Similar in its sound to many of the litany of aliases that DMT Tapes head Vito James has stashed under his belt, Pleasure of Conformity contains a choice selection of loops paired with a heavy use of distortion techniques, making the sound feel as if it were crushed on the roughest, toughest setting of an extra dull blender. This sort of sound is exceedingly rough in the most charming ways, its use helping to bring out a heavy rumbling from the background riffs used in each track to add a deep warmth to each track. While the use of these distortion techniques occasionally borders on drowning out more interesting parts of the samples used, the arrangement of each track is skilled enough to create loops that feel seamless.
The effects applied also help the vocals sound haunting in the most perfect manner, harkening back to earlier techniques of vapor that brought out a haunting drawl from every word spoken. Anyone unfamiliar with the sound of this artist’s projects should check this album out, as his style and approach towards music is certainly experimental at the very least.
Similar in prose to the more exuberant, rhythm-driven ethos of mid-2010s vapor, Sunsets is a short run of tracks that run akin to the type of sound that 猫 シ Corp. (Cat System Corp) presented in the earlier stages of his career. Each track is filled with bustling energy created by well-cut loops, the sources primarily seeming to be from uptempo funk and disco tracks. By using this style of composition, Paradise of Yesterday manages to evoke both nostalgia for the era of the samples and the time in which albums of this style were more prominently released.
The samples picked to build this short experience feel both cohesive and tonally similar enough to deliver an experience which focuses much more on the sound of the music itself rather than building a story or scenario, an aspect that also feels reminiscent of these older pieces. Overall, this album is excellent for those looking to get a hit of the older sound paired with a more modern sense of production. Its cleaner cuts and slightly longer track durations allow it to focus on really working out the meat from the samples used.
A collection of mellow loops, just occasionally dipping into more driving beats to add to the atmosphere. Each track is composed from an excellent selection of hold music, waiting room tunes, and general jingles that are often present within climatewave albums. A heavy layer of static on each track emphasizes this, allowing the listener to sink into the piece and make it feel more cohesive as a result.
As with many releases in its style, Morning Appointment manages to keep itself fresh by having a short runtime, only clocking in with slightly over twenty minutes of music. This allows each track to feel distinct, along with the short, radio-style vocal clips that tend to accompany the longer ones. Overall, the album is very solid, making up for the presence of many others using the same themes by making excellent choice of samples to construct its sounds.
Lit up with a heavy layer of static and simple tunes illuminating its foreground, Forgotten Signals presents a collection of tunes that feel extremely relaxing to listen to. Just a single track is enough to make one lean back into their chair and shut their eyes, a broad scape of stars flashing through their eyes as they drift across an endless, blue sky. While the compositions aren’t complex, they manage to squeeze every last bit of emotion out of the segments chosen to build the EP, creating a scene that feels wistful, yet content at the same time.
A short, repetitive signalwave-style section drags the listener back in halfway through, reminding them to wake back up for more tracks that are to come. Each one manages to feel unique from the last while still having the same sort of downtempo, laid-back mood, helped by the backing of cassette static littering the background. As a whole, it serves as an excellent quick listen and a nice EP to wind down the day with. Check it out if you have the time.
For each of us, there is an album of noticeably lower notoriety within the community which we cherish closely and revisit sparingly, only to find ourselves learning more about how much there is to it each time. From these pieces, we remind ourselves about just what makes vapor special, both in the design of its sound and the ways it evokes emotion from us. On just about every level, both Kevin and 사치CORP (Luxury Corp) strike each note that one could want from such an album in a different way, delivering a strong sense of isolation and loneliness that grows into hope through a minimal set of tools.
Just from the beginning two tracks, it can be very easy for the listener to find themselves questioning whether the album is even truly sampled at all, as the integration of very simple riffs and chords create an environment in which everything seems wholly original. There are clearly sampled vocal sections over top of certain tracks which may break this illusion, though they are mixed into the environment well enough that they end up adding to it in their own way.
Sonically, the two sides of 海で孤立した are very distinct from each other, each artist presenting a different vision of an endless ocean within their mind. The texture presented on the first side from Kevin, for example, makes heavier use of rougher sound texture, almost making the instruments being played sound of low, cheap fidelity. From this however, the notes also drawl along perfectly to create a sense of dread, easing the listener along as if they were cast to sea with only the ocean to greet their vision for miles.
Notes also bleed into each other because of these effects, creating a fluid journey in which one can relax despite all the turmoil about them, an odd sense of peace coming from the clash of both chaos and the calmness which isolation brings. The ambience is perfectly mixed into the background to add to this effect, the crashing of waves idle enough that the listener may only hear it once they truly find themselves easing into the environment that is presented.
