Alpha Pup Records presents the debut full length from Virtual Boy

Virtual Boy / Alpha Pup Records

Henry Allen and Preston Walker are Virtual Boy. Their self-titled first full-length album was released February 7th off of L.A.’s heavy-hitting Alpha Pup Records. Virtual Boy expresses a side of electronic music that is constructed without the need for laptops or other mediums that dominate the current landscape. There is a homage to so many areas of sound that Virtual Boy is breaking out from their contemporaries to breath completely new energy into what’s new. Mastered by Daddy Kev, this album pushes extremes but never looses a sense of taste, beauty, composure and forward momentum. Even with complex harmonies and instrument placement, there is a powerful level of resonance that is a part the entire record in the name of simplicity. You are never left without a vibrant and strong feeling on Virtual Boy and dancing is as much a part of this record as analyzing. The release of their debut full length album on Alpha Pup Records comes at the perfect time with the electronic beat scene seeing yet another cycle of growth. Scientist say it takes 7 years for human DNA to completely regenerate itself and it feels like Virtual Boy is that new layer of molecules that represents the overall grid of the electronic beat scene.

Allen and Walker met freshman year at college as trained prodigious classical musicians. They began making music together and discovered their penchant for electronic synthesizers and lo-bit gaming sounds. In time, they formed Virtual Boy, a name derived after an earlier Nintendo® console from the mid-90’s. It was also the first console to boast 3-dimensional graphics. The beauty of this music is Allen and Walker’s appreciation for a vast range of music and is enhanced by their capabilities as artists. Their inspirations from these sources are fused to create signature music that is supremely unique, which is hard to pull off, but these guys do. They are seriously talented and their use of electronic tonality approaches from different decades of the electronic movement is superb and right on point.

Virtual Boy takes you on a crazy journey of playful lo-fi that meets pop-spastic, grit-nitty glitch. Throw in some crafty auto-tune and highly complex instrumental compositions of style — you get a flurry of creative wealth. One of the songs that had immediate power on my first listen was the piece ‘Empty Place’. With a tape reverse loop section that brings the songs dark intro to a very abrupt halt as soon as it sounds like it will extend more, the beauty, complexity and crafting of picturesque sound paintings that follows is heavenly. There is a dreamy world that shades itself in, measure after measure. The drum patterns groove to the outer stretches of this world and never let go of the pocket. As soon as this builds, a complete break down occurs and the vocals change the mix completely. The subtle keyboard parts, the nuance of the vocals, tightly laced drum machine work, it’s all something that shows so much integrity and beauty. ‘Let Go’, is simply amazing. The minimal snap rhythm just gets me, it keeps the follicles of my ears perky. The droney Auto-Tune graces my frontal lobe – stimulating such good juices. ‘Memory of a Ghost’ is my personal favorite from Virtual Boy. As it unfolds, the track reveals the mastering of their talent and artistry. Even when you first hit play and ‘Mission Control’ comes on, the synth based crescendo of notes sounds courageously massive, with a tone that is all too fat and ready to blow your speakers out. Once the intro is over and the drum track drops, it feels like the seeing a 50 foot wave about to crash. As the auto tune vocals come in and the song progresses, a spanish style guitar part shatters all notions of what occurs in this setting and the electronic heaviness slides back in just as this new shade of pictures takes shape. Cycles and movements, no song stays in one place but always comes back to where it came from.

Virtual Boy / photo by AB Photographie

The pieces that I really feel pushe this album forward into the next age of electronic derived music is the piece ‘Viking’ and the song that follows it immediately, ‘Corrales’. With lush and organic usage of alluring instrumentation, the intro makes me feel as if I were snapped back into a different era of time, a time when there was no electronic instruments. The bass tones that supplant the piece back into the future send shock waves into the posture of the being known as ‘Viking’. Slight vocal interjections jump forward as the music romantically dances through the entire piece. Diabolical almost, the setting of the stringed instruments breathes an entirely new breath into the electronic scene. Classical has met the beat world in a way I don’t think anyone could have predicted. ‘Corrales’ bridges ‘Viking’ and has string work that builds on this same ideas and shows the same merging of electronic and acoustic tones. This entire record shows this meeting ground, a place where everything is now possible and innovation has become the focal point because of it on Virtual Boy. The piece ‘The Tower’ was a number that I felt like completed the record and shed light to the influence of one of my favorite producers, the RZA. Cinematic in touch and feeling, the intro is another reversed section that comes to a beautiful stop as a classic hip hop style beat and bass melody provide infinite space for the keys and overtones to dance as they please. The violin that follows really takes me to a lot of the production RZA was doing with the Wu-Tang in the 90’s. There is an eerie yet poignant feel, one of understanding and weight associated.

Allen and Walker have come a long way since their freshman dorms at Chapman University’s Conservatory of Music and the group signing with Alpha Pup Records has put a big smile on the faces of everyone at Sound Colour Vibration as we know the duo is going to have the right label to help bring the vision of Virtual Boy to more of the world. There is nothing like Virtual Boy.

-Michele Lin

Virtual Boy
Alpha Pup Records

  1. Motion Control
  2. Go Johnny, Yeah!
  3. Sandias
  4. Empty Place
  5. Chariot
  6. Let Go
  7. Viking
  8. Corrales
  9. Memory of a Ghost
  10. The Tower
  11. Only One

Purchase from: Amazon / BeatportBoomkateMusic / iTunes

Promo video for Virtual Boy “The Tower” directed by Strangeloop (Brainfeeder) – their debut, self-titled album available worldwide February 7, 2012 on Alpha Pup Records

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