What does the future sound like? For anyone looking to find out, the Metaverse Music Festival in Decentraland might have been a good place to start looking. The digital event, held last month, featured appearances by artists such as Bjork, Megadeath, Ozzy Osbourne and, perhaps most fascinatingly of all, WAVE.
Self-styled as an ethereal being ‘born from a distortion of nature’, WAVE is the world’s first metaverse-only DJ. The difference between them and the likes of Bjork is that, when the Metaverse Music Festival was over, Bjork returned to the real world. WAVE, on the other hand, transcended to a different corner of cyberspace.
And from that digital domain, WAVE has unveiled a new album: relea∫e. Featuring songs originally composed by WAVE’s own AI – and refined by DaHouse Audio producers Lucas Mayer, Wonder Bettin, Rodrigo Lemos, Silvio Erné, and Max Von Dusen, relea∫e represents a kind of benchmark in the welding together of creativity and technology. Eleven songs, originating from an AI, and destined to reverberate around the nascent metaverse. For any interested mortals, the album can be found here on Spotify, and here on Apple Music.
Above: relea∫e includes eleven songs, the first six of which were originally composed by AI.
Whilst WAVE themselves was created in a collaboration between DaHouse Audio and the visual wizards at Final Frontier, the pixelated performer has now taken on a life of their own. And when it came to creating relea∫e, WAVE’s first album, the process was clear from the start. “We suggested harmonies for the AI, and they devised various musical paths and ways of incorporating them into the song. In the end, we mixed the texture of real instruments and the synth we created for Kia with vocals from Gustavo Bertoni, Lemoskine, YESEO, JVNR, Uza, Thom K, and Brenda Mayer”, explains DaHouse’s Lucas Mayer.
But what of the album itself? To look at WAVE, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the metaverse musician was modelling itself off Daft Punk. But whereas the French electronic legends appear as though they’ve arrived from a smooth, Tron-like future, WAVE sounds more as if you’d just fallen through a trapdoor in a nightclub and into another dimension.
As the album’s self-titled opening track begins, the sense of transportation grows. What initially sounds like raindrops flying past you in a wind tunnel quickly turns into a simultaneously smooth and juddering sense of movement. It’s as though someone has taken the opening minute of David Bowie’s Station to Station and sent it to the distant future in a time machine.
Whilst the song continues to build, there’s a feeling that you’re being guided around a futuristic metropolis. A sort of whistle-stop tour zooming past ideas and places you keep making a mental note to come back to. There’s a depth to relea∫e which, fittingly for the metaverse’s first-ever DJ, hints at an infinitely explorable landscape. It’s music which isn’t so much about the here and now, as the promise of what secrets the future is still holding onto, waiting to be discovered.
If relea∫e’s first track represents the album whisking you away into a mysterious future, then its second, stay in the game, marks the sound of your tentative first few steps in this new reality. It’s part of an overriding sense, a subtext which permeates every beat on the album, that this is the music of human machinery.
Listening to relea∫e in the knowledge that it germinated from an AI is a remarkable experience. It leaves you more cautious about the humanistic elements of the melody and lyrics – as though you’re being invited to dance by a self-service checkout machine.
But, as with all great music, relea∫e shines when you let your barriers down. There’s an undeniable rhythm which, the longer you resist it, becomes all the more compelling. There’s an epicness across the entire record, from its most sprawling ambitions to its most intimate moments. All of this is neatly captured across the blending of the fifth and sixth tracks, ten∫ion and how does it feel?.
In fact, how does it feel?, weighing in at six minutes long, is likely the best illustration of WAVE’s unique amalgamation of humanity and machinery. At times the music can leave you feeling like you’re soaring over that futuristic city – and at others like you’re caught between the gears of the same machine which transported you here.
The latter is a sensation you feel, too, on Every Single Move. Such is the scale of WAVE’s music that you can’t help but feel small in comparison – like a bug caught in an updraft, watching helplessly from an increasingly aerial and detached view of the futuristic landscape below you.
It’s not until Heartbeat, perhaps the most immediate track on the album, that you can feel WAVE’s humanity wrestling control from its machinery – if only for a moment. Gustavo Bertoni’s vocals lend an elation which serves as a reminder of how relea∫e, and WAVE as an entity, is a kind of dance between creativity and technology; perhaps even between the past and the future.
As for how that future sounds, however, relea∫e suggests it’s in good hands. With any metaverse project, there’s a sense of trepidation – a lingering question of whether the endless hype and noise can possibly be justified. But relea∫e, and WAVE, don’t attempt to answer that query. Instead, the album’s ethereal rhythms and distinctly hopeful musicality offer a reminder of something more vital. It’s a manifesto which suggests maybe, just maybe, the future itself isn’t as important as the means by which we get there.