WTF Is Vaporwave?
When it comes to subcultures, history is full of great movements; starting with the teenagers of 50's America all the way up to the indie boys of the early 2000's.
But with developments in society and technology, subcultures are being created in new and strange ways. Vaporwave is one of these new subcultures.
At its conception, Vaporwave was an amalgamation of many different online trends - drawing it's early inspiration from Tumblr “A_E_S_T_H_E_T_I_C_,” 80's and 90's consumer culture and a strive to make something both comforting and unsettling.
Starting in early 2010, everything clicked into place when Chuck Person AKA Daniel Lopatin created ‘Ecco Jams’ - a satirical half-joke half-experimental album of slowed down and edited pop music. Lopatin had unwittingly added one of the most important ingredients into the melting pot of Vaporwave.
Another integral ingredient to the Vaporwave recipe was to come the following year with the album ‘Far Side Virtual’ by James Ferarro.
This album felt cold, corporate and completely compelling. With its use of Garageband instruments and musak sensibility, it pushed the slowly forming subculture to explore the idea of the consumer world that we live in, both marvel at its glory and also reduce it to a satirical pulp.
The final piece of the puzzle came later in 2011 with the release of ‘Floral Shoppe’ by Macintosh Plus - the original Vaporwave album.
Combining the sensibility of the aforementioned albums, Floral Shoppe carved in stone how the genre would sound for the coming years.
Its slowed down dystopian sound of classic pop songs drowns your senses in a comforting, yet somehow annoying but completely satisfying world.
The tracks are more a test of the mind than a way to escape. Long repetitive sections instigate feelings of insanity and unrest, only to gracefully break out into beautiful and relaxing sections.
A brilliant example of this is the third track on the album, entitled '花の専門店’ translated to ‘Flower Specialty Store’.
All I can say is good luck dancing to this one.
Soon Vaporwave became a vast online cult, spreading outwards and sprouting its own subgenres such as Mall Soft and Future Funk. The beauty of Vaporwave is the openminded fanbase willing to listen to almost anything - if it is drenched in the right feelings and connotations.
Usually either consumer culture or a vista into the future, Vaporwave has and continues to explore all areas of the modern world we live in. With Vaporwave gaining such online popularity and exposure, the underground subculture seemed set to go mainstream and without a doubt be ripped to shreds and misinterpreted by the masses.
In an interview, wosX said:
“Just like any ironic critique it always becomes that exact thing they are making fun of.
So if they’re making sarcastic responses to capitalism, then capitalism is exactly what it will become.”
But Vaporwave has sat teetering on the edge of the mainstream and in the time since the “Vapor boom” things have changed dramatically.
Albums such as “新しい日の誕生” by Vaporwave group 2814 take the Vaporwave formula and rearrange it into an ephemeral burst of ambition and ambience, creating a whole world that lives inside an mp3 file.
Other albums like Bangers Vol. II by wosX push Vaporwave in the complete opposite direction; making fast, arrogant, loud music utilising elements of trap and 90's European rave music.
If you were to listen to these two albums you wouldn't think they were in the same genre - but they are, because they have the same hot, cold, uncomfortable, relaxing, ugly and beautiful feeling to them.
A soundtrack to the complicated over stimulating world we find ourselves in today with the internet, smart phones and super smart advertising campaigns.
Subcultures are meant to reflect the time we live in and it's all well and good hiding from the world by pretending it's 2006 and the Arctic Monkeys are the best band in the world. But being an indie boy in 2018 is no longer being part of a subculture…it is part of a mass distraction.
Vaporwave goes head to head with the issues we face in the modern age and, although it might not make sense of the world we live in at least it makes us aware of what is going on.
If you find yourself wanting to dive a little deeper into the genre, here's a few more reccomendations for you to listen to: