Kanye West is a b-hole. There, I said it, and I’m gonna back it up. With what, you ask? With 01100001 S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T. Subsidiary, that’s what. See, Kanye likes to think of himself as the future of hip hop, of music, hell, of humanity, but do you know who should be running for president in 2020? This figgin wacko, the one who made Arcadia Campus: Virtual Tour. Not only did he totally futurize music with this release, he pointed exactly to where humanity is headed by the year 2095. Higher education in pristine environments, well beyond the deep early 2000s malaise brought on by war, hunger, climate change, and upheaval of all kinds. Arcadia Campus is beyond that. Arcadia Campus is truly the future. Arcadia Campus knows us better than we know ourselves. Can you say that, Kanye?
I can’t even begin to express how weird and exciting this release is. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Sure, you can lump it in with vaporwave, and it is that, but it’s so much more than the average, there’s so much more depth and true feeling than other releases, rendering them all wisps of canned and synthesized nothingness compared to the 01100001 S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T. Subsidiary brand. Here, each track acts as an introduction to a real section of the Arcadia Campus, “a very high performance globalized interactive telepathic education simulation system specializing in art and design,” and it is exactly that. MIDI bots introduce each part of the campus over perfect vaporwave, such as the “Audio Visual Centre,” “High Fashion Photo Studio,” and “High Performance Learning Annex.” There are even promos for student interaction, at “Late Nite Java (Arcadia Café)” and “Relaxing Rooftop Garden Plaza.”
What’s great about this is that it’s a fully realized nostalgic future visualization. But whereas, for me anyway, the pinnacle of that was the 1950s and 1960s “World of Tomorrow—Today!” type vision, typified in the later Kosmische and synthesizer scores of the German (and other) masters (Tangerine Dream, Cluster, Popol Vuh, Vangelis), 01100001 S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T. Subsidiary roots his ideas in 1990s Microsoft computer animation and early VR simulation, creating a whole new world of nostalgia that I’m really just getting the hang of tapping into. (James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual is another amazing entry into this artistic space.) Here, Microsoft Paint quads appear behind your VR viewer, and programs manifest in human and robotic form, Lawnmower Man style, to give you the grand tour. It’s an effective marketing and PR tool for the 2095 Arcadia Campus, and recruitment numbers from 1993 are way up!
The songs, or information pods (I guess that’s a better term for each track), have distinct personalities behind them, as each is narrated by a programmed voice (for noobs, think Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier” monotone incantation) telling you about their section of Arcadia. The voices change, sometimes female, sometimes male, sometimes gender indistinct. But you’re given glimpses of cracks in the VR, suggesting that the programs are evolving and developing in some way. Take bot41295667, as generic a moniker as you can get, for example, from “Product Design and Fine Arts Marble Sculpting”: “Designers here are truly making the products of tomorrow, although just like the products of yesterday, someday this technology will be left behind too. I will be stuck in a state of suspended animation within this high-performance localized interactive telepathic education simulation system with no hope of a reboot.” Sad emoji face! Why is he conscious of his fate? Then: “Do you ever ask yourself if you are real?” Oh god yes! All the time! See? I’m feeling for poor bot41295667 and hoping he can fulfill his dreams someday of, I imagine, attending Arcadia Campus just like one of the students he’s providing vital information to.
This album-length Virtual Tour leaves you feeling both content in your choice of future higher-learning institution and also a little disconcerted at how that future is ultimately reached. In the end, though, shouldn’t you feel comfort knowing that our future has already been written for us, and technology is helping us along just fine? I feel pretty good about that. I also feel pretty good about our future not being written by President Kanye. Remember, you heard it here first: President 01100001 S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T. Subsidiary in 2020! All hail virtual leadership!
RIYL: James Ferraro, 情報デスクVIRTUAL, PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises