A sprawling, meditative excursion to Tallon IV, the famed planet Samus Aran explores in Metroid: Prime. With music that brilliantly mixes the familiarity of one of Nintendo’s greatest series with that of a relaxing ambient album, Prime is a hypnotic aural excursion across an alien landscape. Alternating between twinkling, relaxing pieces, and frantic driving polyrhythms, the release is a must for anyone fond of the Metroid series. While it offers a compelling mix of the new and the familiar, as the wait for Metroid Prime 4 grows ever longer, this release couldn’t be more welcome.
Is The Greatest Vaporwave Project of All Time Secretly a Rock Band?
Rebirth in Reprise
There are certain defining traits we can look to when trying to qualify the sound of vaporwave. Samples, appropriation of recognizable brands, great loops, pastel-based color palettes, hard to come by physical releases, and a Bandcamp presence are just a few of vaporwave’s core components. What if we told you there was a rock band that had all of these?
The Dear Hunter – not to be confused with Deerhunter— are a rock band originally from Providence, Rhode Island – now based out of Port Angeles, Washington — renowned for their ambitious album concepts, as well as the ability to seemingly mix genres at will to great success. Founded by former The Receiving End of Sirens vocalist/guitarist, Casey Crescenzo, the group has churned out an incredible array of inspired music, creating some of the best tunes, well, ever. The most well-known of their projects is The Acts, a five-album story spanning the life of a young man as he repeatedly makes poor decisions. There is also The Color Spectrum, an “album” consisting of 9 separate EP’s each covering a color on the visible spectrum, as well as black and white, with the intent of pairing a specific sound to a specific color.
That’s all well and good, they’re a very talented band. So what? What’s all this got to do with vaporwave? Well, it just so happens that the band adheres to many of the same principles as those artists that create vaporwave. Let’s dive in.
One of most commonly cited tenets of vaporwave is that of sampling. While it may play less of a role these days than it did in the movement’s infancy, it’s still very much a part of the scene. And this happens to be a practice The Dear Hunter adheres to. Honestly, we could come up with hundreds of examples, but we’ll just cherry-pick a couple. Let’s start with a track off of the closing album in their Acts story, Act V: Hymns With The Devil In Confessional. The closing track of the album, “A Beginning” is both a narrative and musical crescendo. A somber, retrospective on every track that led to this point in the story, the song concludes with a beautiful piano melody that runs from the 5:26 mark to the track’s conclusion. But what if we told you this piano piece was STOLEN. That’s right, you can find the very same piano piece on a completely different song by a completely diff…well, by a band. The melody can be heard in the song “Vital Vessels Vindicate” by a rock band called The Dear Hunter.
Starting at 5:43, you will hear the same piano track. Coincidence? Unlikely. And that’s to say nothing of some melodies that show up on Act V that are slightly changed from where they might be in their original form. A song titled “The March” on Act V has an eerily familiar vocal piece to it. Starting at 2:32 you hear the lyrics:
Was that there’s far too many ways to die
Far too many ways to die
Now those lyrics on their own could describe any number of songs, but if you compare it next to the sample of the source material, it sounds like it might be completely lifted from a track that existed prior to Act V. It’s eerily similar to a segment of the song “The Old Haunt,” (starting at the 1:01 mark) which as it turns out it sampled from the same band that made “Vital Vessel Vindicate.” That’s right, that track also comes from The Dear Hunter. Clearly, this band has a particular group they like to lift samples from.
Loops are another mainstay of the vaporwave movement. Look no further than some of the earliest pieces, like “Nobody Here” to get a feel for it. And that’s a feature of vapor music that, much like sampling, may not be as essential as it once was, but it’s still very much a part of things. For a perfect example of this let’s look at the track “A Night on the Town” off of The Dear Hunter’s Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise. The track opens with a blaring, in-your-face guitar riff. But here’s the thing, once the riff concludes, they play it again. I mean, do we even need to say anymore?
This one’s a little trickier and took some exhaustive investigative journalism on our part. There are certain brands intimately associated both with vaporwave music, as well as its general aesthetic. Brands such as Arizona Iced Tea, or the example we’ll be talking about now: Fiji Water. The iconic square packaging is the defining trait of the brand, but you know what the next most important thing about it is? Water. And there are multiple references to water strewn throughout the band’s discography. Let’s look at the album art for the Blue EP off of their Color Spectrum project.
Sure looks an awful lot like water to us. Just like what you can find inside of a coveted bottle of Fiji. What’s more, for anyone familiar with the geography of Fiji, it’s an island. And the above picture appears to be of a coastal region. A coastal region that might itself be an island.
But not so fast, we’re not done with that artwork. If you notice there are also quite a few shades of blue present in that artwork, some of them even look pastel. And as we know, pastel blues and pinks play a huge role in the vaporwave aesthetic. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve also used pastel pinks before. Recently, a vinyl box set of all of The Acts was released, which included newly redesigned artwork for the first three albums. And on the album art for Act I: The Lake South, The River North, if you look hard enough you can find some pastel pink. We’ve taken the liberty of blowing up the image for you and circling the suspect area, don’t thank us.
Now, of course, not every vaporwave artist is required, nor are they necessarily expected to have a Bandcamp page. But having one doesn’t hurt. And wouldn’t you know it, The Dear Hunter has a Bandcamp page. Sure seems suspicious to us if they’re not a vaporwave group.
We think it’s safe to say we’ve provided ample reasons why you could make the argument that the greatest vaporwave act of all time is actually, secretly, The Dear Hunter. If you can’t arrive at the same conclusion that we have after this much irrefutable evidence, it’s out of our hands, but we hope you arrive at the same conclusion that we have.
Happy April 1st to all of our dear readers here at Utopia District! What’d you think? Did you fall for this for even a second? No?
Well, if you’re interested in digging a little deeper into what The Dear Hunter is really about, we’ll include some helpful links below. They’re a pretty incredible band -this writer’s favorite music group of all time in fact- and they deserve as much attention as they can get!
探求: sleep&dream and エミュレータ albums coming to No Problema Tapes
TWO BRILLIANT ambient releases
Coming off of a mammoth drop a couple weeks back that saw No Problema Tapes release two tapes apiece from both S O A R E R and 陶酔エンジン (Euphoria Engine), things take on more of a — dare we say — dreamlike quality this week. We get not one, but two dreamtone tapes: a re-release seeing a physical drop, and the other brand new.
First up, we have UK producer 探求: sleep&dream seeing a reissue of their album 空想 (Fantasy). It originally released on No Problema’s digital platform in July of 2020, but it will be making its physical debut this time around. The 40-minute ambient release will see a run of 50 tapes, with the expected amount of incredible creativity we’ve come to expect from No Problema releases.
The other release comes from エミュレータ (Emulator), who will be making their debut with this No Problema Release, 反復的な睡眠パターン (Repetitive Sleep Patterns). A 60-minute excursion consisting of six tracks all clocking in at exactly ten minutes, the release is sure to offer something for ambient fans. As with the 探求: sleep&dream release, the tapes will be limited to 50 copies.
Are you excited to check out these releases? Use the links down below to get ready for these releases when the albums drop on March 19th!
It’s late at night. There’s not a car on the road, and all you have to keep you company is the radio. But why can’t you get a signal? Surely there must be something coming in clearly, right? And that’s when it happens. A confounding piano melody bursts forth from the static, calming the mind and allaying the growing concern that you’d be hopping between radio stations all night. But before you can get comfortable you lose signal again. Back to frantically flipping between stations. This plan works again, with a calming tune coming in loud and clear, but now once the signal fades, the radio goes silent, never to be heard from again. And we’re left wondering just what to do with ourselves.
No Problema Tapes Announces Next Group of Releases
4 Tapes From 2 Artists
Coming hot off the heels of the staggeringly gorgeous Abandoned 実体 box set, No Problema Tapes has announced a new group of tapes to be released on March 5th. The new batch of tapes will see two new physical releases apiece for label regular S O A R E R as well as label newcomer 陶酔エンジン (Euphoria Engine).
