vid.nas – MAN MACHINE INTERFACE
Album: MAN MACHINE INTERFACE
Type: Full-length (LP)
Release date: 27 February 2017
- Blue cassette, unknown edition (Seikomart, 2017)
- Digital download (Seikomart, 2017)
It seems like all those UK vaporwave/cyberpunk artists have a bit of forlorness in their music. Is it the weather? Is it just London? If you tell me it’s London, that’s okay I’ll understand. MAN MACHINE INTERFACE is the sophomore release of vid.nas, who got his start with releases on the Seikomart label. This album combines vaporhop music with dreampunk in a way that recalls the then-burgeoning ghost tech trend started by labels such as Tekres and Pyramids, although its firm backing in tropes such as Japanese media samples lends it closer to the vaporwave side of the spectrum.
MAN MACHINE INTERFACE picks up where チェスマスター left off1 in exploring the philosophical and social ramifications of human-robot relations through vaporwave music and cyberpunk. As with its forebearer I am Chesumasuta, a large proportion of MAN MACHINE INTERFACE is dedicated to exploring romance and personal relationships; the album opens up with a discussion between (ostensibly) a human and a robot or android, where the android tells the human that they can perfectly distinguish between pleasure and pain. The very album title is a sexual euphemism – “man-machine interface” can simply refer to a user interface in a computer or digital program, but here it takes on the subtly of a human and a machine “interfacing” in the old in-out, in-out. vid.nas approaches the subject with charming frankness, giving substantial credence to the idea that perhaps it doesn’t even matter whether or not something is truly able to receive, perceive, or conceive as long as either party truly believes they can.
Fittingly, this calls back to a quote by Charles Darwin, in which he posited that “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery”. vid.nas calls one’s attention to the same application to digital representations, robots/androids, and other verisimilitudinous forms of intelligence. The accompanying text to MAN MACHINE INTERFACE advances this perspective in describing how love-bots and industrial robots are most likely to go “beserk” following their retirement. Sure, it’s a concept that’s been done in the past many a time, but vid.nas treats it without the obsession of チェスマスター or the sardonicism of hardvapour artists, instead considering the object with an active acceptance if not awe.
The music of MAN MACHINE INTERFACE2 is primarily rooted in percussion-heavy cyberpunk music. Much vaporhop blurs the line between hip-hop and trap influences, but MAN MACHINE INTERFACE completely eschews the hi-hat triplets and snare abuse that characterizes a lot of trap music, making first listens seem like the percussion is completely divorced from vaporwave tropes at all. Songs such as “Peripheral Space” slightly utilize stereo sound, where it sounds as if the percussion is coming from multiple sources that surround the listener. It’s an understated usage that doesn’t call attention to the method of production like many vaporwave albums, existing for music’s sake instead of breaking the fourth wall. The production has high dynamic range, thankfully avoiding some of the brickwalling that was common in other vaporhop albums in 2016 and 2017.
A couple moments stand out. “Hard Cover” has a strong nu-age atmosphere with progressive electronica synthesizers that make the track sound like a club remix of Vangelis music. “More to the CyberRealm” features Confucius MC, a rapper who comes out of nowhere given the comparatively downtempo style of the rest of the album. vid.nas opts for a saxophone sample to add additional melody, and there’s also some use of phasing in a manner similar to telepath percussion. Its appearance toward the end of the album does not break the flow and seems more like a credit sequence than anything else, but some listeners might find it to be a big-lipped alligator moment.
MAN MACHINE INTERFACE is an exceptional release of cyberpunk/vaporhop music. Try it out and file it next to チェスマスター, DARKPYRAMID, and Valet Girls.
1. Coded Pleasure – (0:49)
2. GhostLine – (5:55)
3. Enzyme Euphoria Flashbacks – (4:04)
4. Hard Cover – (3:02)
5. Program Decay – (3:29)
6. Delta Level Damage – (3:11)
7. Synthetic Soldier – (4:01)
8. Peripheral Space – (3:24)
9. More to the CyberRealm (feat. Confucious MC) – (4:16)
10. 城牆 – (5:19)3
1After he abandoned vaporwave and dreampunk altogether following the release of Infinity of a Void.
2Not that I can’t stay for a little bit more philosophical musing. Just call me The Goober.
3Japanese translation: “City wall”