The Almighty Cloud
Sustainable Future Outlook






Ah, the various artists thing. Even though the artist of this album is called The Almighty Cloud, it’s a compilation, yeah? Yup, but the artists and friends gathering here are on a mission, as Sustainable Future Outlook is the first official collection of so-called Metrosong tracks (well duh, the first to be officially reviewed here but second overall after 2015's Sustainable Future Village), with L. John Hubbard aka Johnny McIvor at the helm, releasing this nineteen-track epitome on his own Cardboard Future label. It is available to stream and fetch for free at Bandcamp.


Before we dive deeper into the genre, a few words about The Almighty Cloud in the form of questions: is the four-track contribution of The Almighty Cloud on this album done by one artist only? Is it Johnny McIvor himself? Is it a name that is shared between Metrosong producers? Or even a higher order, a concept that is used in lieu of the old-fashioned various artists labelling? I haven't inquired this information. This is no commissioned review. I wanted to be as much in the dark as possible in order to be enlighted. The shrapnel of questions, though, remains and continues in the following paragraphs.


What is Metrosong? It is tied to Vaporwave. And what is Vaporwave? Well, haven’t we answered that one before time and again: Vaporwave can be tied to Ambient. Only consequentially, most of the people on board are prominent artists of all three genres,  occasionally appearing here under a different moniker few and far between in order to address and absorb the newness of Metrosong with a new name-related outfit. Many of them are featured regularly on AmbientExotica: Cobalt Road, Remember, Deiter Hetrick (aka Bonus Fruit and Gオーブ), Stevia Sphere (presented here under his Pine Voc moniker), STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ and many more.


Again, Sherlock: what is Metrosong? Commander McIvor is clever enough not to call the genre-to-be Metrowave or Metrosoft, the former an all too audacious reference, the latter a potential case for Satya Nadella’s lawyers. Metrosong admits to the moment, the referenced ditty in close proximity to the concrete jungle nearby. Sustainable Future Outlook doesn’t favor isolated events, none of the 19 songs comes along as an unparalleled attraction, and that may well be the biggest surprise of them all. Instead, recurrent themes of rurality, analog warmth and not-so-present retrospectives are strongly perceptible throughout the compilation. 


So here is a closer look at each and every one of the 19 tracks. Since that particular genre is new to me, I obviously contrast it with Vaporwave, trying to distill some differences or alternating tendencies. But this only makes up 50% of the task at hand. The other 50% comprise of trying to make Johnny McIvor's viewpoint my own, checking whether the often-proclaimed here and now with all its futuristic tendencies is fully embroidered. While this review might be one of the bigger features of Metrosong at the time of writing, it is definitely not the holy grail, nor is it a pinpointed witty analysis suprème. It is an approach or approximation thereof. So without further ado, here's the lineup:


1. Indie Government – Utopia On The Horizon: A most portentous beginning, with the front artwork being annihilated immediately due to the thunderstorm, piano pericarps and lachrymose audio commentary. Utopia remains farther away than ever, but once the classic drum kit is firmly in place and all layers are intertwined, the mood is uplifting, the chantress luring, the plinking keys crystalline enough to caulk the interstice between technicolor and that infamous Gotham filter.

2. @VattenfallGroup – King Of The Slope: It is said that Metrosong is about the here and now, the post-millennial architecture of sounds. This doesn't always translate into cutting-edge poshness though, and I for one am glad there is room on this compilation for acts like @VatenfallGroup and their yttrium-alloyed amalgamation of fir-green Rhodes chimes, pulsatile Glitch globs and sizzling IDM nineties-isms. King Of The Slope may be a short interlude, but it emanates euphorious snowflakes aplenty. 

3. Green Highrise – Battery Electric Vehicle: Corkscrew Italo pianos, Vaportrap schemes percussion-wise and a parallax peritoneum whose layer-based approach remains open to scrutiny, Green Highrise's vehicle agglutinates chemical sensations through cavalcades of molecules with a strangely mephitic yet clean micrometry of the innermost cogwheel that constitutes the electronic sanctuary. Synthesists smell lilac lariats.

