Roy by Makeup and Vanity Set (Review)

One of synthwave’s finest concludes his Blade Runner-inspired series of EPs with a tribute to Rutger Hauer.
Roy - Makeup and Vanity Set

Back in 2018, Makeup and Vanity Set began work on a series of EPs inspired by the fugitive Nexus-6 replicants in Blade Runner. The first three EPs, which focused on the characters of Pris, Zhora, and Leon, were released in relatively quick succession. The fourth and final EP was to focus on the replicants’ leader, Roy Batty, but it fell into limbo until Rutger Hauer’s death in July 2019 — which inspired Makeup and Vanity Set’s Matthew Pusti to begin finishing what would eventually become Roy.

The EP’s five songs are basically a showcase for Makeup and Vanity Set’s classic synthwave sound in all of its glory. “A Gilded Cage” begins the EP in striking fashion with ominous drones and booming thunder that easily conjure up the gloomy-yet-glorious skies of Rick Deckard’s Los Angeles. At the same time, Pusti evokes the specter of Vangelis’ iconic soundtrack via shivering synths and contemplative chimes. (Fans of Makeup and Vanity Set’s darker releases, like 2015’s landmark Wilderness, will find much to like here.)

Pusti’s patented argeggios return on “Father Son,” paired alongside ghostly choirs and a slowly building sense of dread and tension as befitting Roy’s tragic confrontation with his creator, Eldon Tyrell. “Los Angeles” is one of the dreamier pieces in Makeup and Vanity Set’s recent catalog, as more Vangelis-like tones and textures drift around a slowly unfolding arpeggio line that fades into a melancholy denouement.

Most of Makeup and Vanity Set’s recent releases have been commissioned soundtracks for podcasts including Monster: DC Sniper, Up and Vanished, and Atlanta Monster. While it’s certainly nice to see Pusti making a living doing what he loves, I must confess that I like seeing him return with more material that taps into the same cyberpunk/synthwave/dystopic vibe that drew me to Makeup and Vanity Set’s music in the first place.

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