Tag Archives: Vaporwave

Equip on Shoegaze, Video Games, and Vaporwave

Equip artwork

Illustration by Valentina Montagna.

Though the monumental I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky has only been out for three months, its maker, Chicago-based producer Equip, has been making music for longer than you might think. He started with computer-based music in 2008, “after falling in love with Burial’s Untrue and all the future garage and leftfield bass music that came after it.” Aside from the spectral gloom of dubstep, what particularly goaded him into conducting his own musical experiments were interviews with his favorite producers, which often revealed that “most of them hadn’t even been making music that long—which was inspiring for me to start.”

He candidly admits, “My first attempts at making electronic tunes were all pretty generic, and lacked a cohesive sound—I would hear a great tune and I’d write a rip-off track.” Fortunately, that began to change when he got a job at a record store and was inspired by the dream pop and Krautrock he discovered there.

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Back to the Future: the Top Ten Vaporwave Albums of 2016

Best of Vaporwave artwork

Collage by Valentina Montagna.

There’s something odd about writing a retrospective piece on the year’s happenings in the virtual world of vaporwave. Not because 2016 didn’t bring a healthy raft of standout albums and novel development, but because it is, almost by definition, a form of music that seems to have little interest in the passing of time. Judging by its taste for referencing decades-old popular culture, its canonical records play out as if they’re stuck in the ’80s or ’90s, fixated nostalgically on these eras and unwilling to move through history into an uncertain future.

Yet despite this reputation for historical detachment, 2016 arguably saw vaporwave evolve more than it had at any point since 2011, when many of the genre’s definitive albums first appeared. From the strangely hypnotic emergence of S I M P S O N W A V E into the public domain to the growth of hardvapour as a genre-moving force, vaporwave has taken twists and turns in 2016 that hint towards exciting possible future directions. And by way of reviewing the best vaporwave albums of the year, here’s a tentative outline of that future.

More “Best of 2016”: The Best Albums of 2016: #100 – 81

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Genre As Method: The Vaporwave Family Tree, From Eccojams to Hardvapour

Vaporwave Art

Vaporwave isn’t just a genre; it’s an approach and an attitude—not just to music, but to popular culture. Vaporwave is often identified with particular sounds and stylings—slowed arown hits and muzak from the ’80s and ’90s—yet what’s also essential to it is the highly self-conscious, critical stance it takes to its source material. It remodels and repackages it, adding implicit layers of social commentary.

Vaporwave artists have been quick to branch out, rising and falling in popularity until another supplants them. What began as an innocent practical joke early in the millennium has grown into a fully fledged genre that is entirely self-aware. And despite proclamations that “vaporwave is dead” by artists and critics, it seems that new subgenres, from mallsoft to vaportrap, pop up every day. This is why, in a bid to keep up with vaporwave’s expanding universe, we’ve outlined ten of its most pivotal subgenres.

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After a Three-Year Hiatus, Blank Banshee Breaks His Silence with “MEGA”


Blank Banshee knows how to keep his audience baited. It’s been three long years since his last record, and he’s spent the last several months issuing cryptic, email-based teasers for an album that was assumed by fans to be called Blank Banshee 2. (His previous albums were titled Blank Banshee 0 and Blank Banshee 1). When the album finally arrived last Monday it was called MEGA, but it’s clearly a product of the same creative vision as its predecessors. Its fragmented-yet-soulful vaportrap bridges the yawning chasm between itself and Blank Banshee 1, both a continuation of and an expansion on Blank Banshee’s signature sound. Yet even if its masterful balance of abstract ambience and danceable trap marks the pinnacle of Blank Banshee’s brand of vaporwave, the conditions surrounding its genesis still remain something of a mystery.

We jumped at the chance to interview the producer, who appears in public only when sporting his now distinctive glitter-ball mask. We asked him how he feels about the “vaporwave tag,” whether or not his music is influenced by video games. Somewhere in the midst of his answers, we caught a glimpse of the person behind that mask. We think.

As you may already be aware, there’s some debate and controversy online as to whether your music really is vaporwave. Is the question of belonging to a particular genre or scene something that concerns you when making music, or is it not especially on your radar?

I feel like it’s my job to make the music and other people’s job to decide what it is. It’s not really something I think about. Ultimately, whatever people want to call my music is cool with me. My job is to make it good. If it isn’t good, people aren’t gonna call it anything.

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Album of the Day: Equip, “I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky”

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.

Simon Chandler