On the opposite side, 사치CORP presents a much more traditionally composed section of ambient vapor, the notes muddied into each other, but not crushed to bits by the effects being used. From this, the calmness of the ocean is drawn out much more than the previous chaos, a feeling that is only heightened by the general sense of dread presented through some of Kevin’s compositions.
In addition to this, the range of moods presented on this side of the album is much more diverse. While the beginning half is much more somber and reflective, the latter half of the album uses its positioning to create a much more impactful climax by growing in hopefulness towards the end. All of the work put into this slow crawl comes to a climax in “Questions For A Masochist,” in which the music explodes into a percussive, energetic beat before fading out as quickly as it came.
Overall, these artists meshed very well together in creating an album, the tonal consistency of Kevin’s work matched by the more explosive and varied pieces that were brought to the table by 사치CORP. With a shorter runtime and list of songs, there is not one that quite stands out as being of significantly lower quality than the rest, with each of them serving their purpose in building a full mood.
While this was touched on somewhat in the previous section, it is important to look at how well this album manages to evoke its scene through using each of its elements. While many artists may have chosen in this situation to create unease within their listener through use of the backing ambience, only the calmer sounds of the ocean are present there; instead, such emotions are created solely through the music that is laid perfectly over top.
Keeping the melody more central in this way allows a much more pleasant listening experience, as the focus is on the music rather than the more directly sampled sounds, with the rolling of ocean waves providing a context rather than a focal point for the creation of a mood. Since these sounds are constant in tone as well, it becomes much less obvious once they disappear, creating a fluid transition into the last two tracks without taking away the focus of the listener once the music itself takes the stage fully.
The choice of mostly classical and piano compositions as sources for building the world around the album was excellent, as well, the simplicity of each tone hammering in the sense of isolation with both punchiness, when the notes are struck, and seamlessness as they fade into the background and their fellow notes.
Listened from front to back, 海で孤立した provides a succinct yet full-bodied experience for any of those who are looking to dive into the more directly expressive side of ambient vapor. Clocking in at only a little over 20 minutes long, meaty yet minimal compositions give the listener an experience comparable to an album three times its length.
If you are a fan of albums with themes that evoke the ocean, isolation, loneliness, dread, or you generally find yourself looking for a more relaxing experience from your vapor, you will certainly enjoy this one.
With multiple releases under their belt and a surge of popularity since the release of 2018’s 都市のバマー (City Bomber), P U D E R P O L L I has been consistently releasing collections of short, driving vapor tracks since 2016. Their newest release, 마음과릴, offers more of this exact type of music with a collection of classic-style tracks that manage to explore a wide variety of moods and tones. From instrumentation to the emotion drawn from the sound itself, the only constant that seems to be kept throughout is an undeniable urge to groove that comes from listening to each one.
Even at its most wistful, such as the opening and closing tracks, the percussion draws a bob of the head from any listener with a predictable structure within the loops used to allow a consistent rhythm. Overall, these aspects make for a killer combo when combined with the shorter runtime of 마음과릴. Unless someone’s laser-focused on waiting for the end of it to pass by, they’re just as likely to accidentally spin the whole thing again as they would be to move on.
Anyone who has listened to a desert sand album in recent years will go in knowing what to expect from this one. His style of longform, phaser-heavy, high reverb tracks made with chop work stands near superior to pretty much any other artist in the business of slush style vapor. Over the last few years especially, there’s been a resurgence of new artists attempting to recreate this heavily enjoyed style and finding moderate success, though very few of them manage to pull it off to this level.
The only complaint that can be given is that the first track catches the listener somewhat off guard, the ambience-heavy track almost seeming to suggest a more minimal, relaxed album similar to the Seikomart duology or his split with M y s t e r yミステリー (Mystery). However, the album itself is much more upbeat and driving in its usage of samples, something that might surprise someone coming to his work for the first time after hearing the intro.
Favorite Track:夜の街をさまよう／シミュレーション仮説 (Wander the night city / simulation hypothesis)
Working with such names as the prestigious Pure Life collective, Phorme sets a high bar for their newest tape release, Sea Of Souls. Presented by the Hanging Garden sublabel of Pure Life for its digital release and put onto tape by Underwater Computing, this album already had a decent amount of time to be listened to between its releases, though the physical presentation of it has garnered a more general audience towards the album.
