I am a big fan of Portland’s mysterious mannequin, Ambient anchor and cyber coaster DIYPYЯΛMID, and once I became aware of his new 14-track album VOLUMΞTRIXX, I knew that I had to reserve a review slot right away. Released in tape form on the Illuminated Paths label and available to purchase and stream at Bandcamp, the anonymous artist has delivered his most focused and coherent work in ages. Okay, here’s the actual truth: I wasn’t sure whether to really review it or not, but I couldn’t help it after reading some of the tags that appear on the artist’s Bandcamp site, among them Egypt and whiskey. Ho ho, I immediately ordered the digital copy and basked for weeks in its virtual cesspools to absorb the trademarks and diffusive concepts. While DIYPYЯΛMID is usually keen on placing material from commercials and other computer-heavy remnants into his pieces, VOLUMΞTRIXX is almost unbelievably tame and soothing in this regard. This leads to less variety and surprises per se, true that, but the welcome result is a cohesive work whose textural turmoil, glistening surfaces and blurry countermovements emit variety and synthetic magic aplenty. And another highpoint traverses the album throughout its runtime: a purple glow. Whether it is the cover that tricks me into believing this, the album title with its implication of cloudlets and titration or the first signs of synesthesia, VOLUMΞTRIXX is nocturnal, merges Detroit flavors with Vaporwave streamlets and breakbeat patterns, but always maintains its Ambient core. Entering the aurora now…


A little bit of Detroit blur, a pinch of scything Disco synths, welcome to the opener GPS and its technocratic roadside intoxication supercharged with disk saw-oid motors, breakbeat specimen, delightfully chintzy tambourine bytes and genuinely wonderful synth nebulae next to dry chime blotches. It may only be the opener, but functions as DIYPYЯΛMID first sign of strengthening the focus and textural harmony instead of venturing into several galaxies at once. When the motorcycle drives into the elysian sunset, the upcoming stokehold industrialism of PIONΞΞR schleps itself forward only unwillingly. Bursting at the seams with polished Rave organ patterns, medulla-emptying pillar basslines and an incredible blur that veneers everything within the reach of its center, this is one of the clearest nods toward Vaporwave. While IMAGΞ fathoms the Detroit diorama once and for all by permuting a heretically sleazy vibe with rotatory dream spirals and bumblebee-resembling wobble jags, LΞGACY basks in glacial four-note aureoles whose ice-blue incandescence serves as the counterpoint to the ever-lilac atmosphere; galactic glissandos on the syrinx synth and prolonged acid whirlwinds let Leftfield’s Storm 3000 come to mind. Is this the legacy? Meanwhile, DIYPYЯΛMID constantly shows that he’s a sucker for consumerism and branding, and TINYCHAT puts this attitude to the test title-wise, but also knows to enchant with the aid of a mucoid loop-based creature that is slow as molasses, only featuring vestiges of languorous melodies in-between the echo-heavy clangs and rattles. The mood, however, is hopeful and ridiculously mellow.


VISUAL GRAPHICS then injects polylayered synth choir-like stems – that could derive from a slowed down R’n’B chorus – into a whitewashed haze bolstered with bucolic bass bubbles à la Roland. Said haze turns awry later on by means of pernicious dark matter pads and howling laser protrusions. The beatless proto-Ambient sparkler SKY LIQUID, however, makes it hard for the reviewer to not mention that famous turquoise duo of Scottish heritage thanks to its mercilessly ethereal droning reel of aeriform senescence in synth form. A most welcome pause and more of a misty mirage than a continuation of the album’s syringa endemics. The follow-up HORIZONTAL is not arbitrarily placed in this very spot, for it somehow connects to the aerose timbre of SKY LIQUID by sporting a similar, now magenta-hued melody that is further ameliorated via high-chromaticity bass guitar vesicles, semi-liquid snares and divine square lead remnants of the 16-bit era. There is no histrionic revelation placed in this track, it is unexpectedly soothing yet non-gimmicky, or in short (for a change): a gem.


It is not clear whether VIDΞOTΞX is an amalgamation of the pixellated info layer (videotext), the plural form of the French savoir vivre (vidéothèques, mesieurs), or the clichéd no-questions-asked approach as propagated in Texas, but this is of no importance anyway once the raucous rascal hits the listener. Antediluvian basslines and an interrupted stream of short-lived longitudinal airflows repeated ad infinitum cause havoc and arcane catalepsies after the album’s balmy apex is left behind. I have to admit that I am not overly fond of this less melodic piece, but am all the more bewitched whenever I encounter NΞXT GΞN and its Italo piano-underlined gigapristine synth convulsions. Melodies there are aplenty, a certain layer of graininess veils these steamy devices, and yet they are diaphanous enough to appear mighty and vigorous. The following TΞRMINAL is yet another wonderful track agglutinating cyber-Detroit orbitals with clinging percussion placentas and a seemingly ever-changing breakbeat pattern. The timbre, the textural fuzziness, everything works in tandem; a futuristic New Age flavor is exuded, huzzah! NΞTWORK is sure enough situated in the future as well, but one with retrogressive vestibules linking to the Disco era. Synth pads as smooth as glass, muffled handclaps of the 80’s, reverberations of yesteryear and apocryphal drum layers beguile the vanguard. The penultimate GTA V breaks the spell and notifies the listener qua its title that he or she is listening to a contemporary artifact; in other news, the track serves as another blurfest because of its streamlined cannelure of repetitive but incredibly diffuse vocal strata. The gate is now open for the closer called PROCΞSSOR, a crystalline dob of pentatonic benignancy and specter-laden mysticism. Like a questionable piece of a self-help tape, it transpires, transfigures, transmutes the aural antrum and kisses the listener goodbye.


Yes yes, I have mentioned the genre term Vaporwave one too many times in this review to successfully convince listeners who see this term as a stigma instead of a seal of quality. Fair enough. But VOLUMΞTRIXX is much more than a cross-linkage of elasticized songs and Pop artifacts. While they undoubtedly make up a small and delightful portion of the album – PIONΞΞR and NΞTWORK come to mind – it is also clear that these instances are further refined, with completely new synths and structures in place. The other pieces vary in this regard and do not even show un soupçon de magnetophone and rather float into the visionary locationless concept known as retro-futurism. It is here where the purple proclivity sparkles and multiplexes coruscation and energy aplenty. In contrast to previous patchworks such as Post Photoshop (2013), VOLUMΞTRIXX has lost a lot of the in-your-face humor and liveliness, but these things have to be eliminated in order to widen the aura of Detroit and the simmering, always intriguing immersion which encapsulates the listening subject completely. Instead of presenting sketches that were created few and far between, VOLUMΞTRIXX is DIYPYЯΛMID's first stringent release with a metallic physiognomy and a similarly tight realization of its nameless concept. It has something to do with drinking whiskey in Egypt, methinks.


Further listening and reading: 

  • The album can be purchased and streamed at Bandcamp. The tape (and only the tape) features two additional deconstructions by Fuckwalker and Riot Meadows.
  • DIYPYЯΛMID  is on Twitter. His disguise: @vcrcleaner.


Ambient Review 350: DIYPYЯΛMID – VOLUMΞTRIXX (2014). Originally published on Jun. 11, 2014 at