Virginia Wing’s fourth LP, recorded at a friend’s house in Switzerland, is an assured record from a group clearly becoming ever-more confident to probe the unfamiliar and bolster the foundations of their own unique sound.
‘Ecstatic Arrow’ revolves around these two tenets. ‘The Female Genius’ is awash with beautiful synths and Alice Merida Richards’s layered vocals that are at once fixed and animated, while single ‘The Second Shift’ has some of the most infectious horn/synth lines since Part Time’s ‘Honey Lips’.
There are definite strands of nigh-on euphoric pop, with moments that recall Yellow Magic Orchestra at their least mechanical, as on ‘Sister’. It sounds optimistic – “Uncancel the future”, sings Richards on ‘Pale Burnt Lake’ – and slightly warmer and hazier than the cold wave of Lizzy Mercier Descloux, who nevertheless makes her influence felt here, especially on ‘Seasons Reversed’. Broadcast comparisons can sometimes come off as slightly facile in that they often extend to anything with artfully detached female vocals over intricate, reverb-laden sonics; here, they stand up slightly, but there are many more dimensions to Virginia Wing.
‘Eight Hours Don’t Make A Day’ is a warped take on a strain of altogether more bucolic folk, exploring the drudgery of the work routine and the weariness of being ‘tired but not giving in’. But it’s also defiant: “I’m choosing to live my life in the way I decide”. Elsewhere, there are nods to female empowerment, especially in the face of male entitlement, and to scientificity. This is an album that is at once engaged with the real, the quotidian, the luminaries of pop, and with the spectral, the conceptual and the avant-garde. It doesn’t need to favour one over the other.
‘Ecstatic Arrow’ is kind of the sonic equivalent of the Barbican Conservatory, with its juxtaposition of undulating concrete and myriad verdant plants from across the world. And if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know it’s a very pleasant space.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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