The Good: This album may have come out in January, but I think I read that it will be re-released this month. It’s a superb album nonetheless. It’s taken Vaporwave to another dimension. Before Vaporwave was about rehashing 80s and 90s culture from the internet to attack capitalism, create a nostalgic atmosphere, or just take the piss, but this album splinters off to form a new niche for the genre. It sticks to the whole nostalgic atmosphere and the use of Japanese “aesthetics”, but plays off the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. In this case, the album’s cover art is half the story, at least. Throughout the album the cover’s futuristic, empty city splattered with Japanese characters sticks in the listener’s mind and as this occurs the album fills the picture with life. The album shifts away from reusing songs from the past and instead based itself on trying to form something from new sounds. In doing so it keeps to Vaporwave’s empty-otherworldliness, but sounds far more in the Ambient genre.
The first song sets the scene with glittering piano repeating itself. Straight away the album’s color choice of purple is perfect. The melting high notes on the piano feel like your peering into some desolate city that has been bombarded by nuclear ooze. At the same time, however, the song gives the picture that life moves on. The drums pick-up, still bouncing back and forth, but they display a city life of people lacking in emotion. They and their vehicles are going about their daily life, but they are purely alone in the universe. Eventually at the end, these vehicles are heard, only slightly. The use of a distant ambulance is beautiful. Never before has something so terrifying sounded so mystifying. Eventually it comes closer and the listener hears a passing horn, as if to wake you up from the trance the song had formed so far. This is only the first track, and already it portrays just how angelic the sounds of human society in all their mundanity can be. One listening to this track may have to take out their headphones to make sure the sounds aren’t coming from real life instead of the track itself. The mixing is that good and is almost a metaphor for how everyday we barely notice the music all around us. This pause from the trance ends quick though for a more softer and eerie track that has the quiet noise of a person talking, possibly over an intercom. The voice is not distinguishable at all however, but that makes it all the more eerie.
For the next two tracks, we have much the same feeling, but it gives off the picture of continuing the scenario: just the city going about its normal day. Track 5 picks up a little with more drums, perhaps storytelling more activity in the city when people are taking transportation home from work. Track 6 keeps the pace, but adds more pitter pattering of drums with just a speck of reverb. it eventually dies down and instead of drums, the listener hears the sound of quiet, but large, rainfall hitting the pavement. Brilliant transition. Track 7, I love the ending when the music dies down. Two people enter, talking in Mandarin and Cantonese. It sounds just like normal conversation, but the fact that their voices are barely hearable is genius. Not only does it convey the beauty of silence, but it shows how the mysteries of a language most listeners won’t understand can be used as a sound. I’ve heard this technique used before on the track “Mzmz La La La Sing Song Sing” by Dead Voices On Air. It’s like hearing something from another time, another planet. You can’t get such a feeling by hearing a person of another language just on the street or by listening to a rock song in another language. The use of ambiance mixed with other languages is one of the most underrated emotional tools in music. The final track brings back the rain and once again we find the drums being used to illustrate a sound. To me this time it sounds like an orchestra of bugs on a summer night. I remember walking around Shanghai and always hearing bugs in the trees that lined the streets, maybe 2 8 1 4 was going for that here. Maybe they are using it to paint the picture of the unknown fields that surround the city that the listener has been journeying through the rest of the album. Who knows, but that’s the power of this album. It’s left for the imagination.
For me, living in a city this year after moving from the countryside has come as a shock. Not from learning how to survive, but the feeling that comes with it. There may be millions of people living in a city, but loneliness can still find a person. This album perfectly addresses this dilemma. If this is where Vaporwave is going, I’m looking forward to this brilliant and underrated genre.
The Bad: Those wanting poppy tunes and guitar solos will have to go elsewhere.
Would I Listen Again: Definitely