Vaporwave: An Introduction

Words by Mark Rabkin

Art by Natasha Hassan

From the first reverb soaked, swirling saxophone lines I was hooked. Evoking thoughts of a bygone time in my life. Reminiscent of late nights and early mornings with the lights down low. Where the last wisps of smoke dance away.

Vaporwave stems from the early 2010’s. It takes influences from mood music of the 80s and incorporates chop and screw, smooth jazz, and elevator music. Often poking fun at consumerist culture, it has a dreamlike relationship with pop entertainment and advertisements from previous generations. It’s all about the A E S T H E T I C, cyber punk, glitch art and late 90s web design all coming together, creating a lo-fi motif for music steeped in nostalgia, longing and beauty.

The earliest pioneers of the genre include Ramona Xavier and Daniel Lopatin. Both producers have released music under various pseudonyms. Under one of Xavier’s many aliases, Macintosh Plus came arguably the quintessential vaporwave album in Floral Shoppe. Together with Lopatins album Chuck Pearson’s echo Jams volume one for which he took the alias of “Chuck Pearson”, they defined and laid the blueprint for a genre. One that’s had me mesmerized since day one, like driving through the early morning dark empty streets of a Winnipeg Sunday morning in January.

Both records heavily use samples ranging from Africa by toto to the soundtrack of the 1997 video game Turok: the dinosaur hunter. Both artists are unafraid to distort and manipulate a sample into something sonically unique. Vocals are slowed to a deep drawl and they cast traditional tempo by the wayside. Time signatures fade away and come crashing back over the top of synthesizers and reverb laden beats.

For people dipping their toes into the genre, Floral Shoppe and Chuck Pearson’s echo jams volume 1 would be an ideal starting point. A springboard into the deep end of the vaporwave.                          

 A E S T H E T I C

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