A diverting set of glossy, vaporwave-inflected cuts from Nonlocal Forecast that, despite the occasional lapse into the kind of burbling groove you might hear in your dentist’s waiting room, emits a strange, sticky aura sufficient to hold our interest. Given those uncanny vibrations, it is unsurprising to learn that Nonlocal Forecast is an(other) alias for Hausu Mountain regular Angel Marcloid, whose Fire-Toolz persona was responsible for one of 2018’s most compelling releases, ‘Skinless X-1’.
If ‘Bubble Universe!’ lacks the cacophonous intensity of ‘Skinless X-1’, it exhibits a similar care in its construction, Marcloid baking in all sorts of melodic twists and turns that more than compensate for the polished surfaces. The lead synth motif of ‘Cloud-Hidden’ struts and jives all over the place like some out-there Zawinul bootleg, while ‘The Evolutionary Game’ prods busy twinkles and synth pan-pipe hoots across lush, undulating beds. And, in a wittily meta touch, Fire-Toolz even pops up to add some caffeinated energy on ‘Triangular Format’ (that keytar solo, eh?).
In fact, ‘Bubble Universe!’ is so likeable that I’ve happily parked all of my misgivings about the cloying parameters of its associated genre. Normally, listening to all that muzak gloop is like eating a three-course meal fashioned entirely from jellybeans. But Marcloid’s tracks, while just as sumptuous as vaporwave at its most heightened, contain just enough grit to balance the sweetness.
Titles, too, help pivot the album’s soul away from consumer capitalism (all that shopping mall muzak, so lovingly recreated, is hardly progressive) toward something more enigmatic – alternative universes, quantum mechanics and other theoretical concepts esoteric enough to make my brain collapse. Introducing these far-out ideas gives ‘Bubble Universe!’ a trippy wonder that can’t fail to be optimistic, reminding us that the space-time continuum within which we live is a far weirder place than old-fashioned common-sense can fathom. And if science can help us work it out, maybe it can save us, too?