Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
My Initial Impressions of Virtual Machine by Chris Keya
Chris Keya’s Virtual Machine is an EP with a wide variety of different moods and sensations, but they are tied but some common moods and atmospheric elements that lend a certain shadowed technicality to the music. These are complex tracks that offer detail and nuance which I find draws my ears and my attention.
The first observation I have about Virtual Machine is that it keeps my ears quite heavily engaged. There are a diverse, complex range of different synths here that each provide their own texture or flavour to the music. Each sound creates a mood or sensation and as they interlock, they create strong images in my mind while I listen.
I enjoy the melodic writing that Chris Keya has done on this album. Each melody is strong and clearly expressed. I like the way in which many of the tracks have multiple melodic sections through which they move. This creates more aural interest and ensures that I only want to keep listening as these melodic explorations unfold.
Drums and bass play a strong role on Virtual Machine. They add their own unique voices and a sense of different flows to each track. There’s a sense on many of the tracks that there’s a heartbeat that extends on and on while the bass provides a steady weight that anchors the music well.
“The Call” starts out with bright, dynamic pulses of bouncing synth while a solid drumbeat throbs into the music while the synth pulses intertwine to become a rising melody that calls out over the moving drums and bass depth under them. I like the secondary melodic line that moves in as the track transitions to a segment with a minor key melancholy to it.
There’s a segment where waves of drum and bass wash through to take a breath before the track moves back to the steady heartbeat that underpins it. A shimmering breath of synth leaps into the music before the melody returns, moving in flickering variations that I find interesting.
A revolving synth arpeggio with some string-like qualities that is joined by quick jabs of sound opens “Warriors.” An unevenly pulsing beat moves in while those jabs of synth sound continue along with drums that add more aural interest to the track. There are two synth lines, one that plays a bouncing line and another, higher synth that moves through it and around it.
I am drawn to the flying, glowing lead that cries out over that pulse and the shifting synths under it. There’s a wandering series of “bleeping” synth notes that jump in and move into open space before we return to the “A” section and the lead melody.
“Conspiracy" launches on a rapidly thumping kick drum over a deep, moving bass line with a cutting edge. A quick, bright series of arpeggios that ooze tension spin out rapidly over the speeding beat while a contrasting, steady pulse of synth moves into the track. I find the climbing, wheeling lead synth melody that is imbued with charging energy to be quite compelling here.
The triumphant and bright synth carries that intense rush of energy forward before the track breaks into oscillating pulses of low sound with bright flashes of light cutting through. I enjoy the hard-hitting groove of this track with glowing synth sounds that cut into it. There’s a shining high lead synth that sings out in long notes at first before they’re chopped into a surging throb.
A solid, powerful wall of interlocked synth opens "Blood Stains." There’s nervous energy and tension here as a throbbing, thumping beat drives the music forward. My ears are drawn to the dense synth patterns that circle as a drifting lead synth melody with a minor shading to it flows through the music. The synths break into oscillating pulses that rise and fall in a wave while the drums surge and the bass throbs.
I enjoy the yearning, wistful quality of the synth solo that dances through. The track returns to the tense pattern of notes and shifting bass patterns that accompany it along with the seemingly endless drums. I like the way the track breaks into hard-edged low synth and a whirling arpeggio that spins out and over it before resolving to the main melody.
“Hotlines” starts with shining, revolving arpeggios which form oscillating patterns that move into open space. There is a rising wash of sound that moves in and around those patterns as a dynamic, medium-tempo beat drives the track forward. I enjoy how the shifting pulses of synth coalesce into a warm, dancing melody that flows out over the steady beat. There’s a secondary melodic pattern of drifting notes that glide along over the beats and bass.
After a break into open air and slightly muffled arpeggios, there’s a crescendo as the beat again hits to add motion and weight to the music. I like the heartbeat to this track that seems to throb endlessly underneath the sweeping sounds that flow through it.
Virtual Machine creates a unique sonic world through the use of a wide variety of synths, drum sounds and bass movement. There are layers built on layers, depth and complexity connecting them and the whole EP has a nice cohesion without spilling over into any kind of “same-y” feeling.
© 2020 Karl Magi