(2019) Nonlocal Forecast - Bubble Universe!
Chicago multi-instrumentalist Angel Marcloid has become one of vaporwaveâ€™s most fearless daredevils, merging seemingly incompatible sounds into mutant fusions that push the genre to new places while maintaining its taste-eradicating post-internet power. She did this first under a gang of pseudonyms, often on her pioneering labels Rainbow Bridge and Swamp Circle, but hit a bullseye with Fire-Toolz, a potent cocktail of dazed Muzak, noise, and happy hardcore spiced with the occasional hissed black-metal vocal. After refining that project with two albums on Hausu Mountain, another Chicago haven for the weird and wonderful, Marcloid returns as with Bubble Universe!, a new project inverting Fire-Toolzâ€™s crackling aggression with the help of aquatic new-age synths, smooth jazz, and prog rock. As Fire-Toolz, Marcloid made her knack for impossible genre combinations feel like a rollercoaster, but Nonlocal Forecast subtly accomplishes a harder task. It flies through ideas but builds track by track with purposeful progression, and it only gets better once the initial thrills wear off and you learn its trajectory. With Bubble Universe!, Marcloid spreads her ideas out like a rainbow, encapsulating everything in a seamless spectrum from hot to cool. Itâ€™s a perfect introduction to what already feels like her best project. Bubble Universe! explodes with gleefully clashing ideas from the start, opening with dramatic synth flourishes and dizzying drum patterns on â€œCelestial Nervous System,â€ a tightrope walk between jazzy prog and proggy jazz. Though Marcloid is programming drums on a computer rather than playing live, her background as a prog-rock drummer translates to fills that feel both spontaneous and mathematically dazzling. The result hijacks the soothing soundtrack of the Weather Channel and charges it with metalâ€™s cathartic energy, a combination that only grows on the following â€œPlanck Lengths,â€ which echoes the ornate MIDI symphonies of James Ferraroâ€™s vaporwave blueprint Far Side Virtual before a sprawling drum solo takes it to light speed. By the third song, the brightly emotive burst of â€œCloud-Hidden,â€ Bubble Universe! has crystallized this sound so fully that it feels natural when Marcloid largely leaves it behind for the rest of the album. â€œThe Direct Pathâ€ slams the brakes with a spacious synth melody and a luxurious guitar solo that only grows softer and sweeter as it lands on delicate percussion far removed from the opening tracksâ€™ energy. On â€œTriangle Format,â€ Marcloidâ€™s Fire-Toolz moniker makes a featured appearance, but here she eschews that projectâ€™s metal vocals in favor of a rush of synths and distant coos that carry Nonlocal Forecast into its contrasting second half. Drifting further from the metal influences sparking the albumâ€™s early tracks, â€œThe Evolutionary Gameâ€ and â€œClassical Informationâ€ shine like some of the most distinct video-game music of the 1990s. The former rides a simple 4/4 beat with twinkling synths and a middle section that nods to David Wiseâ€™s naturalistic soundscapes in Donkey Kong Country, while the latterâ€™s jazzy MIDI lines and funky bass synths create a kind of synesthestic accompaniment for imaginary Sonic the Hedgehog levels. It all leads to a closing trio of tracks as soothing and ambient as the beginning was kinetic. They make a powerful bookend for Bubble Universe!â€™s impressive range and focus, as well as a welcome invitation to hit replay and start the game all over again.
Genre: electronic, jazz, prog-rock
Format/Info: Free Lossless Audio Codec, 16-bit PCM
Bit rate mode: Variable
Channel(s): 2 channels
Sampling rate: 44.1 KHz
Bit depth: 16 bits