Vinyl Dial began 2019 with one of his most ambitious and musically complex releases to date: Space Wizard (released in January on Flamingo Vapor). An artist unique within vaporwave circles for his fusing of 1970’s style progressive rock virtuosity with a syrupy, hazed out, nostalgia inflected ambience, Vinyl Dial has long since explored the potential of hybrid aesthetics which combine British psychedelia and contemporary internet culture. In terms of this mix, Space Wizard represented his most fully realised foray into progressive rock with sprawling song structures that toured the listener through a hallucinatory world of intergalactic conquest built upon the interplay between synthesised textures and deeply layered instrumental arrangements like a melding of King Crimson and Tangerine Dream.
Fast forward four months and the tireless Vinyl Dial is a about drop a follow-up to Space Wizard, in the form of the a four track ep. entitled Intergalactic Almanac. This “purposefully vague” sequel to the events of the previous album places the listener in the shoes of an adventurer who has found the Space Wizard’s spellbook years later. The concept for this ep. was inspired, amongst other things, by Gravity Falls, the cartoon created by Alex Hirsch about a mysterious journal which is used to combat the strange paranormal goings on in the town of Gravity Falls. The intertextual nature of the concept for this release weaving in many direct connections to the show along with plenty of hidden messages much in the same spirit of the show.
In many ways Intergalactic Almanac is a return to form for Vinyl Dial who describes the release as a “back to my roots” ep. He explains that the songs on here are not just a figurative return but that the compositions themselves actually have quite a bit of history:
“I actually wrote these tracks in 2015 as the first ones from Space Wizard, but when I picked that album up again last year, these were the ones that eventually got cut”
For this reason Intergalactic Almanac serves as a sort of a bridge between Space Wizard and Vinyl Dial’s earlier work HYPER: a “self-compilation of tracks from @Hyperbattle_Ltd vaporwave production contests” that operated as a love letter of sorts the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise beloved by Vinyl Dial. Whilst Space Wizard was a very deliberately written album, HYPER by comparison, was created by remixing the original competition submissions into different scenes from around the Floating Island from Sonic 3 and Knuckles. This more iterative process of building a track is also reflected in the process that was used to create Intergalactic Almanac which was developed through a collaborative process negotiating the evolution of the various tracks over an extended back and forth between the artists involved.
In fact, Intergalactic Almanac features all manner of different collaborations with a wide range of diverse artists. Notable amongst these is the track Bad Trip, a collaboration with the avant garde electronic producer First Kings which began in 2017 as a remix project and the guitar work of longtime collaborator Daniel Woodyer featured on the track Ad Astra Per Aspera which was born of a mutual love for the progressive rock supergroup Frost*. However, the iterative and evolving nature of the songs crafted here is probably best exemplified by the story behind the lead single Space Dragon which was originally composed and recorded by keyboardist/drummer Keith Andrews back in 2011 under the original working title “Soundtrack to Nondescript Video Game Nostalgia”. This track, like that of Vinyl Dial’s back catalogue was also heavily inspired by video game music, in this case the Spyro soundtracks and has therefore been able to fit seamlessly into this release.
And whilst the music of retro video games might seem somehow disconnected from the saga of the Space Wizard which is continued in this newest ep. there are threads that run through all of Vinyl Dial’s releases connecting them together. To begin with, as Vinyl Dial explains, the loose Sonic inspired narrative which runs through HYPER actually conceals a lot of clues:
“like the game, ending the story in space – but instead of coming back down to Earth, I’d littered about 5 different references to Space Wizard in the track Moonmeat”
But this is a saga which predates even HYPER extending all the way back to Vinyl Dial’s first MySpace album which is being re-released later this year.
And on Intergalactic Almanac the link between the old and new is even more explicit, both in terms of the narrative universe and the aural aesthetic which incorporates a lot of Sega Mega Drive sounds as well as vocal processing designed to sound like Sega audio sample playback. All of which has been infused with a light saturation to “give it a touch of grit” a technique which belies the artist’s history with vaporwave and his love of downsampled/aged audio. The result is a distinct sound which really brings the influence of these 16bit jazz soundtracks from those original Sonic games to the fore plumbing the depths of a personal nostalgia for the music of all the different Sega Mega Drive games that Vinyl Dial played whilst growing up.
Intergalactic Almanac drops on Flamingo Vapor this Tuesday 30th April on Flamingo Vapor.