Virtual World - Review

The following is a review of Virtual World by Graham Getty, and was first published in the magazine Zenith...

Waveform's debut CD Making Waves has proved hugely popular since its release in 1991. On the strength of that one album Steve Blenkinsopp became one of only a handful of EM artists whose music appealed to all spectrums of the scene. Having got it so right the first time, it leaves little room for improvement...

This is a concept album based on what Steve has termed the Virtual Reality Web, and "Gateway to Infinity" opens with atmospherics then computerised speech inviting the insertion of a credit card to allow access to the web - a nice touch.

"Deeper and Deeper In" then takes over with an easy pace and excellent melodics which grow in stature with familiarity. "Technophobia" raises the pace and features some great synth leads. Anyone who likes the end titles to Bladerunner will certainly like this.

All the tracks mesh seamlessly and "Flight" opens with a short bridging interlude before establishing the classic Waveform blend of thoughtful melody and poignant air. There's a lot going on in this piece and it seems shorter than its 9 minutes.

Onto "Vista", and what can superlatives can be used to describe this track? It first saw the light of day on the Zenith Sampler cassette and since then many have raved about this hypnotic blend of sensational synth melodies - even the obligatory flutey synth sounds refreshing on this track! The opening birdsong effects were all apparently created via synthesis - no samples (not that I've got anything against sampling, before anyone asks!).

"Tornado" raffles onto the scene in very strident fashion. Up tempo and brash, comparisons with Shreeve are inevitable however it's all a bit precise and regimental to be called a riotous synth outing - more like an electronic version of trooping the colour. "Wastelands" conveys very powerful imagery with sweeping leadlines, while "Digital Love" is a piece of symphonic beauty.

"Assassin" features more computerised speech which complements the music superbly. Waveform meets Kraftwerk? It's easy to be flippant but I'm sure that a lot of effort went into synching this lot together and the end result is most certainly worth it. This particular approach sounds genuinely different. Plonk it on every track and I'm sure the effect would become tiresome, but it's judged just about right here.

"Sometimes you'll see me in your dreams" says the computer voice to herald "Dreamstate". Again this piece does not depart from the tried and trusted Waveform formula, while "Stairway of Lost Souls" also features the classic melody lines and synth voices. "New Reality" ends beautifully with very poignant computer speech.

"Evolution not Revolution" is a phrase I've used before and it certainly applies here. Waveform fans will delight at yet another immaculate album and all the qualities they have come to expect are there in abundance. But I do detect signs that the formula may need pepping up for future projects. For now though, no-one will be disappointed after a journey through Waveform's Virtual World.

(Graham Getty)