If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you've probably noticed my adoration of the label Virgin Babylon, a Japanese imprint devoted to releasing unique and often mysterious music across a wide variety of genres. Given that I've explored and enjoyed their neoclassical selections, their IDM, their ambient, even their metal, their poemcore, and whatever Have a Nice Day! is, it might seem like there really isn't any common element to these projects, or to my appreciation of them. It might seem more likely that my love is really just another head of the disgusting hydra that is my weebism.
Well... maybe. But I think there's one thing that genuinely links all this music, and my love for it: it all reminds me in some way of matryoshka. They were the first Virgin Babylon-related artist I discovered, having been blown away by one of their tracks one fateful night while listening to Midnight Snacks. Their music was just unimaginably ideal to me. It was as if they had somehow compiled a list of everything I really truly loved in music, from large structural decisions to tiny fetishes like the sound of wind, and elegantly united it in one sound. It was so ideal to me that it was almost uncanny; it seemed to challenge my ontological worldview of materialism and determinism, and made me start to entertain vague ideas of benevolent omnipotent entity.
This might sound like hyperbole, but for once it really isn't. I really fell hard for this band. I think in a lot of ways I consider them my favorite artist, and all three of their albums so far easily in my top 15 of all time, and their 2012 album Laideronnette my absolute favorite album ever. That's... literally the highest praise I can give. And thus, I suppose, the highest expectations possible to go into this album with. I'm not worried, though... Zatracenie, their 2007 debut, was fantastic, but I think I actually like the 2009 album coctura, where each track was remixed by a different artist, even better. In fact, it was coctura's remix of "Viridian" that I first heard on Midnight Snacks. pseudepigrapha, very appropriately titled, is a similar remix project for Laideronnette. So... from simple mathematics... I think this has to be my new favorite album?
Ha ha well... maaaaybe now I'm going a bit too far. I've managed to hype myself up so much that it's looped around to a point of intimidation. We'd better get going on this.
matryoshka - pseudepigrapha
1. Oblivion (moshimoss's cold basin mix) remixed by moshimoss
Okay here we go. HERE WE GO. Oblivion was near the end of Laideronnette but they shuffle things around based on the remixes which I think is cool. WOW this like pastoral organ... that distance... it's like the distance of memory... I'm gonna be saying a lot of stuff like that so back out now if you want. The sadness of this horngan sound (idk if it's horn or organ) ahhh and then calu's voice, coming in through whispers... this is perfect already, this could loop for an hour and be AOTY. i love the way this glitchy chaotic energy is starting to build up... but it feels like a very "natural energy". awwww yeah here we go suddenly submerged into this reality... and that bass oh man, you can just see the strings vibrate, so warm and rumbling. "I hold my breath in a silent forest" awww yeah. Oh man. And this silence. This booming silence. a very slow heartbeat? and again that tiny glitchy random energy growing in your peripherals... ahhhh and the violin!!! this is some ASMZ violin right here and i don't say that lightly. a "tragic hero" violin. given such a solo presence compared to in the original, i truly understand it now. ohhh man and these vocals... a little spooky now... and some tension too. and that almost "lo-res" organy sound... retroorganic... i don't even know... jesus... OMG AND THESE DRUMS COMING IN, this is my favorite, this is actually perfect right now... how are they doing this??? How is this happening??? such a beautiful staticky oblivion... and that very slight edge of violin. wow, oh wow. ****
2. Cut All Trees (memories of the tree rings mix) remixed by world's end girlfriend
WEG + matryoshka is the winningestest winning combination of all. Already this is... vaguely terrifying... Cut All Trees was one of my favorites on the original too. omg... these simple marching strings coming in... sounding like Johnny Greenwood orchestration... but the weird vocal effects in the foreground... and that wrapping feeling of wind... this could go in so so many directions, everything is possible with weg, even everything at once... the strings backing down now, but the wind picking up, as we're treated to calu in sustained reverence, awww YEAH OMG. the bass rumble on this familiar melody... this is such a tragic rendition of the song... now in the desolated forest, maybe. omg in the original there's this huge fuegesque breakdown, i can't wait to see it here. AW YEAH man the sustained note over this shifting rumbling noise... it blends