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Vaporwave, a Spotlight


When wasting time on my computer, scouring the internet trying to satisfy my continuous need for auditory stimulation, a pathetic form of pessimism emerged after a persistent search that yielded no results. I felt hypocritical because out of the 13,000 songs in my iTunes library I could not find it tolerable to listen to anything, aside from a handful of assorted tracks, when I so laboriously advocate my friends to broaden their musical horizons. They were all miscellaneous 80’s pop songs. Something about that particular era of music had given each song a particular, distinctively, 80’s defining characteristic, but unfortunately at the end of the decade that all seemed to vanish abruptly. Maybe it’s because everybody was tired of hearing the same ad nauseam songs turned white noise that they outright banned the aesthetic. Depressed that the 80’s aesthetic was never elaborated or developed upon I was about to give up the search altogether and go to bed… and then I happen to discover vaporwave. Call it another excuse to stay up procrastinating, but I was enamoured. I had finally found that long lost feeling again, reminding myself of the worth that effort brings, searching for hard-to-find music in-accessible places.

“Hurry boy she’s waiting there for you…” (A1, Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1)

What is vaporwave? An entire genre of music that originated entirely online in the early 2010’s. It is credited for being the first musical genre to be globalized and without a definite point of origin. Essentially vaporwave spawned from an obsession with 80’s subculture, glitch art, early digital graphic design, Roman busts, and a fascination for tropical landscapes and late night highway driving. An ode to the neglected elevator music that never found an audience; the b-sides from popular funk, new age, and soul classics. What’s humorously coincidental is that two seemingly unrelated album releases came together to lay the foundations for the vaporwave genre. An experimental electronic artist by the name of Daniel Lopatin released a mixtape under the pseudonym Chuck Person called “Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1.” A series of repetitive micro-excerpts from 80’s pop material slowed down narcotically in a manner reminiscent of chopped and screwed styles, where choruses were spliced apart by skipping beats, by record scratching and by stop-time. It was described by Lopatin as being a “simple joke”, something that he “did just for fun”, something he had “never taken seriously”. The other album was James Ferraro’s “Far Side Virtual”. The album marked Ferraro’s transition from his previous style of lo-fi soundscapes toward a sharply produced electronic sound. Ferraro said he first envisioned the album for release as a series of ringtones, contributing to the retro-futuristic effect and obsolete computer sounds heard throughout.

“Be real. It doesn’t matter anyway, you know it’s just too little too late.” (A3, Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol.1)

Essentially a practical joke being played on music itself, vaporwave became a glorification of plunder-phonics. Vaporwave’s etymology is a combination of “vaporware”, a business term used to describe a product that is announced to the public but is never released, and another term used to describe the perpetual repetition of ideals that are not concrete or meaningful in their philosophy. It is literally the most pretentious title I’ve ever heard given to a musical genre, but I guess it’s supposed to be a critique on modern capitalism? It’s all just one humorous gag, and I laughed.

Listen to Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1:

Listen to “Floral Shoppe”, another classic vapourware release here:

By: Lucas Philipp

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