Vaporwave: A (Modern) Retrospective

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Vaporwave: A (Modern) Retrospective

Post by Gordinator »

I'm going to start this EffortPost(tm) by saying that I don't know too much about Vaporwave, or music for that matter. However, the art form has intrigued me in a unique way, and more so once I discovered how it is made and what it represents.
History of Vaporwave
The history of Vaporwave is long and complex, with many, many offshoots thanks to a lack of distinct style, but the first true Vaporwave is generally attributed to be Daniel Lopatin's Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1. Some of the music in the album predates the album itself, as Lopatin released two of the tracks onto YouTube, with one (titled nobody here in all lowercase) garnering three million views, with most in the audience noting on its comforting yet eerie sense of nostalgia and foreboding tone. The music composed of old songs from the 80s and 90s slowed down (including Africa's Toto and Michael Jackson's Morphine), with effects added to add artificial audio distortion, with the tracks often looping and skipping, as if the audio was being played back on a malfunctioning cassette tape. On August 8, 2010, Eccojams was released as an album, but was curiously only sold in cassette tape format, although people quickly ripped it and distributed it on the Internet, with little resistance from Lopatin.
Eccojams was reasonably successful, and inspired more people to begin making more Vaporwave themselves, although the genre didn't have a name at this point.
Beyond this moment, the history of Vaporwave gets infinitely more complex, thanks to the relative low entry point in music creation and the rapid growth in sub-genres in an already small microgenre. I'm not going to cover it, because I've cited no sources for what I've said, and I don't know enough about it to write about it.
What Makes Vaporwave Special?
Vaporwave is unique because of its very brazen use of copyrighted infringement, but leaving that out misses the 'point' of Vaporwave; while a lot of later Vaporwave attempts to 'cash in' on a trend, a lot of early music was designed to evoke a unique sense of familiarity and foreboding, as a tongue-in-cheek look into the past and to point out the futility of nostalgia; exposing the misconception that the past was better than the present through rose-tinted glasses in a very direct manner.
Vaporwave is also a critique on Capitalism. In 2011, directly influenced by Eccojams, James Ferraro would release Far Side Virtual, which used MIDI files to mimic real instruments, albeit with a sense of the Uncanny Valley. When asked about the name of the album and its meaning, Ferraro said the following:
Far Side Virtual mainly designates a space in society, or a mode of behaving. All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don't want to call it "virtual reality," so I call it Far Side Virtual. If you really want to understand Far Side, first off, listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks—buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you'll understand what Far Side Virtual is — because people kind of live in it already.
(Source: Wikipedia)
The on-the-nose critique of the modern lifestyle, which is rapidly becoming more and more intertwined with corporations. It's an interesting side-note to mention, and something to think about.
Modern Vaporwave
Modern Vaporwave has spun off greatly from Lopatin's works, and continues to morph into new subgenres, including fairly recent ones such as the 2019 meme Simpsonwave, which sees Vaporwave music combined with old episodes of The Simpsons.
Meme Status: How Vaporwave Almost Died
When the first truly successful Vaporwave music was released (including the aforementioned nobody here), a large amount of people started attempting to transform the genre into a meme, with the resulting debris almost killing the genre, as people saw it as an ironic form of humour, rather than the art-form it really was.

Vaporwave is great, but its intrinsic incompatibility with 'mainstream' (although that term is highly outdated these days) attention means it will forever remain a small part of the massive ocean of modern music, and a nice look back at a past that doesn't exist, and a present that very much does.
Last edited by Gordinator on Sun Feb 18, 2024 9:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Vaporwave: A (Modern) Retrospective

Post by flatrute »

Interesting post, but it seems like you forgot to fix the word vaporware to vaporwave on the title pepeLaugh
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