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Brandon Liew delights with sugar-coated bangers on his solo debut, ‘VIRTUAL CANDY EP’

brandon liew virtual candy ep
Brandon Liew – VIRTUAL CANDY EP. Album artwork by Pepperonccini.

The Internet is a wondrous place. Especially in times like these when the world is on fire, the virtual world seems to be the only space where it feels like nothing has changed–memes are rampant, video games are running fine, and social media is still buzzing. With that also came the advent of kawaii couture into various aspects of Internet life: anime, EDM, and the hyper-proliferation of video game music soon seeped into every aspect of online culture. It then makes sense that VIRTUAL CANDY EP, the debut project of producer Brandon Liew, seems to be birthed from that robust cyberspace.

Taking inspiration from Internet favorite music acts like Snail’s House, Moe Shop, and even the popular and over-memed UNDERTALE soundtrack (MEGALOVANIA is still a banger though, don’t @ me), VIRTUAL CANDY EP fuses the best of that cutesy aesthetic with raging future bass and future funk sounds. Liew, who is best known for being one half of the EDM duo Bakénéko, clearly outdoes himself on his first solo endeavor. Whilst songs he’s released in the past like “Remember” and “Stay” are more starry-eyed, EDM-lite affairs, VIRTUAL CANDY EP pushes Liew’s production ear to the test by offering up a dynamic soundscape fueled by an Internet-friendly charm. Just one listen and it’s immediately apparent that he’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve. VIRTUAL CANDY EP warps you into a full-throttle tour of the neon-pink virtual world, exploding with soda pop pleasure. 

It’s that euphoric feeling that makes the EP such a successful venture. Right from the moment you press play, Liew wastes no time in submerging you in a kawaii whirlwind rollercoaster of crisp beats. Vocalist Lyrit, one of two guest vocalists on the projects, sweet talks her way into getting you to stay on title track “VIRTUAL CANDY.” Chopped vocals, bubbling chaos, and Lyrit’s flirty charm set the stage for Liew’s sugar-rush world. On “1v1,” Liew teams up with vocalist Giulia Emily Dukes, again returning with a knowing wink and similarly amorous vocals. Special lines like “I use my special move to make you think I’m cool / Well you do that too” and “I just wanna be the only one you’ll ever love / Even though I only really know your avatar” are ridiculously fun to sing along to–especially as you’re gaming and surfing the web. Songs like these have a knowing “I put on my robe and wizard hat” tongue-in-cheek vibe, infusing the subtle glimmers of Internet culture into the project’s own DNA.

brandon liew
Project artwork. Image by Pepperonccini.

“Stay V2,” which once again features Lyrit and her airy vocals, is an upgraded version of Bakénéko’s own “Stay” from one year ago. The original, which was about an obsessive, toxic relationship, seems ridiculously bare-bones compared to the one that’s on the EP. This time around, Liew adds a dopamine rush and an added verse on top of the core melody–re-contextualizing the song into one that’s more kawaii puppy love than dangerous stalker. It’s hard to believe that both versions of the song are produced by the same person a mere year apart. Therein lies the power of VIRTUAL CANDY EP. Liew’s not afraid to experiment with more bouncy, fun concepts–a soda pop sound here, a kickass piano solo there. On the two instrumental tracks “NICE TO MEET YOU” and “REVERIE,” that much is clear. Though “NICE TO MEET YOU” is heavily reliant on headbanging building loops, controlled bubbly chaos and slick drops make it come alive. Clever musical callbacks and pitch-shifting on “REVERIE” fully captivate you even as the project comes to an end. Moments of grandiosity that are present throughout the project act as proof that he’s ready to take on the world.

In a moment in time so filled with uncertainty, it’s nice to have projects like VIRTUAL CANDY EP to lift up your spirits. Even someone like me, who drowns himself in despondent tunes, couldn’t help but crack a smile at the sugar-boosted audacity of VIRTUAL CANDY EP. It’s easy to imagine that a few months from now, the songs on VIRTUAL CANDY EP will be soundtracking gaming montages and further thriving on the Internet that birthed it. Liew’s songs, which race with that innocent euphoria, is destined to live on. 

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