Trackless by Makeup and Vanity Set (Review)

Some of Makeup & Vanity Set’s most ambient and surreal work in some time.
Trackless - Makeup & Vanity Set

Matthew Pusti’s ’80s-influenced electronic “synthwave” music has always been highly cinematic in tone and atmosphere, going all the way back to 2006’s Charles Park. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that he’s become in-demand by various creatives who want his sounds gracing their short films (Jogger, Hit TV, 88:88) and video games (Brigador).

His most recent bit of soundtrack work is for Aubrey Serr’s Trackless, “an atmospheric first-person exploration and puzzle game set in the distant future” that has drawn comparisons to classic games like Myst and Loom. I can’t speak for the game, not having played it (though it certainly looks intriguing), but the Trackless soundtrack contains some of Makeup & Vanity Set’s most ambient and surreal work in some time.

The songs here bring to mind, at various times, early Boards of Canada and even facets of the Ghost Box label’s storied hauntological sound. Sure, the usual synth arpeggios pop up (“Pathfinder”), but overall, the Trackless soundtrack is a far cry from the heavier, more intense style of the Brigador soundtrack or even the recent Chrome and Wavehymnal EPs.

Indeed, the sounds that best define Trackless aren’t Pusti’s excellent (as always) synth-work but rather, the gentle chimes drifting through songs like “Wasteland,” “The Wanderer,” and even the funky “Iridescent.” They give Pusti’s sweeping — and yes, cinematic — synthscapes a contemplative air quite unlike anything else in his discography.

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