Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
As society become more divisive and the world becomes a more difficult place to traverse, both due to viral pandemics and the worsening state of the climate crisis, the more we search for trust and gratification in the realms of the digital. Though there is much solace and knowledge to be gained from there, it is often much easier for tyrannical corporate and government forces to run roughshod over users for the sake of financial gain, particularly in spaces they have created. We have seen this play out when it comes to Instagram and its effects on young female users, in the medical world with the attempts to enable selling off of medical data to faceless corporations, and now in the realms of social interaction with Meta and the online world it purports as a ‘revolutionary’ idea. Vįr+üål Åįrßñß’s material seems to imagine what it would be like if Silicon Valley set it sights on the realms of relaxation, particularly in the most recent release ▚ ▛ ▜ ▟ ▞. The EP’s artwork certainly draws on these ideas of synthesised or virtually-induced comfort; a calming image of running water and abundant flora is duplicated and scarred in certain places by what looks like the inner workings of a virtual reality system. At the top of the picture, labcoat-clad scientists indulge in their control of the experience, pushing buttons and tampering with sliders on perspex holographic screens.
The music that ▚ ▛ ▜ ▟ ▞ is composed of certainly does a lot to lure us into this promised zone of spirituality and rejuvenation. Working with an amalgamation of new age, slush wave and lounge characteristics, Vįr+üål Åįrßñß constructs palpable journeys. Tracks are laden with lush, organic instrumentation, from the curling saxophone notes and mirage-like wavering guitar on ⶖ ℿ| 𐎸 ⲉ ꮤ ❍︎ ·ﾟ·ﾟ, to the bell chords that descend like crystal drops of water on | ⟗ ☱ ☲ ☳ ☵ ⟗ |.
The vocals on ↹『 』⧊『 』↹ are performed with that sultry warmth of 90s neo-soul, we even hear that classic spoken word reprisal of each line and a searing guitar line weave its way in and out of the swirling instrumentation. The tranquility feels real, and it almost feels as though the AI system that creates our virtual realm of relaxation is tapping into notions of ‘chill’ explored mainly before the second millennium. The EP is graceful and fluid in its step, but the listener is also drawn in by moments that are a little more uncanny.
Vįr+üål Åįrßñß regularly includes certain motifs and characteristics in ▚ ▛ ▜ ▟ ▞ to help us to understand its darker themes. Everything moves a little too slowly for one, the slushy euphoria of each track lulling us into a sense of comfort that feels a little too existential. On the opener ⿴ ༄ ℣ ₪ ℣ ༄ ⿴, the recurring choral voice seems pleasant and tranquil at the beginning. However, as it continues to glide in, it comes across as laboured and a little transcendental. As the track proceeds, it feels more and more like a voice from the other side. A soul detached from its body, pushing against our place of virtual zen. On penultimate track ⦗ ⦙ ⦘ ⦙ ⦕ ⦙ ⦖ ⦙ ⧉ ⦙ ⧉, our experience even judders slightly, as if that hologram of a lush, green fields and melodious birds crashed momentarily. After this, the track plunges a few semitones and floats back in with a heavier, bittersweet tune. Even on the closing track, a whispered voice sings about the fleeting passage of time, could this be a technique employed by Vįr+üål Åįrßñß to alert individuals utilising the resources that their allowed time is up?
On ▚ ▛ ▜ ▟ ▞ the artist toys with notions of escapism in the modern world, pondering how technology may be integrated into the act of relaxation, an aspect of life that is rooted in the physical (despite various mindfulness apps gnawing at the once sacred act of sleep and rejuvenation). More than this, the artist embeds certain aspects as devices to critique or warn against the idea of technologically-infused tranquility. Such is the beauty of a well-balanced sonic aesthetic; allowing the listener to enjoy it at face value, or delve deeper into its elusive meaning.