Friday, September 17, 2021

Weekend Mix/Vaporwaveウィークエンドミックス/ヴェイパーウェイヴ

Last month a YouTube algorithm suggested I watch a video entitled, "A Disturbing Online Music Mystery", about an enigmatic artist named b e g o t t e n,  in a genre I'd never heard of: Vaporwave.

YouTube description:
"In 2017, a series of conversations between an unknown music producer and a record label owner would lead to the upload of 6 disturbing albums, each including their own set of tragic poems, blocks of confusing Chinese texts, mysterious music videos and paragraphs that recite the label owners experience with this unknown music producer, a producer with a worrisome story that seemed to get all the more real as time went by."

The video was compelling and really caught my attention. I quickly found the b e g o t t e n catalog on Bandcamp and downloaded much of it. I liked what I heard although I wasn't sure why. It was spooky, slowed down samples and loops, with tons of processing.

That mystery has since been revealed as somewhat of a hoax. The identity of  b e g o t t e n, the producer, and label head are understood to be one and the same.

My computer, working with the algorithms, offered me more choices and I soon found myself down the rabbit hole.

Wikipedia says:
"The name derives from "vaporware", a term for commercial software that's announced, but never released.
Vaporwave is a microgenre of electronic music, a visual art style, and an Internet meme that emerged in the early 2010s. It is defined partly by it's slowed down, chopped and screwed samples of smooth jazz, elevator, R&B, and lounge music from the 1980's and 1990's."

All things I hate. Raw materials no one cool ever thought was cool, somehow made cool.

Academic Ash Harper described the typical Vaporwave track  as "a wholly synthesized or heavily processed chunk of corporate mood music, bright and earnest slow and sultry, often beautiful, looped out of synch, and beyond the point of functionality."
Ash Becks of The Essential noted that larger sites like Pitchfork and Drowned in Sound "seemingly refused to touch vaporwave throughout the genre's two-year 'peak'. Common criticisms were that it was "too dumb", or too "intellectual." 

Another video: "107 Vaporwave Albums You Should Know!" consists of album covers and brief descriptions, but no sound bytes. I Googled a handful, and that too led to Bandcamp.

None of these artists are on major labels, and most use pseudonyms, probably due to all the uncredited samples.
After that early peak vaporwave soon splintered into many subgenres, such as Future Funk, Mall Soft, Late night Lo-Fi, and Utopian Virtual. On this Weekend Mix, the brief "Hit Vibes", by SAINT PEPSI, from 2013, is the earliest example.

What I hear, mixed in with the above hated influences is a continuum of electronic music from Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, the soundtrack to "Blade Runner", Eno, '80's mutant disco, Bill Laswell's Material, and more recently Boards Of Canada. This mix is more about making those connections. 

In the early '80's, I worked in a SoCal architects office as a photographer and graphic designer. From my desk in the sleek new building, often staying late into the night and into the next day, I viewed, across the street, a world class mall. Somehow the kids making Vaporwave manage to capture that ambience.

Through my immersion, I finally understand '80's nostalgia. The optimistic beginning of a new, brightly colored technological future. In the '90's the internet and free flowing information super highway were going to solve everything. It's easy to see why it would be embraced by younger people in a less optimistic era with an ever more uncertain future.

Like anything, at first it all sounds the same, but pretty soon it doesn't. 

All the Japanese is as real as Google translate allowed

The genre's visual lexicon includes classical Greek statuary, slick '80's interiors, shopping malls, palm trees, and Japanese characters. 

This video features one of the artists and moods in the mix

It's always good to know what the kids are digging. This mix of "cool muzak" is a good soundtrack for a long drive, when you're tired of hearing the usual suspects. 




jonder said...

Great post! Good to see you back, Buzz. I still miss your blog. I have a teen who plays me new stuff, so I've heard a bit of vaporwave (and a lot of other music that I sometimes find totally bewildering).

The book series 33 1/3 recently announced that they will start publishing books about musical subgenres, rather than the books on individual albums that they've published in the past. One of the first titles announced in the Genre series is about vaporwave.

drfeelgoed said...

Listening to it now, I kind of like it, thank you!
I wasn't familiar with this genre at all.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Thanks! I'm glad Sal let's me contribute here when I have an idea.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Did not know this was actually a genre though is very familiar. It is the H&M back noise. Not bad indeed.


Anonymous said...

Hip Hop beware, here comes Vaporware.

Captain Al


Hey Buzzbaby,

I have no idea what the hell this is -- and I sorta dig it!


hpunch said...

I love the reading list addition. I'm reading the Ribot, not in one sitting, going back to it between books. A tad pretentious, but a good read nonetheless. So far the piece on the obscure Haitian musician is the standout.

lemonflag said...

Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.
Did John gets it right all those years ago?

Michael Giltz said...

Haha! Way to bury the lead. I assumed I was reading Sal and then I read he was working in an architect's office in the 80s. Say wha??!! Nice to see you here Buzz. I dig Eno and the Vangelis soundtrack for Blade Runner (preferably a bootleg of the actual score from the film rather than the official; soundtrack(s) because I am THAT nerdy) and so I am down for this. Thanks!