Virgo talks colors, inspiration and new music — a III Points profile

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Photo courtesy Eleanor Petry

Walking the trails of Simpson Park in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami you will find fragments of seashells in the gravel path winding through the tropical hardwood hammock. Musician/DJ/video game designer Elizabeth Ann Clark, who goes by the alias Virgo, enjoys visiting the preserve. The touch of ocean in the lush landscape offers the perfect metaphor for her current musical transition, from being influenced by the blue of the sea to the green of the forest.

“I think I’m changing the aesthetic,” she says of the new music she plans to reveal during her upcoming III Points DJ set this Friday night. To inspire herself while writing her music, Clark says she turns on a green light bulb. “I’m getting really into green, so I’ve been working and creating music while like having a green light … those physical things can help with the creative process.”

If there’s one consistency to what inspires her it’s nature. She steps over limestone protrusions in her gray, vinyl high-heeled boots with the grace of a wood elf. Clark says she has fond memories of camping with her father in the mountainous area of Twin Peaks, California, where she grew up. Though a transplant to Miami, she loves the Magic City and its proximity to the ocean. Her immediate surroundings have been key to finding inspiration for her lush, dreamy brand of synth-based music, which blends the melodious quality of trance with the heavy throbs of techno.

At III Points, Clark will play the same night as Beach House, a duo whose dream pop sound should attract fans that would also appreciate elements of Virgo’s sumptuous synth music. Though she gets inspiration from nature, Clark says she likes synthesized music, especially the moments where songs build and the layers kick in. “I always have way too much bass,” she admits. She likes 909 drums and sometimes the more vintage 808 kits. “But it’s pretty straight forward,” she says about her music. “My main synth over the years has been the Virus TI, but lately I’ve been exploring some different plugin synths that I’m really liking. That’s the core of my sound. It’s really minimal.”

Her last release was a digital-only EP entitled “Water Planet” (2016), four tracks of lush, ethereal melodies buoyed by propulsive techno beats featuring Clark’s sporadic breathy vocals, which are also layered. She’s almost ready to reveal her latest music. She treated us to a preview of one track, “Reality.” It opens on a polyrhythmic beat of ticks and pulsing bass. When Virgo’s vocals appear, they sound as if they were recorded backward and seem to have been run through a shredder. Like her previous music, there’s a driving quality to the track. There’s a key shift before more urgent beats are overlaid and the chorus repeats. The lyrics are hidden below a layer of fizz. “Over and over,” is all that can be clearly heard, but the mystery of the rest of the lyrics allows for interpretation, an element Clark admits she enjoys about her songs. The song churns and builds for nearly eight minutes but never feels repetitive, as Clark lays on more urgent beats and higher-pitched melodies that pierce through waves of sighing waves of synthesized chords. “Reality” actually reveals a new complexity to her music, even as it echoes the propulsion of many of the Virgo songs that came before it.

One impression left by Virgo’s music is that it has a cinematic, almost soundtrack-like quality. Clark admits that she wrote soundtrack music and even dabbled in filmmaking when she lived in Los Angeles, before moving to Miami. “I definitely watch a lot of films,” she says, “and I do think that influences sort of the moods I like to create with the music. Definitely the visual side of it is very important.”

Still from “Water Planet” Courtesy Elizabeth Ann Clark

In fact, “Water Planet” doubled as a soundtrack for a virtual reality game with the same title that she developed with her partner Albert Ovadia. In the sci-fi first-person adventure game, the protagonist has crash landed a spaceship on an abandoned watery world featuring rotating orbs of water on pedestals and elusive jellyfish. “Something happened on this planet where resources were either over-farmed or some sort of colony had taken advantage of the ecosystem there, so when you get there it’s kind of been left sort of in ruins, so it’s just reflecting a bit of what humans have done on Earth,” Clark explains before promptly adding, “but I think in some ways we’re learning to be better to Earth.”

Despite all of the current dread about the state of our planet by the ecologically conscious, Clark remains hopeful. “I think now we’ve evolved enough and have enough intelligence and sense to guide us into better preserving this planet,” she declares.

One might think that Clark, who still enjoys nature and camping as an adult, might have chosen to not release physical media of her music so as not to contribute to pollution, but she admits that she can enjoy a slab of vinyl like any music lover. “I’d love to do a vinyl release,” she reveals. “It’s a process. It would be good to have a label to support that, the production of it, and then just getting it out there because you make the vinyl and then you want to be able to sell it too. That’s definitely next phase. Like my next music I want to be able to shop it around to different labels, and it would be ideal to choose a label that does vinyl releases.”

Photo courtesy Jack Underwood

She believes her new material will work great on vinyl, particularly for dance DJs. “It’s super dance oriented,” she notes. “It belongs on vinyl for sure. Vinyl is still really prominent. It’s even more prominent than ever, especially in the techno world, the dance world. It’s really validating to have a vinyl release as an artist. It’s really important still, so it’s definitely a goal of mine.”

In the immediate future, she’s planning her set for this year’s III Points in, of all places, the “Skate Space” where attendees will be able to don complimentary skates and roller disco to Clark’s special blend of music. Besides premiering some of her new recordings, Clark says she has been listening to a lot of neo-trance from Copenhagen that will find its way in the mix. “The soundscape you can create with trance is very epic and cinematic,” she offers, “so that’s what I’m going for with making these beautiful, emotional tracks.”

But will she also be skating? “I wish,” she says. “I think that they’re constructing a stage, so I won’t be on skates, but I would be so down to be on skates and playing at the same time.”

Hans Morgenstern

Virgo will take the Skate Space stage with Space Tapes at III Points, Friday, Feb. 15, from 9:15 p.m. – 10:15 p.m. For tickets visit this link.

(Copyright 2018 by Independent Ethos. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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