Wuso 命 - Lonely Streets [Eternal Fortune London - 2019]Of the many lines of flight emanating from out of the Vaporwave moment, the one charting a hyper-dystopian reimagining of the Bladerunner soundworld is bearing much interesting fruit. Sebastien Martin-Schultz' Wuso 命 is one such entity mining the possibilities of post-Vangelis synthscapes. This record - originally released in 2016 on the now defunct Crystaltone imprint - gets the cassette treatment via new Dream Catalogue sub-label Eternal Fortune London.
For those not in the loop, Vaporwave started life as a internet centred micro-genre coagulating from the fallout of Witch House and some of Oneohtrix Point Never's side projects. Recall the sumptuous détournement of Secret Service's 'Flash in the Night' by Daniel Lopatin's Games. Or think of the latter's queasy homage to the chopped and screwed style on Chuck Person's Eccojams and you've got most of the groundwork for what quickly turned - according to one reviewer - into a shit meme. Cue Macintosh Plus and a host of others who pushed the idea and the aesthetic to well beyond its natural lifecycle.
The last few years however have seen a degree of consolidation and refinement, with much of the lazy mass sampling of old pop music ditched in favour of other influences ranging from hip-hop to industrial. Wuso 命, like 2814 and several other acts floating in Dream Catalogue's orbit have taken on a heavy dose of new-age and 80s era ambient, fusing it with a cyberpunk modality that while clearly distinct from early Vaporwave, nevertheless still bears many traces; not least in the near ubiquitous Japanophilia in the cover-art, titles and sample choices.
Wuso 命 sets out his stall early with Lonely Street Light, a noirish, rain soaked opener literally dripping with synth generated portent as if we were watching Roy Batty stalking into the LA of Ridley Scott's masterpiece. It's not all washed out synths and drones. Most tracks include some kind of percussive element, whether big kicks and reversed snares on L'enfer Sur Terre or thudding bit-crushed toms as on City Streets. It's the 'atmospherics' though that makes this record what it is. That dark pulsing heart so familiar to fans of prime 90s EBM is stripped of its agro-industrial trills and laid bare as a desolate journey into urban melancholy and digital overload.
Since this is post-Vaporwave it's perhaps unsurprising Sebastien Martin-Schultz couldn't resist dipping to the ur-source and include a bit of dialogue between Deckard and Rachael as he does on Hollow Feelings. Oh and throw in Edward James Olmos with his famous "Too bad she won't live..." line for good measure. It's a forgivable indulgence given how well it sits with the overall sound. Dreaming in Public is a stand-alone highlight that pushes the sound away from the Vangelis ambient pastiche and toward contemporary synthwave with a beat led core that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the last Kuedo record. Well perhaps Kuedo jamming with Solutions for a Small Planet era Haujobb.
Lastly the appropriately titled Closer comes looming out epic fashion with bass drones and those smudged phaser effected synth sweeps seemingly beloved of adherents of the "Dreampunk" sound. After two minutes if throbbing bass drones the hats and kicks come in and we've even got a nice grimy distorted lead in there too. The drums are big the atmospherics definitively epic, this is Wuso 命's closing sequence in his downtempo vision of a wet LA in the grip of a replicant invasion. It's the longest track at eight minutes and despite its undeniable wide screen virtues it does sit a little awkwardly with the more subtle ambience and wrought darkness that went before it.
Three years after its limited release I'm glad this record is getting another airing on a larger label. There is much of the Bladerunner universe (and cyberpunk more generally) that seems fertile ground for artists in the Vaporwave scene. The aesthetics were never a million miles away and themes of commercial dystopia, environmental collapse and generalised dysphoria are extremely prescient right now.