so easily with the silences jesus wow. okay. i think now the second part would AYZKFGDwhu WOAH WOAH WOAH. this is a proper MELODIC REMIXING. and the WEG CHORAL SOUND. and that glistening piano. oh my god. something amazing is about to happen. this is... room right before the final boss in a jrpg core, room where your party remembers things together. OH. OH WOW. oh my god! this crazy BEAT! what a BANGER! at 5 we get the sudden diminish, one of weg's favorite tricks, before AW HELL YES BREAKBEAT THEY READ MY MIND no NO OH HOW WHAT THE it really is EVERYTHING all at once. AT 5:37 THAT'S LIKE MY FAVORITE PART AND THEN HE DID THE WEG GUITAR SLIDE SOUND, too perfect too perfect, how, how. hooooollllyyyyy holy wow AND THE SLIGHT VARIATION ON THE VIOLIN PARTS... it's like the plight remix of sampling paradise lmao. OMG OMG. something amazing just happened. *****
3. Instant Immortal Remixed by Anoice
Anoice another Virgin Babylon titan, this will be very interesting. The crowd sounds are beautiful themselves, and then they're just making a bid for pure overwhelming beauty on top of that... transcendancecore... it is succeeding so far. Ahhh bliss. the way they pan these vocals in a circle is so wonderful too... that sort of relaxed, natural loop that drives much of their music, and seems to make some sort of ontological statement on infinity. i love the sort of... marching shifting vocals of this track... reminds me of some of my favorite Sigur Ros moments. ohhh cool though at 2:50 the way the beat is starting to come on, a major arc is being revealed here, aiming for that good old post rock crescendoclimax. awww yeah here it is, those military-esque drums, that is my favorite thing. but i have said that a lot lately hahaha. wowowow though this is really something. this is like... shooting off into the atmosphere... more and more things are being left behind, and yet everything is with you, it is very cozy. and then you burst through the clouds and just hang there for a bit... ahhhhhh. ahhhh. bliss. OH MAN AND they even brought in the film reel sounds from the original! I loved those!! So it's like... now the movie is ending, I guess, ahhh So good, so so so good. ****
4. Sacred Play Secret Place (Dandelion Dub Mix) Remixed by candlegravity
This was the winner of the remix contest. I listened to candlegravity's other two albums and was really impressed so I'm pretty excited. This little wandering piano and vocals... expending just drifting energy to maybe synchronize... feels somehow romantic. and the BIRD SOUNDS I love those. he mixed calu's vocals so close and warm to us WAIT WHAT at 1:15 ahahaha I didn't expect that but now i am completely in love. this is a FUN ONE. this sounds like EARLY MUM, which is some of my highest praise too lol. i can only say things that mean a lot to me during this review. maybe they are nonsense to all others. wow though, this beat. it makes sense that they let this playful track be the one with the open remixes, there's a lot you can do. like WOW this is a LOT of really cool stuff happening. a wonderful menagerie of sounds. i especially love his "water"y sounds, and that pulsating echoing vocal line... and the way the original vocals wander through all of this... "night will come soon and swallow everything"... ahhh. oh man though, his rhythmic sense is actually indescribable. somewhere between weg and aphex twin. high high praise. every single instrument is engaged in a melodic line that i find so personally satisfying... it would take me many paragraphs to explicate all of them. someday i will do so though and love doing it. OH MAN and this outro? with the snapping sounds of rain and/or fire? and the BIRDS AGAIN? ohhhhhh man. oh man. he understands the essential matryoshka structure so well with this outro. beautiful. ****
5. Niedola Remixed by Urlich Schnauss
This was the lead single so I listened to it a lot already of course. Ulrich Schnauss is probably the most famous artist involved with this to western audiences. He does a really nice job here, I think, making good use of all his signature sounds without it ever feeling like it's muddying the original. It's just a "new environment" for the original, sort of. And he understands the structural dynamics of it really well too, and makes such insights as like... increasing complexity during places of tension, and returning to the core sounds during places of triumph... a sort of ideasthesia that feels very natural, but is actually a pretty amazing "use" of human thought if you really think about it. So yeah this is very nice... it's maybe a bit less ambitious compared to what else we've heard so far, but that's almost nice too. I don't want the album to feel too overwhelming, given that it's something I'm sure to turn to in times of feeling overwhelmed. Very nice. ***
6. Butterflysoup (Like Stars Were Flickering Out) Remixed by Go-qualia
