Tag Archives: Vaporwave

Solidwave: The Top Physical Vaporwave Releases

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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.

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Album of the Day: 아버지, “Reflection”

아버지 is the owner of the Business Casual, an imprint largely focused on future funk. But on Reflection, 아버지 mostly bypasses that genre’s usual peppiness. Essentially consisting of tiny micro-samples that are looped and looped and looped again, almost to the point of becoming maddening, its eight tracks don’t evoke the optimism and playfulness of bl00dwave or Ursula’s Cartridges, so much as they do an inescapable descent into claustrophobia and confusion.

In fact, Reflection barely even resembles 아버지’s work as the occasionally challenging (yet still recognizably vaporwave) chris†††. Its nearest benchmark is the latter’s No Lives Matter from March 2016; but where that record’s mechanistic repetitions still left plenty of room for actual melodies and songs to play out, Reflection traps the listener in a tiny box of infinitely-repeated blips and stutters.

This might make Reflection seem too difficult for its own good, yet it’s an impressive testament to 아버지’s talent that his subtle manipulation of microscopic source material can create such a powerful atmosphere of detachment and isolation. His ceaseless jolts disrupt time’s flow, and in so doing they make Reflection one of the most absorbing ambient vaporwave records of the past year.

Simon Chandler

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 아버지is the owner of BLCR Laboratories.

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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