Equip may be a new artist to both Dream Catalogue and the vaporwave scene in general, yet his I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky sounds comfortingly familiar. The album has an almost classic vaporwave sound, full of hallucinogenic soundscapes, video game homages, and woozy synthesizers. While this might make it seem somewhat unoriginal, Equip pulls it off; each track is a fully fleshed-out progression of articulate melodies and engrossing chords. It’s a transportive and ethereal release, but also one that may sound reassuringly familiar to acolytes of the genre.
The 25 tracks create the sense of a return to some primal state of peace—perhaps in this case, the ‘90s. They take some of the most blissfully tranquil and transportive synth-based music the genre has produced in some time, and they conjure otherworldly atmospheres.
This mixture of floating, spacey music with a subtle vibe of familiarity has the effect of transforming I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky into something of an enjoyable contradiction. Have we heard such dreamy trips as “Reunited” and “D r u i d s [Encounter]” before, or is their welcoming aura simply a deception intended to hide how their alienness might change us from within? Their reverb-laden keys and 8-bit chirping fail to make the answer to this question any clearer since, even though they recall everything from ’80s sci-fi to ’90s video games, they slot their elements into tight, progressive compositions that end up being more than the sum of their parts.
I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky also ends up sounding like more than a debut. Rather than giving the impression of inexperience or rash over-exuberance, beatific songs like “D U N G E O N” and “Identity” stand as near-masterful balances of journeying melodies and weightless ambience. With them, Equip doesn’t simply take the listener on a voyage, but also takes vaporwave to new levels of compositional and emotional depth.