DISCLOSURE: The album art for this release was designed by Priestess, a member of the Utopia District team.
To celebrate the premiere of the newest release through Bogus Collective, we’ve decided to take a bit of a special approach. We have not one, but two writers on the team taking a look at Plastic Gardens, the collaboration between Tribe Down South and Chop!, and sharing their thoughts. Read on to check out what Voiture and Gbanas92 thought of the release!
Plastic Gardens is a unique album in the sense that its confident and straightforward presentation makes both pros and cons unusually easy to pin down and quantify. The album’s playful sample choices and catchy tracks are enjoyable, if not a bit generic, upon first listen, but further inspection appears to yield diminishing returns. Tracks rely mostly on a central instrumental that makes up most of the songs, meaning that if you don’t like the beat, the track is done, but if you do, the track is sure to be uniformly good. The sampling is an entertaining way to break things up, but with repetitive structure and gaps that feel too long, the instrumentation and production communicate a need for additional creativity and ambition. Stylistic choices don’t always help this situation, with things like stabs at rhythmically creative lo-fi drum techniques making for less-than-satisfying percussion. Overall, the album is a perfectly fine “classic vaporwave” release, but when a deeper look is taken, problems are easy to spot. This isn’t indicative of an outright horrible release, but the flaws on this one just seem to stand out more than average joe-schmoe vaporwave, which this album ultimately seems to boil down to.
Favorite Track: f u t I i t y (I loved the intro sample on “t e n s i o n r e l a x” as well.)
While the brief runtime prevents the album from lingering in a way one might hope to experience from some of the more soothing strains of vaporwave, Plastic Garden does still have a lot to offer. The album displays a dizzying array of classic hip-hop beats, and makes use of sample chopping with such frenetic enthusiasm, you’d swear it was made by an axe murderer. Despite this, Chop! and Tribe Down South leave enough room for downtime, as pitched-down commercials allow you to catch your breath before moving on to the next gonzo beat.
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!
When thinking of ‘90s corporate videos or training tapes, odds are you have a distinct idea of how they sound. But what happens if the video is preparing you not for a cushy desk job, but how to hit better home runs? Well, the result is a confusing, but irrefutably harmonious pairing that brings the jaunty energy of a sporting event to your very own office cubicle. Think of it as watching Sportscenter and Good Morning America at the same time. Yes, on the surface that may sound like a strange idea, but the release comes away from it a champion.
Bandcamp is already the primary means of distributing vaporwave music both digital and physical but this new initiative might make it the place to go for live events as well. Claiming to have “ticketed live streaming with integrated merch and supporter chat,” Bandcamp Live might be just the thing we need going forward. The degree of thought that seems to have gone into integrating the whole experience is rather impressive, and if it works as advertised, we’re probably looking at the new home for vapor streaming going forward.
One of the most interesting ideas is the ticketing system, which Bandcamp is saying will allow streamers to dictate the prices, while taking a relatively meager cut of 10%, which they won’t even start taking until March 31st, 2021. The degree to which ticket prices are customizable remains to be seen (can they be made free for instance?) but we can’t wait to hear more.
Naturally, this shift depends on how well everything works, but between Bandcamp Fridays, and ideas like this, the company sure seems to be doing and saying all the right things lately, no? The initiative, in Bandcamp’s own words, is being “gradually rolled out,” so we should be seeing and hearing more about it in the coming days!
Strawberry Station stepping away from future funk for a bit
Odds are, if you listen to future funk, you’ve at least come across Strawberry Station’s music. One of the bigger names in future funk— a genre that is absolutely vaporwave, don’t @ us—- Strawberry Station dropped a video on YouTube recently, outlining his plans going forward.
After admitting to a degree of burnout, brought on by too much focus on social media and not enough time spent on making music for the reason he started, “Strawb” announced he’d be stepping back from the scene for a bit and putting his focus elsewhere. In this case, that new focus is his Patreon subcribers.
“The rest of the year’s dedicated to them,” Strawb mentions in his announcement video. This focus will result in a collection of regular new content just for patrons. The intent seems to be to give back to his strongest supporters as well as find the fun that was once there for him when it came to making music.
The video also ends with an especially interesting announcement. For anyone who is a patron by December 1st, they will have the chance to nab a Patreon-exclusive cassette, A Song To Show You, which will feature each of the tracks that will be released through Coraspect, as well as a half dozen additional new tracks that go a bit beyond the realm of future funk. It’ll be limited to a first-come, first-served run of 25, and the whole package looks rather lovely.
永遠の至福を求めて (In search of eternal bliss) by E U P H O R I A 永遠の
永遠の至福を求めて (In search of eternal bliss) by E U P H O R I A 永遠の
An hour-long excursion into a calm circuitous spa of, uh, euphoria. A concise, calming drone track opens the album before descending into a brilliant slushwave title that hearkens back to the days when there was debate over how to accurately refer to the now full-fledged subgenre. In this case, what we have here is a bonafide phaserwave knockout. Melodies duck in and out of focus, loop back in on themselves, and just when you think you have a feel for where the album is headed, things shift on to a new track, and the wonderful process begins anew.
A frigid slushwave title, Coldvenice’s latest clues the listener in on what to expect from the second you see the album art. The color palette perfectly matches that of the music. A pouring sheet of icy rain envelopes the whole affair, from the opening track, “失われた魂,” (Lost soul) essentially an eight-minute saxophone solo, all the way through to the conclusion of the album some 15 minutes later. While many slushwave releases have this aquatic edge to them, they rarely come away feeling this cold, this distant. The results are unique and intriguing.