This is the first style report on an ambient genre and I’m planning to do plenty more, as there is just so much interesting stuff out there. Regarding vaporwave, I haven’t really dug into this universe; ambient vaporwave being my first brief excursion into it, but I’m already planning a revisit. I only learned about the existence of ambient vaporwave last month, when Kai Nobuko mentioned it in a guest post. He used it referencing this release by Club Pocameau on the netlabel l0bit:
The track, album and artist names often follow the same aesthetic principles as ordinary vaporwave does: heavy use of letters from Devanagari and other asian scripts (it is therefore rather unfortunate that this blog still has a unicode character encoding problem that I didn’t figure out yet) and the white spacing between word-forming capital letters and numbers, i.e. B R E A T H E.
The most famous ambient vaporwave project is the duo 2 8 1 4, consisting of HKE and t e l e p a t h. They released their second album in 2015. It came out on CDr and was limited to 50 units. After a successful crowd founding campaign they were able to press 1000 vinyl records that were distributed through Bleep and Warp. The label Not Not Fun rereleased the album on cassette, limited to 80 copies, in 2016.
The album has fantastic cyberpunk neon tech noir cover art:
Both band members have solo projects, one of t e l e p a t h’s monikers is Virtual Dream Plaza. It debuted in 2015.
Together with experimental electronics musician Nmesh, she released a two hour split album in 2015. It has nice use of reverb and delays, great field recordings and a haunting female Japanese voice. At times a bit too melancholic for my taste (everything that is even slightly melancholic is too melancholic for my taste), it is still among my favorites. There are several versions of the album, the mp3 version has a remix by Zombie.
The other member of 2 8 1 4 is HKE, which stands for Hong Kong Express (a moniker he used in the past). HKE runs several labels, the best known is Dream Catalogue. Here’s his 2015 album HK, again with dystopian future noir cover art:
He has dozens of other projects, eg ??????? (which for the time being you see rendered as a series of question marks, because of our unfortunate unicode bug mentioned earlier). 2015 seems to have been a pivotal year for ambient vaporwave, so here’s yet another album from that year:
A lesser known artist is Boocanan. All I could find out about her is that she is from Vancouver, British Columbia. Here is her 2016 album SWEDISHFISH xx MOONWALK:
The project Hex Zero from Mexico is even more underground. Here is his latest album Leaving, which he just released last month:
Vaporwave artists frequently use Manga drawings in cover art.
A lot of older genres that I’m going to cover in upcoming style reports have some sort of geographical concentration that is often even hinted at in their names: Detroit Techno, Miami Bass, West Coast Sound Of Holland, Chicago House, etc. Vaporwave on the other hand is a genre that evolved in the cyberspace and thus away from institutions with a confined scope like night clubs, record stores, radio-shows broadcasting over local ether and print magazines. It’s a truly global genre and producers often come from places you haven’t heard of before, like Limassol in Cyprus, from where our next artist comes from: A.M. is dedicated to “music for the a.m. hours and the Inescapably Bright Future”. Here’s the album City 27 – Ante Meridiem:
Despite being a genre that evolved in the internet, the members of this scene have a striking nostalgia for storage media like vinyl, CDr and handmade tapes. The physical releases are often lovely done, like this C-40 cassette album reissue by W¯¯.
The artist Sour Gout has also released an album on cassette. VIENNA//2516 came out in 2016 on Ottowa’s Vaporwave tape label Lost Angles. It’s a post-vaporwave soundtrack for a “virtual vienna”.
From the other side of the world, Shanghai, comes the experimental cyberpunk vaporwave artist Tech Noir.
Cyber Dream Records is all about cyberdelic “music for expanded consciousnesses”. Here’s an album from the producer Valyri Slavin:
Most of the stuff presented here is from the second half of this decade. So let’s mix things up a bit with an album called Skeleton from 2010.
Finally, we come to an end with the album b e f o r e. It’s from the anonymous vaporwave producer s k y.
I think this post provides some good starting points if you want to delve further into the world of ambient vaporwave. There is much more stuff out there for you to discover. The last time I was that excited about ambient was two years ago, when I rediscovered for myself the discography of Pete Namlook’s Fax label.
(Feature image is by Izzetcanoz)