awww hell yeah Go-qualia, they just put out an album recently, I haven't listened to it yet. is this the sound of something being lit on fire? WOahajwhajahaha wow these vocals, okay yes I see I see. it is one of these remixes. someone having a LOT of fun on the sample pad. and i'm having fun too. but wait now suddenly we get the original vocal line even less disturbed than in the original? this sort of glitchy breakbeat is so fun too... it's such a complex "vertical" structure and yet it "functions" so similar to... sane simple music lol. OH MAN at 1:30, these sort of "low-res" synths, I LOVE that, how do they keep nailing all these musical fetishes?? and the beat really picking up too... and that little piano loop, oh but at 2:20, we get a complete breakdown. from here something REALLY COOL will happen, that is my bold prediction. now we're back in our little glitch safari, but with a new driving energy behind it... and finger snaps? expanding in every direction? almost a giant claw-esque midi-ism happening too? really just... too much to describe hahaha. omg at 3:20 YES, it feels like a triumph when something you love so much comes to pass, oh man yes. and the vocals return to this crazy fractal form, aw yeah, oh man yeah, i love how this feels like a big triumphant finale without overpowering any separate element's appeal hahahaaha oh WOW, and the piano ;___; the piano makes me want to cry ;___; just the way it sneaks in there for a second... that "old world beauty" hahaha and the outro just on high hat and snaps... so cute ****
7. Hallucinatory Halo( -)♥(- )olɒH noiƨulliƨiᗡ Remixed by arai tasuku
WOAH excuse me? this noisy filter? the way the melody of the original sounds so WOAHAHA hey WAIT WAIT, WAIT WAIT NO NO NO OH MY GOD, is this allowed? isn't this banned? FULL ON BREAKBEAT PIANO SONATA CORE? are we iidx now??? hooooooolllllyyyyyyy, and the rubato on the vocals? MY GOD wowowow okay this isn't a "fall asleep listening to this"core album anymore haahaha oh my god. this is some final boss of a jrpg theme remixed by weg core. OH MY GOD AND THE DISSONANCE, the way the piano becomes unhinged, during the music box part? owhajahwjahsgug,khd this super aggressive breakbeat, interjected in this insane part, how is this only 2:43? how did anyone retain their sanity while making this? OMG andI(RYGdfegudjh GYXDkfwdeg the vocal effects. holy. wow. oh my god. *****
8. Noctambulist (cnflct mix) Remixed by mergrim
Noctambulist is probably my 2nd favorite on the original, and this is... nothing like it so far lol. it's megrim's signature dark paranoid brooding aggressive sound, and i love it wow. it feels like... your night walk has gone very very wrong lol. you have walked into someplace very sinister. that low rumbling pulling sound is crazy too... like some machine failing to turn over... woah okay at 1:30, we're into a whole new sort of "mode", a whole new "mission", i really love it, i REALLY like the vocal effects, broken down into that little popping moe sound. it really is moe, but moe in some sort of tension, uncomfortable moe. a rare moe feeling. and these scattered little electronic sounds... sounding like failures to connect... so intense! so incomplete! you want to shore it up together... oooh at 4:30, the way it sorta "snapped" for a second, there's all these latent energies... man this is pretty far from the original which is maybe disappointing but tbh i don't think i'd want anything to try to compete with it lol. again i like the contrast between some of the really structurally "perverse" songs and these, which are more singular and somehow comforting in that. even when the singular point is so tense and dark... outro is very pretty too... we're emerging from that smoke. ***
9. Monotonous Purgatory Remixed by Aoki Yutaka (downy)
Ohhhh snap downy! downy is an amazing band, I think they have new music out recently. woah though. the intro track so late, with this very tense, very tragic sound overtop... OHH YEAH, i can feel the weg-style glitch-orchestra tuning up. again there are just too many of my musical fetishes being triggered for me to even mention... the drums, these "lo-res" synths, the temporal contrast between the beats and the vocals... there are many more. it feels so sinister hahaha. i hope the last track is happy. oh man and the way it loops here at the end, it feels so disorienting... lavender town core hahaha. ****
10. Gentle Afternoon (Urban Collapse Or Everlasting Version) Remixed by matryoshka
