Like the trippy composite on the sleeve of her Weird Universe LP, the music of Unicorn Hard-On’s got layers, buds, all of ‘em technicolor and dripping with detail: sky view, color field, the figure of a human female, dimensional folds. Each listen to a Valerie Martino session reveals 13% more striking elements than previously observed — another pocket of hi-fi synth bursts off in the left channel, another rhythm pounded out with deliberation between the pulses of the bass drum, another arpeggio conjured from nowhere and squeezed in alongside squalling siblings. Martino knows her way around a table crammed to capacity with Korgs. Three generations of Electribes (we’re talkin’ ER-1, EA-1, ESX-1) share beat duties and blanket the grid with enough input to sufficiently stimulate any number of hard-to-please mythological beasts, much less us.
I hear “Wet Pet” and right quick I think of the soundtrack for the Super Nintendo game Earthbound, all overlapping rhythms and squelchy leads and harmonically consonant good time vibes — but only because, after continual exposure back then, video game music supersedes all other touchstones in my brain. That arpeggio from 0:33 to 0:47, for example, screams “Jenova Theme” until it slips back into the rainbow goop. But that’s just me; I’m a geek. Look, e.g., at that semicolon. Choose your own lens, y’all: underground noise, Detroit techno, drone, contemporary synth composition. All of them lurk somewhere in here (and, like, kinda everywhere?), but it doesn’t matter when the beats hit and the synth voices heat up and start to fry. Quoth Martino: “What people used to call noise — now they call it the ‘experimental underground.’ At this point, I don’t even know what to call the scene or my music; I just want to make sounds that are beautiful and weird.” Word. You def got there, U H-O.
Weird Universe drops September 30 via Midwest America’s most reliable wormhole to the cosmos, Spectrum Spools. You can preorder the LP from the eMego site now.