The first release is a second run of S O A R E R‘s Without End, a slushwave album heavily influenced by the sound of 2814. Without End was their first sample-free project and their first physical to appear on No Problema Tapes. The album had an original run of tapes last October, and this new batch will be limited to 60 copies.
The other release from S O A R E R will be Silent Whispers, a brand new release consisting of over an hour of new music. This album is described as a dreampunk release heavily informed by the confluence of big cities and the sense of isolation that can come with that. And just like with the reissue of Without End, Silent Whispers will be limited to just 60 copies.
As for the 陶酔エンジン releases, the first one up is a reissue of their first No Problema physical, 未知への憧れ (Looking For The Unknown), which previously released in October of 2020. The release is a compilation of tracks produced between 2017 and 2020 and clocks in at a titanic 87 minutes. Though no run size was listed, it’s probably safe to expect it to be comparable to the S O A R E R releases.
And then 陶酔エンジン’s other release is a brand new album, 星の精 (Star Spirits). If the name were indication enough, Star Spirits leans heavily into the territory of space ambient and hopes to take listeners on a cosmic journey that clocks in at almost exactly an hour.
Are you excited about any of these releases? If you can’t wait to get your hands on them, make sure you have the links handy on March 5th when the albums drop!
Unbottle // Fangs by eventual infinity & Fake Fever
The debut of a collaboration between eventual infinity and Fake Fever, Unbottle // Fangs offers a great glimpse of what’s to come between these two artists. This release showcases the first two songs in what is being described as a “series of pop forward tracks.” And given the results thus far, things are certainly starting strong. The first track, “Unbottle”, has a wonderfully summery air to it with some truly luscious synth tones that sound ready to play on a Grand Theft Auto V radio station. The second track, “Fangs”, plays around in the same sandbox, but nets different results. The arpeggiating melodies buried under the vocals carry a sinister slant to them, and the track has more of a malevolent vibe that does an exceptional job of showing how to craft something entirely different out of similar pieces.
Chock full of tasty rhythms, this intense, woefully short-lived EP from Sport3000 is downright infectious. Despite weighing in at five total tracks, Ultraviolet nonetheless showcases an impressive array of rhythms, with no less than a dozen memorable melodic moments. But the real star is percussion. The opening track, “Demons,” starts with a killer drum fill that sets the tone the whole way through, and the tracks never relinquish their hold on you. The forward momentum of the drums and synths across the entire EP also makes a great case for listening to this album while driving. Rarely is there something more perfectly suited to such an occasion.
No Problema Tapes Unveils 3 Abandoned 実体 Cassettes
3 Incredible Tapes All in One Place
No Problema Tapes are, to put it mildly, an important label for vaporwave. With a lineup of release measuring in the triple digits, they’ve been around when the foundations of the scene were still being established, and have remained as important to vaporwave –and to us here at UD- as the day they set up shop.
Which is why it’s so incredibly exciting to be announcing that No Problema is releasing a trio of tapes by Romanian ambient artist Abandoned 実体 (Abandoned Entity) on February 19th as the Abandoned Trilogy. While this isn’t the first time Abandoned 実体 has worked with No Problema Tapes, we’ve yet to see anything quite this ambitious.
The first of the three releases, Dream Therapy was previously self-releasedby Abandoned 実体 and rings in at an eye-watering 2 hours. This re-release –as NOP-164- will mark the first time it has been available in physical form.
The second album, Spirit & World –NOP-165- will run a hefty 70 minutes, and while the two tracks that comprise the album were made available within Abandoned Virtual Town, this is their first chance to shine on their own.
The final album of the trilogy, Eternal ExistenceConcept –NOP-166- is the most diverse of the group. With a much larger number of tracks -10 to the previous albums’ 3 and 2 respectively- the finale looks to provide the most varied sound of the three.
Each tape will be receiving its own run of 50, all of which will be available alongside a limited edition box set comprising all 3 tapes in a special package, itself limited to 50.
