Long before livestreaming became the norm, Virgo was experimenting with taking her music virtual. In 2016, her EP Water Planet was accompanied by a videogame that allowed for an open-world exploration set to her music.
When the pandemic forced everyone to reassess how they'd engage with the rest of the world, Virgo was perhaps better equipped to handle the sudden change. Technology has always played a massive role in her music and performances.
"Ever since I read Ready Player One, I've been waiting for any change in the way we consume media to shift to a digital virtual space," Virgo tells New Times by phone. "The only way that would ever happen is if something awful happened — like what's occurring right now. It's unfortunate that we're experiencing this because we really don't know what's going to happen next."
Despite her premonition that this dynamic shift was on the horizon, Virgo was working on music she hoped would be consumed in a club environment. Her new two-track release, X002, sheds the synth-pop melodies she became known for and trades them for fast, pounding techno. Eschewing vocals, "Helix" drones on until it becomes hypnotic. It's a departure for Virgo, for sure, but she sees it all as an evolution.
"For an artist, it can be hard to make an evolution because you have people that expect something of you," she says. "I had a hard time for a few years trying to figure out what to do next."
Virgo's sound was evolving in 2016, around the time she released Water Planet, which was primarily written and produced in 2015. She admits she finds that the interval between composing music and releasing it seems interminable.
For three years after undertaking that momentous project, she continued writing music without releasing it. During that period, she saw her work morph into the style she's exploring now.
"It just kind of happened naturally," Virgo says. "Even years back, when I was still doing the more synth-pop stuff, the sound was evolving into a darker thing. I wasn't ready to put anything out yet. It was hard going from Water Planet to what I'm doing now, but I just had to finally make that shift. I didn't connect with the visual identity anymore, and I had to change."
Her new visual identity has manifested itself online while she's taking the stay-at-home order as an opportunity to connect with her global peers through new avenues. Without venues in which to explore her new, club-ready sound, Virgo has sought to create her own space online, in the form of a new event series, Slit. Dubbed a "virtual rave," the party will stream on Twitch this Saturday, April 18, from 2 to 8 p.m.
When you tune in, you won't be seeing Virgo and her peers — Schacke, Viscerale Vixen, Mithril, and M7 — in the flesh. Instead, you'll see their digital avatars DJ'ing from the IMVU metaverse. (IMVU is a social game dating back to 2004 that allows users to create 3D avatars to chat with people.)
Virgo says she got the inspiration after New York-based DJ/producer Mithril invited her to participate in the Hurt-free Network party, which also takes place on the platform. During the event, she immediately felt a connection she was sorely missing.
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"Going to this virtual rave, I felt like I was there — the emotion of it, everything about it felt real," she says. "Everyone had avatars, and the people who I know IRL — seeing their digitized person was so cool because it embodies them and how they see themselves."
For this Saturday's event, not everyone will be able to enjoy the party inside the IVMU universe. Virgo says that because the platform is so old, groups of more than 15 people cause malfunctions. Instead, the general public can take in the action on Twitch.
"The technology hasn't changed much since , so the graphics are a bit dated, but there's something kitsch about it that makes it a really cool space to have an event," she promises.
Slit: A Digital Rave. With Virgo, Schacke, Viscerale Vixen, Mithril, and M7. 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18, via twitch.tv/futurevirgo.