Album Review: Gypsy & The Cat – Virtual Islands

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Since hitting it big in 2010 with the release of their debut LP, Giglamesh, Melbourne electro-pop duo Gypsy & The Cat have become a staple in the Australian indie music scene, thanks to their high rotation on Triple J. Following their immense success, the Melbourne outfit have  released their third, and sadly, final LP, Virtual Islands out now via their own indie label, Alsatian. As the last official Gypsy & The Cat record, Virtual Islands is a bittersweet send off – nothing lasts forever, but this record is a reminder of the good vibes. Catchy hooks and dream-pop synths are quintessentially “Gypsy” – and this album pays homage to the duo’s years of making jams worthy of a groove (or five). Yet, Virtual Islands is a step to the left of what we’re used to, sounding like a more mature and more well-travelled Gypsy & The Cat in comparison to the youthful frivolity of Giglamesh, or even the trippy instrumentals seen in their 2012 sophomore LP The Late Blue. Virtual Islands is essentially a reflection upon the past eight years of mad-music-making.

Virtual Islands begins with a busy interlude: repeated whispers, gongs, jangly percussion, and slow haunting background synths create a deep, dark soundscape. ‘I Took A Wrong Turn’ may be under two minutes long, but it packs a punch to every last note – gradually building instruments and vocal harmonies to create a beautiful, heart-rending introduction: it’s Gypsy’s way of saying “welcome to the end”. Next up on Virtual Islands, ‘Give & Take’ is an aural “chill pill”. It’s a classic pop production mixed with layers of electronica distortion. ‘Give & Take’ sounds like it could belong on The Avalanches’ latest record – yet, at times, sounds so cutesy and happy, embodying a J-pop vibe. What makes this track a stand out is it’s thematic juxtaposition – bitter lyrics like “when I give, you just take” contrast the gentle, warm production and only highlight Gypsy & The Cat’s amazing craft-making ability: curating a story to accompany their beats.

The most euphoric (yes, euphoric), and perhaps, the greatest moment on this new LP comes with ‘Odyssey Of The Streets’. As one of the longer tracks on Virtual Islands, ‘Odyssey Of The Streets’ has many different layers to it, ultimately creating an in depth soundscape encapsulating a breath of simplicity hard against the heavier, dream-like snyths – all surrounding the omnipresent subject matter of a foreboding future. Well crafted and well presented, ‘Odyssey Of The Streets’ is an easy listen to anyone who likes Daft Punk or Queen. This track has it all: electro harmonies that sound robotic at times, but that are snapped back to earth by a classical element seen with the inclusion of strings. Such a disparity of sound is in true Gypsy style – this track is darker, with a 80s vibe worthy of a spot on The Lost Boys soundtrack.

Another significant moment on Virtual Islands is the last track, ‘Naomi’. Totally raw and totally untouched; distinct strummy acoustic guitar and muffled vocals sounds like a late 90s indie-folk jam. Listening to it, you can almost imagine a shaggy-haired teen boy wearing flares and riding a skateboard. ‘Naomi’ is a good send off: Gypsy & The Cat in their simplest form, fare welling their eight-year project with a slightly bittersweet ending sounding like it could belong as one of those obscure – slightly unexpected tracks off an Oasis record. It’s quite Britpop, and it’s very much the type of tune you’d sing round a campfire, or a song you’d “cheers” to in a pub before calling it a night.

Yet, while Virtual Islands it an outstanding record, it lacks that “spark” moment. ‘Paris’, ‘I Just Wanna Be Somebody Else’ and ‘Tragedies Of A Love Song’ are interchangeable summery indie-pop songs. Eight years is a long time, and while music changes, Giglamesh shall forever be the standard by which their music is compared to. While Virtual Islands is a well-crafted sonic experience in it’s own right – fans of Gypsy & The Cat will be disappointed if they’re always going to clutch to ‘Jona Vark’. Virtual Islands, as such, is no Giglamesh, but it’s a fresh outlook for the Melbourne duo as they prepare to close this door and enter into a new chapter. While both ‘Naomi’ and ‘Odyssey Of The Streets’ are brilliant – there’s no real ongoing thrill. However, this LP is an easy listen – it’s perfect for a road trip down the coast, or for a long train commute.

Farewell, Gypsy & The Cat, you’ll be missed!

7/10

Virtual Islands is out now via Alsatian

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