You won’t have to wait long to pick up your copies, but you better do so quickly, as they’re sure to sell out fast!
Once February 19th is here, you’ll be able to find the tapes at the links below!
For any other big fans of 死夢 Vanity out there: upon seeing that they had a new album out, your first thought was probably “no way, really?” It’s been a rather lengthy period of time since we’ve seen new music out of them; their last release was 2018’s Lovely Reveries. Sure, there were occasional singles here and there but even those were substantially spread out. So to see Serenade Season— a new full-length album drop seemingly out of nowhere with no fanfare— is quite a shock. It also happens to be quite a blessing. After all, when has “new 死夢 Vanity music” ever been a bad thing?
Right out of the gate, the release offers a wonderful, familiar sound. Despite the long period of time between releases, it feels as though nothing has changed. While suggesting a musical artist hasn’t changed over the years could be seen as a bit of an insult, we don’t mean it as such. Serenade Season feels like 死夢 Vanity has simply decided to pick up where they left off. The sonic palette of the release evokes a similar feeling to their prior works, with an instantly recognizable texture to it. It does, however, reach out and expand into some new areas as the release goes along. 死夢 Vanity has always had this rather specific “clean” sound to their releases, something that many other vaporwave artists may forego. The music evokes nostalgia through its melodies, rather than the layers of dust that some releases achieve with reverb and all manner of gadgets.
Ultimately the biggest issue with the release ends up being how safe it feels. This album very much feels like 死夢 Vanity playing within the core sound that they’ve established for themselves. Light piano and synth melodies interplay with one another in a way that sounds both totally unique to them, but also like many of the other releases of theirs that you’ve heard before. The first track that feels like a departure doesn’t arrive until startlingly late in the album. Track 8 (of 12) in fact. “With You”. Up until that point, we were perfectly relaxed and enjoying everything we had been hearing, but the tracks were mostly a blur. If we were to play them back, we wouldn’t be able to identify them with any specificity beyond “that sounds like a 死夢 Vanity song,” but such was not the case when “With You” entered the picture. Using strings—guitar rather than piano here— the melody felt a little different right out of the gate. On display here is an interesting aquatic vibe that isn’t really present anywhere else on the album, and ultimately winds up feeling unlike anything we’ve heard from 死夢 Vanity previously.
It turned out this was just the first step in offering a transformative sound, as the final third of the album practically feels like an entirely different release from that of the first two-thirds. It still has that 死夢 Vanity veneer that one would expect, but the sounds feel more decidedly seasonal. This final leg of the album evokes a more distinct time of year too, stemming from its increased emphasis on guitar. The final act has a cozier sound to it, straying past that of calming lounge music and heading more in the direction of listening to the demo station at the Discovery Channel store during a holiday rush. (Is that a weirdly specific example? Sure, but that’s one of the strengths of vaporwave.) The closing track–the title track no less— evokes this feeling even more strongly than any other point on Serenade Season.
Ultimately if we were reviewing just the final act of the album as its own EP, it’d probably be one of our favorite 死夢 Vanity releases to date, but alas such is not the case. There aren’t any bad tracks to be seen on the album, but the first portions of the release feel like an artist reconciling with their own sound before moving past it into something wonderful and exciting. We hope the closing tracks influence their sound moving forward, and above all, we hope we don’t have to wait two years to get our ears on another full-length.
Climatewave has a pretty well-defined sound to it. Swelling synths. Feathery, synthesized woodwinds. But what if there was a different way? A new approach? Help us give a warm welcome to endless cliffs ltd., a new side project of the ever-amazing Soul▲Craft. As if birthing some of the best albums in vaporwave wasn’t sufficient–we’re looking at you, Beach House—this new project sees Soul▲Craft dabbling in some hitherto unexplored regions of the scene. And the results, while maybe a bit uneven in places, justify this whole experiment rather brilliantly.
Right out of the gate, it’s clear that things aren’t as they appear. While there may be an element of those “weather channel vibes” buried within, the notes hit harder, they hit faster, and there are simply just more of them.