Simply from a first look, the artwork is excellent, done by UK-based Dreampunk/Garage producer Cryosauna, who manages to blend pieces of art together in a beautiful, blaring flash of sharp color to extract pure emotion from the viewer. Throughout the runtime, there is a clear rise and fall of tension within each piece, though the intensity of each burst from ambient to active becomes less prominent with each repetition, working towards the album’s benefit by creating a slow creep downwards despite the album’s tone being much the same at the first and final track.
Composed in the same vein as other dreampunk style albums, Sea Of Souls presents a very abstracted view of emotions through the use of deep ambience, synth progressions, and long bouts of swelling emotion. Each of these elements are brought to a climax every few tracks in which the music flourishes, releasing tension from the current motion before swiftly traveling back down into less intensive methods of instrumentation. There is a clear rhythm to how this album’s flow is executed, giving it a sense of progression as the listener goes through each track.
The more ambient sections of this album are beautifully composed and easy to lose oneself in, the synths in the forefront drawling on as if through an endless, opaque ocean. Background tones bleed forward and take presence over time in tracks such as “Dreaming Together”, showing off richer, rougher tones along the dreamier presence of echoey melodies layered up above. The longer sprawls in which Sea Of Souls loses itself to these more dreamy tones ironically tend to be its high points, compared to the explosions of emotion that bridge each of them together.
Conversely, these previously mentioned peaks of the album tend to be somewhat lackluster, either through the tones of the synths being much too abrasive to match the rest of the album’s atmosphere (“Amongst Every Other Lingering Soul”), being too indulgent in its own length comparative to the value of its chord to truly make the motion meaningful (“Losing Memories”), or simply having audio errors resultant of clipping.
At several points throughout “Amongst Every Other Lingering Soul” (notably 3:20), there is audible clicking in the background — either an error in effects work, or a misapplied cut which caused such a thing to happen. Though this may be negligible in many circumstances, the lush, evocative atmosphere being created by Sea Of Souls tends to be somewhat dragged away during these moments, as the nature of these clicks match neither its fidelity nor tone during the times of their appearance.
Overall, the album struggles with one of its main goals, but is lucky enough to have relegated them to small portions of the album, only making these pitfalls a small annoyance whenever they appear. The exception to these flaws in terms of the tracks meant to serve as a climax within the album is “Feels Like Dying Again”, the most excellent example of letting the emotions of the previous tracks stew before delivering a swift, interesting piece with driving, synth-based melodies.
As said before, the main form of expression within this album is its usage of peaks and lows within its composition, marked by a stretch of two ambient tracks before leading into a more driving piece directly after. This construction of the album alone feels as if it works wonders in helping realize the main themes of the album, each motion from low to high feeling like being pushed through a rolling tide. While the compositions may not hold up entirely to this form of quality, their presence helps solidify this aspect of the album and give it a flavor of its own.
The usage of phasers deeper within the album also helps to add to this identity, adding a flavor similar to the deep waters of the sea as the listener is washed along them, unsure of exactly where they are headed. Most interestingly is that these effects rarely transcend usage outside of the background layer, allowing them to be present without being overwhelming. With the usage of these techniques being very prominent in vapor and vapor-related albums, it is refreshing to see them take more of a back seat to help build an atmosphere.
Overall, Sea Of Souls, while interesting in its structure, has some minor problems that keep it from rising up to a much higher standing than other pieces with a similar sound. Through audio fumbles, an excess use of the time it designates for climax, and minor mishaps along the way, it manages not to stand out very much alongside other contemporaries in the dreampunk sound.
The most enjoyable parts were the ones leaning towards a heavier ambience, with much more work being put into their intricacy and sound during those sections of the album. However, since this sort of sound takes up a much larger chunk of Sea Of Souls, some listeners may find enjoyment skimming through the tracks rather than sitting down and powering through the piece as a whole. Even past its previous faults however, this album is certainly worth a short skim on one’s lonesome before you decide whether or not the type of sound it has going gives off a personally enjoyable flavor.
Composed mainly of muzak and easy listening to construct its atmosphere, Places For People Volume 5 seems to be a classic sort of Utopian Virtual piece from the ground up, making use of slight bits of noises from the world to add into the scenes it builds. Calls from birds, the ambient noise of people walking about, and other sounds that one would expect on a pleasant walk pair well with tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place within an educational program. The samples are well cut and make use of minimal effects as to not distract from the backing pieces, something that helps keep the experience interesting as the listener progresses along.
Each piece is short and only dwells on each loop for as long as it needs to, extracting the value from its sound before moving onwards. This makes for an excellent listening experience, giving only raw value through the mix of music and chatter at each second without wasting any time. Fans of albums with a laid-back atmosphere, short runtime, or general cozy feel to them will gain a lot from listening to this.