4. Zinoro μ – The Zinoro 1G Car Event: We remain in the car industry with Zinoro μ's vehicular contribution. The track title is worth one's interest alone, but the attached soundscape is even better, so intimate, insouciant and innocent. Apocryphal hi-hats, etiolated marimba muons and Far Eastern mid-freq bass reticulations evoke the 80's demo sound scene driven by the C64 home computer. It's retrogressive and thus a failed attempt in terms of being a true-to-form Metrosong ballad. But who cares: the arpeggiated antrum is simply too blissful! 

5. – Windows 10: The mysterious guides the listening subject through the here and now alright, what with the auroral track title and the implied connotation of a commonplace OS. The piano is once again firmly in place, surrounded by helicoidal bleeps and seraphic legato accompaniments. Clever chord progression makes this artifact appear both fragile and powerfully orthochromatic.

6. pine voc – tiny house living: Our boy from Sweden has allegedly slapped himself on the rose-colored cheeks of youth just to get that percussive sound right. That's called devotion, okay? Funnily enough, the high-pitched sound leads to a rather aquatic and moist alcove of hatched contrasts that later experiences a one-eighty when lush bonfire guitars and rural square lead syringa flutes paint a bucolic bubble that enshrines all the cornfields and meadows of the metroworld. 

7. The Almighty Cloud – Outlooks: Those synth choir patches are so attached to the late 70's and early 80's that this can't possibly be considered a Metrosong contribution, but given that Johnny McIvor put both thumbs up, provided that he himself doesn't embody The Almighty Cloud after all, he knows best. And while the first 40 seconds are honestly retro, the last third of this intermission is aural aurum, gaining plasticity through vesicles, wind chimes and amplified synths.

8. The Almighty Cloud – Cloud Skyline With Cityscape: One of the most memorable pieces of the compilation melody- and texture-wise, Cloud Skyline With Cityscape fathoms the valleys, plateaus and mountains of the mind, be they rectangular and based on concrete or not. Medulla-emptying drum bursts are outdone by vincristine saprotroph pads and another Far Eastern spirit engrained within the stacked polyphony. Child-like and wondrous.

9. The Almighty Cloud – Royalty Free Housing: A phantasmagoria in the veins of 식료품groceries. Sun-kissed cascades, trumpet/guitar synthesism, nomological pavements and distant skies, all encapsulated in a pastoral titration. If you dig saccharified Vaporwave that embraces the American Dream (one house, one wife, two children, an additional dog that brings you the New York Times), this is the soundtrack to underline your reverie.

10. SKIP AD MIRACLE BERRY: Chirping birds, children playing, a longitudinal lute playing a countrified melody of liquedous licks all the while sinus wisps float through the olive trees, SKIP AD ➤ absorbs the previous sceneries, and decidedly so. This is one of the strongest tracks, a distinct counterpoint to the histrionic MIDI-fied fusillades of the 80's that captures one's heart through its mellifluous texture/note cocktail. Dry summer days are nigh.

11. Contour Architect – Atlantic Development Plan: Quite a bit more industrial but most certainly not in an abrasive or tech-frenzied cold way, Contour Architect's offering ominously oscillates between smoke-and-mirror-filled dark choirs, golden piano shards and a reverberated guitar-or-ukulele granuloma. Frequency-wise, the mix is intimidating qua its powerfully droning faux-choir, but the manifold diaphanous helictites protrude the smoke like lavabos in an English garden.

12. Institute for Rational Science – Let There Be Light: Weaving one of old Hans Zimmer's most famous compositions into an increasingly prone-to-become-rhenium thiazide supercharged with lactic waterfalls, vocoded "let there be light" echomorphs and a fittingly cinematic gathering of strings, horns as well as classic pianos, the Institute for Rational Science has come up with a percussion-shifting meaningful memorabilia that violently scythes through the formerly nature-driven atmosphere. What is Metrosong? This, my guy!

13. Remember – Axico Internet Assistant: The supernatural being and incarnation of the noosphere is back. You also know him as Remember, one of the very few artists who takes part in the Metrosong journey without disguising his well-known alias. An Ambient aficionado right from the start, the artist not only wins the prize for the most auroral track title but also tremendously enchants with his stupefying ether of Detroit plumes, xenon blebs and colloidal breakbeat patterns. Deeper still. Ethereal.

