Vaporwave famously takes its name from ‘vaporware’—the name for products in the tech sector that, despite being officially announced for imminent release, never actually see the light of day. Given this inspiration, listeners would be forgiven for assuming that the genre’s ‘LPs’ and ‘singles’ were always meant to be listened to as mp3s, where they’d be eternally confined to a kind of digital half-life almost as ghostly as the Infinium Phantom. However, even though vaporwave certainly enjoys flirting with notions of unreality and illusion, the genre does, in fact, have a longstanding relationship with more tangible musical formats. That relationship mostly involves the humble cassette tape and the similarly humble VHS, two formats which, rather than situating vaporwave firmly within the present era, serve to reinforce the sense that many of its albums are long-lost relics from a dimly-remembered past.
And yet, even though though the genre’s physical-release focus does remain mostly on cassette, it’s becoming increasingly common to find new and canonical records, from older classics such as Vaperror’s Mana Pool to newer entries like R23x’s VELTHL, being issued on vinyl and CD. If nothing else, this development is significant because it challenges the sense that vaporwave is simply about nostalgia and internet culture, confirming it as a genre worthy of being appreciated purely on its musical merits, like any other. Labels seeking to take vaporwave out of the Internet forums, perhaps, wish to make it appear more “legitimate” before a wider audience. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the best recent vaporwave releases on these two formats.
HKE – HK
Originally released in January 2015, HKE’s neo-psychedelic HK was reissued on beautiful 175g blue vinyl in December 2016. Musically reminiscent of the London-based producer’s seminal work as 2814 with t e l e p a t h, the album is nonetheless even more abstract, otherworldly and mind-bending than all three of 2814’s previous outings. These floating soundscapes create a powerful sense of being lost in a dystopian megalopolis-in-the-sky, and the heavyweight 12″ gives us something to hold onto as we drift in space.