oh my gosh yes. my favorite track on laideronnette, remixed by matryoshka themselves, who previously took their "february lifesaver" from "great" to "the greatest". and so far with this, it is... so beautiful i can't even begin to express it. the piano, the strings, the noisy rumbly parts that drifted past... and it's so cinematic, so performative, so evocative of so many vague beautiful scenes in superpositions, oh my god this violin is immediately making me cry. ahhhhh yes these vocals. calu at her most tender, and hopeful, and dreamy... jesus christ... i think i'm literally crying out loud right now and i am not ashamed to say that. oh my god at 2:30, did they really do that? that little flourish? is this really alright? are people allowed to just try to make something as beautiful as this? "I'm not afraid of anything", there is a whole lot going on when you really try to understand this statement. the equation of "urban collapse" and "everlasting", the casual "or" equation, like "either is fine, and basically the same", is haunting and wonderful too. and oh my god. what could i possibly even say about anything that i am hearing? i love how active the vocal line is on this song... it feels so triumphant, so resolute, everything is understood now, everything is okay. omg. at 5:00. this big shift. it sounds like birth, or rebirth, or something, phoenix feelings, true religious feelings coming on strong now. like flowers blooming among ashes. ahaha. yes. the beauty of apocalypse. ******
True religion feelings
Where could I even start with this one? And if I started, where would I end? In the four years since Laideronnette, I don't feel like I've thought enough about it, let alone said enough. After all my praise before, maybe it just suffices for now to say it lived up to my expectations? ...nah. The love I have for this artist is really only the starting point, something that I share with each and every one of the remixers. Again and again I found myself validated as specific elements I had loved in the original were brought into the spotlight. These were then blended with the remixer's signature styles and structural modes, in ways where the elements of their work that they believed most meshed with matryoshka's sound were emphasized. I mean, it's obvious that this is what they would attempt to do, given that they're trying to appeal to matryoshka fans, but the extent to which they succeeded really makes me feel like my love for matryoshka is understood and shared by many others, a very warm and wonderful feeling.
Even warmer was seeing the sincere devotion to quality work on these tracks. I'm familiar with many of these artists' other works, and I'd rank each of their efforts here near the top of all their catalogs. Even though matryoshka isn't all that well known, working in a niche genre and uncompromising on their devotion to that small audience, it seems like all the artists involved still treated this as a "big deal", as an opportunity to have a hand in creating something truly magical. Sometimes this took the form of grand tracks, with ambitious structures and complete emotional stories. Sometimes it was in their reverence to the original tracks, aiming for a sweet-spot between the humility to let the original elements stand on their own, and their confidence in bringing about points of emphasis or interjections of novelty. Sometimes it was in their ability to see the potential in the original to bring about something entirely new, orthogonal to every direction the original seemed to move in, and yet still somehow representative of it. On all occasions, though, the effort they had put in shines through, becoming painfully endearing to imagine. And the finale, remixed by matryoshka themselves, feels like a wonderful "thank you".
It is through this feeling of mutual love, reverence, and confidence, and the faith in it's mutuality, that the album is able to have such a variety of genre, structure, length, sound... it hits extremes on pretty much every qualifying metric. But this is, I think, maybe the closest thing I have to beef with this album: unlike Laideronnette, which purely in one mode, the variety here makes it difficult for me to see this album as appropriate for certain fragile emotional states. I could see myself listening to the insane "Hallucinatory Halo" remix at times where I'd also turn to denpa or speedcore, but the "Butterflysoup" or "Sacred Play Secret Place" remixes feel more appropriate for happy walks on sunny days. Luckily, we are gifted with technologies such as "skip buttons", so this emotional disparity will never actually be unpleasantly jarring. And I'm sure there will be many times when the entire journey will be well appreciated. If I can handle the 50-track juxtapositioblitz of One Minute Older, I'm sure I can handle this.
Best of all, though, are the tracks that are largely in the mode of the original Laideronnette. Those are truly the best of all. In my hierarchy of musical loves, the most important metric is how it accommodates feelings of necessity, feelings of great emotional need where no other music can suffice. There have been some very bittersweet and overwhelming times in my life recently, and several other droning problems. When things are painful, this is the sort of music I can turn to. Things that give me feelings of tenderness, and transcendence, and warmth, and waking sleep. That is why it is my favorite, why it is so precious to me. I hope that they can bring you some of the same comfort and joy.