14. Muntaĵo – The World Will Keep Getting Smaller: Considering the freezing temperatures at the time of Sustainable Future Outlook's release date thanks to "Jonas", the world is not the only thing that keeps getting smaller, but all innuendos aside, Muntaĵo's 10+ minutes Ambient juggernaut jitters along nicely: scattered cannelures, icicles made of synthetic strings as well as fluid flanger floes fly flawlessly through the rose-tinted aural gemstone hideout. Mystery and benignancy remain head to head.

15. David Icke – The Dream World: A medulla-emptying low-freq drone cascades through tetrahedron shards, the sentiment is futuristic, but also cavernous and opaque, something murky is in the air. These Ambient nutrients, however, only serve as the baseframe for a John Carpenter documentary. Here we have the rare case of a spoken world sample ennobling the song, with the actual music forming the inferior backdrop for this enlightening discourse. 

16. Applied Scholastics® – Beginner Course: Vaportrap/Jungle/Detroit, that's quite a triptych to begin with, whether you favor the former's apoplectic beat shrapnel, the medial's dreamy frenzy or the latter's sumptuous smoke. This emerald by Applied Scholastics® has it all and even manages to augment the scenery with Sheffield Rave acid aureoles. The artificial voiceover, finally, guides the listener through the futuristic forecast for good. 

17. Twitter – #100years: Whoever it is that hides behind the moniker of Twitter (I have a hunch!), Sustainable Future Outlook turns back into the rural community with the aid of a centered gypsy-like French Cote d'Azur harmonica and the warmest of all backing chords. Transparent music boxes and plinking triangles put the finishing touches on a rhizomatic sound-based saprotroph. 

18. The Almighty Cloud – Tomorrow's Outlook: The compilation as a community effort officially ends with The Almighty Cloud's Tomorrow's Outlook, and the future isn't as apocalyptic as naysayers, nihilists and nannies tend to believe. Likewise, it isn't presented in technicolor either; the legato flutes, glagolithic pits and lacunar puddles once again embrace a certain pastoral sentiment, but if Metrosong were to become everyone's future, a lot would be won during the process of this cathexis. 

19. The Human Fund – Our Story: An addendum of over two minutes with a different digital cover, this piece is not to be missed, if only for the rotenone-embracing J-Pop clarity of the acoustic guitars. The interplay between sounds, textures and hooklines unfolds expertly, allowing the listener to experience a rather elevating liftoff… maybe back to the beginning of this compilation, or to a better understanding of what Metrosong can be, certainly is and might become.


Raids over Moscow and fights over genres are ubiquitous, I can feel their omnipresence behind my back. However: it is the music that counts, the textures, melodies and airwaves. So even if one despises the mere idea of Metrosong and derides it as Vaporwave 2.0 or — much worse — some sort of alpha build, the artists themselves are the ones you know, encounter, respect and love if you are into the V-scene, with the occasional new face or two to materialize soon enough, I believe. It is in this context Sustainable Future Outlook is embedded.


The devotion with which Johnny McIvor envisions and visualizes — that's two sides of a single coin — Metrosong can be considered both a bold statement and good-natured effort. Such efforts are down-voted wherever you propose them, naturally. And granted, Vaporwave is such a diverse field right now that it is seen as diluted and a faux-genre at best. So why not place Metrosong within Vaporwave's womb, eh? Given these negative attitudes, but also considering them as realistic and austere, McIvor's mission faces stiff competition and skepticism everywhere, truth be told and all.


What I take away from — and find within — Metrosong is the same eclectic gamut of positivisms that make Vaporwave so delightful to my ears: the multicolored fields of vision and everfloating gradients. The chemotaxis of Metrosong has yet to be fully determined, and not by me, I might add. Whether it sits right next to Vaporwave or is an inferior style in lieu of a genre doesn't matter to me. After all, Mallsoft, Hardvapour, Casi(n)oware, all kinds of Trap and even Juke à la Vaperror are only considered styles of Vaporwave at best and EDM at worst. And soon enough, the final (?) compilation fitting piece to the puzzle called Sustainable Future Person is going to be a much darker artifact, adding another angle to Metrosong. I’ll be observing.


Further listening and reading:


Vaporwave Review 147: The Almighty Cloud – Sustainable Future Outlook (2016). Originally published on Jan. 25, 2016 at