For a band used to operating in such slow, smoky and dreamy sonic textures, Virginia Wing are currently accelerating at techno pace. Since their 2013 debut EP they have metamorphosed from a Broadcast-indebted dream pop band to a sprawling, unpredictable and deeply exploratory electronic two-piece, trading London as a base for Manchester in the process.
A fast paced musical evolution combined with the stripping down of members is a potential recipe for scattered incoherence but the depths and textures that they are now exploring means any sense of the restless-and-wild feels woven into their stylistic leanings and natural progression rather than it representing any flaw or failure. Reduced to the pair of Alice Merida Richards and Samuel Pillay, Virginia Wing are a group that are currently bubbling with fresh ideas, and their second album is overflowing with triumphs – not dissimilar, on those counts, to the streamlined, always progressive Factory Floor.
‘Forward Constant Motion’ – an almost painfully accurate, to the point of irony, title – sees the group explore glitch, pop, ambient and a plethora of production techniques that feel extracted from as wide and far as contemporary R&B to Aphex Twin to Jim O’Rourke. It means the album’s palette is staggeringly vast and it’s a persistently challenging record. Crucially, it is also a consistent and profoundly beautiful one too.
It’s a beauty that wrestles against the backdrop of anxiety, however, be it the itchy, sputtering and occasionally pummeling electronics, which sound like lost Oval tracks being given a FKA Twigs makeover, or the lyrics that capture a sense of alienation and disparate eerie desolation.
‘Miserable World’ bounces with an oriental skip and jumping slabs of electronics as the equally sweet and deadpan vocals – often sounding like Nico attempting to do a house vocal – of Merida Richards declare, “You’ve got to keep your head in this miserable world / Your time is too scarce to stay in one place.”
It oozes an aura and frightening tangibility that could have been heard floating perfectly around the grey slabs of brutalism captured and presented in Ben Wheatley’s recent JG Ballard adaptation of High Rise. Perhaps on a more literal level, it also explains why the duo has left the capital for Manchester.
Over the ‘Forward Constant Motion’’s fourteen tracks it becomes impossible to isolate and identify just what Virginia Wing are doing with this record. It evades genre labeling and stylistic familiarity with skipping ease. It’s the party, (see the crashing fury of ‘Local Loop’) the quarantined comedown (the metallic paranoia of ‘Baton’), the deconstruction of all of the states in between melded into an exquisite mutant beast. Virginia Wing have explored more musically in the last three years than many manage in a decade.