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The Wushimi Complex - The Anon Database [Dream Catalogue - 2020]

The Wushimi Complex are Sebastien Martin-Schultz and Yoshimi Hishida, better known by their recording names Wuso 命 and Yoshimi respectively. Both have previously released music on the Dream Catalogue label with Yoshimi clocking up seven releases over the past four years alone. Both offer a different take on the post-Vaporwave moment via cinematic ambient and industrial influences, so it's not surprising that The Anon Database is something of a "Dreampunk" tour de force.

The tech-noir artwork and track titles leave us in no doubt that we're entering a sound-world of dark rainy streets, mile high skyscrapers and neon drenched vistas. Martin-Schultz already made his entrance to this dystopian theme with records like the darkly ambient Lonely Streets (2016) and 2017's more techno orientated Hold it Together. While for Yoshimi a deep sense of urban alienation and future-dread is ever present in his work. Throughout the record though it's the broad pallet of rhythm and percussion heard on his recent record Fragile (2019) that stands out as the Japanese producer's major contribution. On album opener Lost in Neon he combines sampled acoustic sources and processed electronic beats that sound almost biomechanical, around which Martin-Schultz weaves simple but highly effective melodies.

No-one needs to be told that Vangelis's epochal score for Blade Runner is the Ur-expression for this style, informing its aesthetic and even its moral tone up to a point. These two artists evidently recall that the score's most memorable moments came when the modern electronic sound was combined with a more lyrical, almost old-world sentimentality. Blade Runner Blues is just that, a classically inflected blues instrumental. And if you want confirmation of the centrality of melody and pathos over dead-eyed tech worship for this style then listen to the recent Hans Zimmer score for the reboot. Zimmer's version is mostly textural and lacking any strong themes, something the Vangelis score had in spades. Consequently the way in which this duo combine a genuine feel for melody and harmony with a hard textural edge is very satisfying.

There's a nice use of reversed piano or strings to create melodic counterpoint to the synth pads on several tracks, especially on the album opener and in the heartstring tugging harmonies of Amalgamated Mind. Elsewhere it's the harder textural elements that prevail. Sentiments Ephemeres is a scorched landscape of sharp kicks and bit-crushed percussion, while Careful Approach is reminiscent of the complex dynamics and dramaturgy in the recent work of Ricardo Donoso or the late Mika Vainio. No matter how complex the arrangements get the duo never lose sight of the melodic core and it's this that really makes The Anon Database stand-out from the crowd of post-Bladerunner, Dreampunk, Dystopian ambient, or whatever you wish to call it, artists.

The final three tracks are shamefully epic in their evocation of big drums, big keyboards and high drama without pretentions. Resonant synths sweep across Midnight Walk, while Misty State of Mind and Dreampunk At Last give us the full Jupiter 8 replicant hunting, lost in Neo-Tokyo treatment that has been revived and given new life by the popularity of such groups as Survive with their score for Stranger Things, as well as more kitch 80s revivalism like Gunship and Kavinsky. In a genre in which it's very easy to sound derivative Sebastien Martin-Schultz and Yoshimi Hishida have produced a record of stand-out moments and character.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Duncan Simpson
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