By Kaleb Helms
Album: The Burden of Irrational Optimism
Release Date: March 19, 2019
The avant-garde electronic band “Vt100” was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2010 by engineer and producer Carl Van Arsdall. Vt100’s music consists of experimentation within the already taboo and emerging genre of electronic music. In March 2019, Vt100 will be releasing their third full-length lp, The Burden of Irrational Optimism which, in line with their first two projects, proved to be an interesting listen.
This album was created completely using physical synthesizers and sequencers which– within the genre– is rare to find an artist still using a physical synthesizer. Arsdall plays the role of both producer and engineer. This allows for total freedom to create the sonic image that Vt100 represents.
The Burden of Irrational Optimism was created entirely in Arsdall’s home studio, independently funded, and is a reflection of how passion can drive dedication. This album has a very upbeat tempo but at the same time consists of these deeply programmed synth progressions that drive the tempo of every song. Vt100 does not have many lyrics but when they do, the effects are layered on heavily causing the lyrics to become part of the instrumentation.
My initial impression of this album was that it was going to be an interesting listen; although synth-driven music isn’t normally my genre of choice, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this album. The Burden of Irrational Optimism, in my opinion, compared to their first two albums is minimalist in form, but it also provides the listener a diverse sonic experience.
The album includes songs like “Bio” and “Pyrrhic”, in my opinion, these songs show Vt100’s skill and attention to detail when creating a unique experience for the listener. The absence of a lead vocalist and lyrics allows for the listener to make their own inferences on the meaning behind the music. I corresponded with producer and engineer Carl Arsdall to get his input on the vacancy of lyrics in his music. Arsdall said, “When it comes to messages and electronic music without any lyrical content, I can imagine the expression of a specific message can be somewhat nebulous.”
The connection of the listener becomes personal when the story is not told through words but rather tempo and mood. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, the songs “Bio” and “Pyrrhic” which consist of fuzzy driven synth beats complemented by sustained, atmospheric high notes.
Overall Vt100 and their album The Burden of Irrational Optimism push the limits on electronic music. Arsdall provides a unique sound that is due to his technique in making his music, although digital synthesizers are more advanced, they still cannot compare to the tones produced by their predecessors.