₳§ᗐM̶R̳ (aka ASVMR) is a strange little project from Huntington, West Virginia. Cyberpunk isn’t exactly the first thing when you think of the college towny vibes of Huntington, although when you consider William Gibson’s idea of The Sprawl, which is basically a giant Megacity along the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta, I’m pretty sure Huntington or at least the city that used to be Huntington would be a part of it. ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ has quite a few releases going back into early 2019. Their latest is stylistically entitled “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” and it was released on September 4th, 2020 via Vivarium Recordings.
The cover art for “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” (by GLEAMx96) is derivative of the cyberpunk aesthetic that ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ is going for, depicting a gender ambiguous chrome human looking at some glowing star-stuff in their hand. There’s a consistent geometric pattern that surrounds the image, and an almost lens-flary kind of halo shining off of something in the distance. The choice of light pastels here are both nice and clean looking. I think if I saw this sitting on a shelf somewhere, I would feel obliged to pick it up and at least give it a glance.
Much like a lot of proper Vapor/Dreamwave out there in the void, ₳§ᗐM̶R̳, isn’t so much a musical experience as it is an atmosphere of futuristic energy. The real experience from what ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ has to offer with “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” lies in giving yourself permission to let your guard down, shut your eyes, and relax. There is so much going on with “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” in a visual sense that it’s best experienced by giving it your undivided attention.
The opener “Digital Sunlight For The First Time” which is a collab track with 沙漠里的沙子晚上很温暖 (this translates to something like “warm desert night sand,” cool fucking name) kicks the album off with an ethereal metallic “clanging” and soft pads. In the distance there is a muffled voice. The song shifts away from this later on into what sounds like a wind tunnel and some very Vaporwave-esque vocals and distortion. By the time you realize it the song is over and four minutes have passed by. Get used to this, because ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ really makes time fly by. The second track, “Self-Enhancing” (feat. Future Anonymous) is notable for its chilly demeanor, subtle manipulation of airy noise, and what sounds like chains or car keys dragging or clanging against someone walking down a busy street whilst snapping their fingers. Next up, is a collab with CHROM-47, it’s entitled “We Will Make You (The Best You Can Be).” This song is also rather metallic and jingly, with a consistent radar sounding vibe that trickles throughout. At about 1:10 into this track there’s a percussion element that kicks in that reminds me of someone knocking on the door, a heartbeat, and a bass drum. The first time I spun “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” my little yorkie, Bella, started freaking out because she thought someone was outside making racket. “Au·to·mat·ic A·poth·e·o·sis,” is a song that I grew to appreciate for combining a more traditional sounding chillwave track with what sounds like a computerized voice speaking in a string of numbers or code. “Thought Incubator” (feat. m a g g i e . w a v), is one of the shorter tracks on the album combining a tinny/distorted psuedo-guitar type synth and pads. There’s a really cool sample at the end that says something like “If you step right this way, we’ll begin the proceedings for your brand new life.” What this did for me in a visual sense is allow me to imagine some kind of facility where my brain, or maybe my consciousness became separated from my body and placed into another kind of existence. “Thought Incubator” is like the show room floor type of music for new and better bodies. I connected with this track a lot.
The highlight of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” is “Body/Connection/Cut.” The song title reads like some kind of weird command line, giving instructions to cease the functions or a connection to a body that exists only to be thrown away or disposed for something more shiny and a lot less tangible. The choice of manipulated sounds used on this track reinforces this idea even more. I particularly enjoy one sound that reminds me of making a selection or saving a game in an older CD-ROM based game. The way it’s used here with the throttling of oscillating atmospheres doesn’t sound especially violent, but when the (vocoder) vocals kick in the latter half of the song it’s definitely apparent that there’s something nasty afoot. This song accurately depicts the constant struggle of feeling awkward in one’s body, and I love it because it scares the fuck out of me. The next song, which is very sarcastically titled “You’re Going to Love Your New Life! (Inside of a Server),” features a voice sample from one of my all time favorite movies, “The Lawnmower Man”, if you haven’t seen it you should. ANYWAY, the continuity of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®” just surprises me so goddamn much. Everything that we’ve covered, so far, has lead up to this point. It’s clear ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ is taking us on a journey away from our humanity. This all might seem very exciting at first glance, but really, it isn’t. I mean, can you imagine living the rest of your existence as a disembodied consciousness inside of a server somewhere? It sounds like a goddamn death sentence.
“Reality v. 2” (feat. V// Tomo) is the one of the more musical tracks on the album, zeroing in on a relaxed drum and bass vibe. This quickly wraps up heading into “Forget The Past (We Can Remember it For You)” which takes a sample from 1990’s “Total Recall.” I had a good giggle when I heard Kuato’s voice carry the first part of the track along saying “OPEN YOUR MIND” over and over again. The track that follows, “Ersatz Heaven” (feat. Soul▲Craft) is my second favorite track from the album. Again, much like “Reality v. 2” this is more traditional “music.” It has an authentic cyberpunky post-synthwave vibe that sits right in the goldilocks zone of “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®.” It’s slightly groovy, atmospheric, and just different from everything else on the album. “Complete Reconstruction” (feat, V‡▲D‡M∇R) quickly gets away from tradition by purposely pushing it’s music into the background of the track. Again, we are greeted by a voice put through a vocoder channeling some creepy post-human energy. The final track on the album, ” ...And That’s How I Assimilated” (feat. First Kings) begins with another odd noise, it almost sounds like a gunshot, some detuned pads cycling through some kind of LFO, a squishy low passed bass, and some rickety percussion. Somewhere north of 1:30 some “Blade Runner”-esque pads help to end the album via anti-climactic textures that made me catch a few flies by the time I actually started to understand how sophisticated this album really is. Like–holy fucking shit this is art, not because it tries to be but because it’s delivery is so natural.
Overall, “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” combines the sensibility of a threatening artificial intelligence while listening to Kraftwerk and Dan Mason through an LFO while baking a cake. I hope that that makes sense. This can be an odd album to the uninitiated, but I really appreciate it for two reasons:
- ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ consistently melts time without relying on hooks, bass drops, or sick beats.
- “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” uses pre-existing sources via samples to paint a tableau of ideas that flow together into a coherent narrative that not only makes sense the more you listen to it, it almost becomes a part of you if you’re willing to let your defenses down to appreciate just how incredible it is.
I loved this album. I’m so happy that I was able to spend some quality time with it.
***As a side note, I have three albums in mind for what I consider to be “best of the year” for 2020, “𝑵𝒆𝒘 𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 ®,” is one of these.***
THIS ALBUM IS FOR YOU: if you’re into proper high-minded cyberpunk without the beat dropping, or silly musical melodrama/tension.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Body/Connection/Cut,” ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x Soul▲Craft – “Ersatz Heaven,” and ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x m a g g i e . w a v – “Thought Incubator,” ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ x CHROM-47 – “We Will Make You (The Best That You Can Be)”
ALBUM COLOR PROFILE: #F4ECF7
You can find all things ₳§ᗐM̶R̳ and more at https://vivariumrecordings.bandcamp.com/ and https://asvmr.bandcamp.com/