Release Date: Nov 11, 2016
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Experimental Rock
Anyone who picked up Virginia Wing’s springtime EP Rhonda won’t be surprised to learn that the duo’s full-length return offers a complete re-thinking of the approaches to structure they took on 2014’s more motorik-driven debut LP, Measures of Joy. Shearing themselves of a live drummer has played its part, but even before then there’d been a restlessness bubbling away that's fully set free on Forward Constant Motion. Shorthand checkpoints Trish Keenan and Laetitia Sadier still apply to Alice Merida Richards' vocals, particularly on lead single Grapefruit and the skittering tropicalia-meets-icy-synthscape of ESP Offline, but – alongside co-songwriter Sam Pillay – the pair have moved their sound down a more twisted labyrinth, pulling in everything from musique concrète to squelchy deconstructed techno, refracted pop hooks and seismic drone.
Virginia Wing, named after the mother of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, birthed a beguiling psychedelic powerhouse of their own with 2014’s Measures Of Joy. Here was a vital debut by a South London-based trio who, unlike so many neo-psych acts taking influence from ’60s adventurers like Slick, weren’t checking out on modern life; rather than hiding behind phased guitars, they were engaging with – and attempting to manoeuvre a course through – a simultaneously interconnected and dislocated world. Buzzing synths, Sam Pillay’s guitars – sometimes ringing, sometimes piercing – and the pounding drums of Sebastian Truskolaski combined to conjure up an impressively oppressive and chaotic sound.
Virginia Wing started life off as a trio, making experimental modern pop with shoegaze and Krautrock influences bubbling to the top. After releasing a promising LP and single, the trio became a duo when their drummer left. The change means something of a drastic change of direction on Forward Constant Motion. Gone are the shoegaze guitars and straightforward rhythms; in their place are inventively programmed drum machines and banks of chilly synthesizers.
The new Virginia Wing record is a curious, hybrid thing, whose every turn betrays the melange of collaborations which have contributed to its creation. Having halved in membership since their initial activities as a four-piece, Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay now share control of Virginia Wing. In the development of Forward Constant Motion, the pair enlisted the help of Hookworms’ MB and Grimm Grimm’s Koichi Yamanoha, both esteemed figures in psychedelic/art rock scenes in their own right.
Since its beginning as the bedroom project of Sam Pillay, growing over time into collective endeavor with fluctuating line-up, Virginia Wing have thrived on constant reinvention. Then again, perhaps the most uninteresting thing artist could do is to emerge fully formed to public attention. Relocated from SE London to Manchester and reduced to the nucleus of Pillay and Alice Merida Richards, true to form their second collaborative effort, Forward Constant Motion, finds them reimagining their sound completely.
Virginia Wing, who hail from Camberwell, England, have created something unsettling and totally memorable on their latest album, Forward Constant Motion, that plays as part fractured fairytale and part futuristic nightmare. The music on the surface has a dream pop vibe to it, but is actually far more psychedelic than I had expected, which excited as much as it confounded. More importantly the numbers that attracted me were the highly edited ones.