ALL THINGS *V*I*R*G*O*
Review by Robert Urban
Am just now catching up
on some reportage I've been accumulating on musical colleague/track artist V*I*R*G*O*.
A few months back, while working on instrumental music for an upcoming indie vampire film, I heard some of VIRGO's deliciously dark techno/metal songs - played them for the director - and we both fell in love with VIRGO's "You Suck" and "Parasite" (the vampirish song-titles say it all) as perfect cameo pop tunes to play over the credits of the movie.
Then I got to see VIRGO perform live (my first time) this May at our NYC Meow Mix Men's Night and was wowed and surprised - esp at his unusual, intense stage presence & vocal delivery. He sang over his very heavy tracks standing perfectly still... poker-faced and staring straight forward throughout his set. His body wrapped, head-to-toe, in yards of plain cloth, almost ghurka-like... or ancient Greek statue-like... or sphinx-like... He seemed to be playing more the part of "greek chorus" than of club diva - which brought acute focus to his lyrics while he wailed over the grinding drum/synth sequences.
Am not an expert in the field, but if techno/metal club music has messiahs, VIRGO's some kinda candidate - the crowd at Meow Mix luved his fresh presentation and rewarded him with encores.
Which leads me to the StoneWall Society review I wrote on VIRGO's cd - MODERATE EXTREMISM - some months back when I first heard him - so is herewith included below.
If you haven't heard him he's definitely worth checking out.
V*I*R*G*O* - MODERATE EXTREMISM
Just who is techno/industrial/electronica rock artist V*I*R*G*O*? - the love child of Trent Reznor & Diamanda Galas?... great great grandson of SILVER APPLES?... the new queer S&M rock messiah?... heir apparent to that insufferably severe, tragically hip pop aesthetic born sometime late in the 1970's when the fashion industy bit rock music in the neck and out flowed the likes of HUMAN LEAGUE League and all things "Goth"?
Uh... maybe - but happily, much more! On MODERATE EXTREMISM, this serious club kid of the brave new digital age displays classic artistic resourcefulness - and crafts his "dark & sensual electro-fantasies" out of all the available cutting-edge music technology surrounding him. V*I*R*G*O* voraciously gobbles up audio loops, samples, sequences, sound effects, digital edits, street sounds, "music concrete", etc., and weaves them into well-produced, dance-club type mixes. His sonic bag of tricks even includes making usable musical elements out of the digital noises & pops others might discard as "distortion". He loves running vocals, guitars, basses, percussion - you name it - thru a fuzz box for effect. V*I*R*G*O* also exhibits a healthy fondness for good ol' fashioned analog synth sounds.
MODERATE EXTREMISM's overall production - including innovative vocal e.q.'s, sumptuous reverbs and great-sounding percussion/rhythm beds - is excellent. One of my favorite tracks - opening song "You Suck" has perhaps the heaviest guitar power-chords ever burned to disk.
But this album does more than just capture the dark hipness of today's drum machine-driven gay male urban club culture. For better or worse, it also accurately reflects its emptiness, shallowness and cruelty. In songs with names like "Parasite", "Mutual Destruction", "Soul Disease", "Rent Boy", "Black Leather" and "Kink", V*I*R*G*O* sings of a world dominated by sex addicts, hustlers, verbal abuse, self-destructive behavior, un-safe sex, hedonism, sado-masochism, kinky sex and extreme pessimism.
Needless to say - one will find no bright side to ANYTHING on this cd. Every song is in a minor key - as is nearly every chord on the album. To call V*I*R*G*O*'s world, as described in MODERATE EXTREMISM, "sad" (as it surely is) is to miss the point. There is something in the combination of the intensely depressing, nihilistic lyrics; dispassionate, detached vocal style; and the often brutal, stark music production that makes the world-according-to-VIRGO downright remorseless and cold. This is strong stuff. As summed up in the final song "Walking Wounded" - all is pathetic & "intrinsically flawed".
For the most part, Virgo sings the cd's songs in a middle range, matter of fact manner. But here and there he lets loose, displaying a really luscious low end and a very exciting top this listener finds very appealing - there is a beautiful voice here.
The sometimes straightforward, deadpan vocal style on MODERATE EXTREMISM is especially disturbing on the two blues covers. V*I*R*G*O*'s interpretation of the Lewis Allen classic STRANGE FRUIT comes off entirely devoid of irony per the song's underlying message of social injustice & racism - the singer simply seems to enjoy singing the gruesome lyrics at face value. Likewise, in his rendition of Burke & Webster's BLACK COFFEE, V*I*R*G*O* again just sings the words, with no subtle appeal to the lonliness of "the blues" underneath. It's as if the world has no heart for him to appeal to.
Ah... the brave, new digital age....
2002 Intraxis Productions, Inc.
Review for Stonewall Society
by Robert Urban
URBAN PRODUCTIONS, NYC
Return to Home Page