Announced as a “transformative journey”, Transmuteo‘s two long suites for the self-titled debut, are yet another plunge into the holographic dimensions of the cybernetic dolphinarium. Belgium’s Aguirre Records, from whom this LP emerges, utilise shades of blue, 3D crystals and marine life as their emblems. On the surface, Transmuteo’s recording is not vastly different from the rest of the catalogue and, while the inspiration of popular New Age and Internet archaeology is slowly evaporating, its still an intriguing formula. Transmuteo proves that there is yet more to be conveyed through those means.
It’s easy to find echoes of the 1990s in the album aesthetic: Nintendo game Caesars Palace, early Future Sound of London or Humanoid videos, and self-help/re-birthing handbooks. Such outdated reference points could easily be disregarded as a prank by web-savvy designers, poking fun at the shortcomings of past technologies but a second glance reveals the content as surprisingly up-to-date. Web design today involves more innovative, higher resolution graphics and 3D rendering, but computers, magical thinking and the cult of success still go hand-in-hand, exactly as they did two decades ago. Browsing through the Internet, I often come across banners advertising the joys of the spa experience, ‘soul healing’, discovering past lives, personality boosts, brainwave synchronisation and many other traces of the esoteric mind-set in contemporary life. I have a lot of fondness for electronic musicians interested in digital folklore, exploring phenomena that thrive on the fringes of popular culture. There is an obvious satirical edge to what they do but, equally, an amount of insight and reflection. In the case of Transmuteo, the exploratory nature of this project also makes it an interesting proposition from a musical point of view, not merely another net-art exercise in style.
The record opens with repetitive, softly spoken affirmations, mantras for financial success, and meditative bliss. Almost unnoticeably, pastiche eventually morphs into an ambient soundscape with the vague echo of a techno beat, the occasional improvised whirlpool and uneasy tones. There is a dark current running through the two long, slowly evolving, multi-layered tracks, and enough unexpected turns to take them beyond the soothing pleasantries of classic New Age. The undertow of tension emerges into focus periodically – an odd hum, a darker, deeper tone –making Transmuteo stylistically closer to the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never over Dolphins Into The Future. Many releases, labelled, ‘vaporwave’ specialise in gliding across the surface, while practising the art of digital sound collage. Transmuteo offers a more expansive take, oriented towards traditional ambient textures while hinting to neighbouring genres, allowing for an escape route once the vaporwave reservoir runs dry.
Transmuteo’s self-titled LP is out now on Aguirre Records.
Header image by: Transmuteo