loops or slow build-ups, Machine Girl guides these expeditious interactions through never-ending twists and turns, best seen on the eight-minute 'Hidden Power.' It never remains stagnant, apart from the bookended synth drone that ascends and descends on this peaceful cloud. Both 'Freewill' and 'Excruciating Deth Phase' act as a test of endurance, powering through glitzy, future-proof synths and drums akin to the high octane video game soundtracks of the 1990's a la Doom and Quake. All that's missing is the thundering cascade of bullets, bombs, and explosions.

One could accurately discredit WLFGRL for relying too heavily on the stylistic bedlam of maximum Breakbeat. It is, after all, the single benefactor Machine Girl consistently treasures. The claustrophobic cacophony leaves so little room for foundational variation that Stephenson has no alternative but to wallop percussion against itself ad nauseam. Reflective of the fast-paced gameplay of Doom where sprinting in tight corridors, making 90-degree turns with no hesitation, leads to the same walls, boundaries, and arenas, WLFGRL decides to truly pride itself on the aversion of such an act. It is an ugly, unprocessed, premature collection of juvenile anarchy, caught mixing the methodical trance of early Rave culture with the boundary-pushing notion of Vaporwave excessivism. Art can be marvelous, art can be revolting. WLFGRL is both. 

No comments:

Post a Comment