Indeed, we briefly picked Soul▲Craft’s brain about this very aspect, with their goals for the project outlining this overwhelming volume of notes.
“My particular approach with this one, I wanted a clearly defined theme as well as a specific and evocative sound palette. I also wanted a minimalism in the number of instruments used. So you know, no like 50 instruments or layers existing in a song. And finally, an attempt at a sort of virtuosity (for lack of a better word). Playing parts that were challenging and that were a little more difficult than I might approach in a different context.”
While the opener, “earth song”, unfolds to the calming swell of a coming breeze, this quickly gives way to a rapid beat, offering up a quirky melody that almost sounds like something out of a Canadian children’s broadcast. It also makes it very clear that the tracks on the album are keen on having core identifying melodies for themselves. While the album has a tonal throughline, each track comes off as a microcosm of the whole, but with something unique to say on it’s own.
Which is why the next track, “altocumulus maximatus”, is such a curious follow-up. The tempo feels almost identical to the opener on the surface, but the synths layered over it offer such a toned-down melody that the track’s overall speed feels much more calm and relaxed. It almost feels more in line with a traditional climatewave sound, especially if you were to mute the drum track.
And then “gradient cumulonimbus” takes what appears to be the melody from the previous track and speeds that up while slowing the driving tempo of the track down. The inversion of elements between track two and three are a completely unexpected move. And it rather brilliantly allows them to have individual identities, but perhaps more interestingly, cohesion through unification. The first portion of the album concludes with “tilling shadow crops,” which feels like a further reshuffling of the elements that have been played with to this point.
However, a new storm swoops in, shoving the sounds we’ve been hearing for the past 15 minutes aside. Instead, “snowed all night” brings in the barren, bassy rumble of a lone synth. A melody starts to build out of these darker elements, but the storm seems to have been able to hold the original sounds at bay for only so long. The back half of the track sees additional synth layers and a percussive rhythm start to slowly creep their way back in, which is carried through to “arcticus cirrostratus.” Some of the dark sounds linger for a time, but a drum track comes to the forefront as well as what seems to be a plucked instrument of some sort, carrying the most optimistic tune on the whole album. The melody has such a distinctly hopeful quality, it’s hard not to smile.
Maybe that joy isn’t meant to last, though— “column of smoke” brings not just a foreboding title, but such heavily distorted synths that the track dabbles in darkwave at points before clawing its way back out of the muck, trying to regain that hopefulness. The sun never manages to shine through quite as much as it once did, but some optimism is able to creep back into the music just in time for “nox atra” to offer a pallet cleanse of sorts. The rain pattering at the start gives way to yet more optimistic music, though in a more forlorn and somber fashion. It feels like we’ve reached the end of the storm and things are starting to improve.
If “nox atra” provided what could be considered after the storm, the title track feels like an entirely different place altogether. There’s a particular melody, absolutely striking and wholly alien from what we’ve heard before. It’s hard to truly describe, but it conjures a mental image of soundwaves in the shape of a boomerang, notes moving back and forth across that shape. The sting has an almost visceral hook to it.
And then the title track gives way to “Earth’s spiral closing (new earth version)”, the lead single that has easily the most front-and-center percussion on the album. All the disparate elements of the release coalesce into one high-energy sequence absolutely hellbent on putting a spring in your step. The energy on this penultimate tune is downright infectious, which is perhaps why it’s for the best the release doesn’t jarringly jump straight to a somber farewell to close out the album. The drums remain a central focus on “vapor terrae,” but the energy slowly ebbs from the track as the album winds down. The synths bray one final time, the lights come up, the curtains fall, and all that remains is a faint whistling of wind.
The album is an absolute treat from start to finish, and while some of the tracks may provide emotional whiplash, the tonal consistency of the project is admirable and leaves a lasting impact on the listener— and ideally will continue to do so through all subsequent listens.
If Invidia tropicae sounds right up your alley, we are pleased to say that the album drops December 19th at Pacific Plaza Records, so you don’t have long to wait!