With nearly a month since their last physical drop and two digital releases in-between by Into the Ethos and 明晰夢のキャッチャー (Lucid Dream Catcher), respectively, we’re excited to see No Problema Tapes set themselves up for a double whammy. This Friday, May 7th, expect a multi-format physical reissue and a brand new album on tape.
First is a two-in-one album reissue, NOP-186: Rainforest HIll [I+II] by Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza, known to friends and family as Cesar Alexandre. Sadly, Cesar passed away on April 15th of this year, and accordingly all money raised through this sale will go to benefit their family. Previously released in multiple pressings on Asura Revolver, the roughly hour long meditative release will see a simultaneous run of tapes and minidiscs, each in 50 beautifully LED printed copies.
The other release comes from OSCOB, who will be making their No Problema debut with NOP-190: 宇宙ステーションV (Space Station V). This album tells the story of an artificial intelligence on a space station with the ability to run complex experiments on its own biosphere. Unlike the Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza release, this album is being issued solely on cassette, but the tapes will similarly be limited to 50 copies.
Are you excited to check out these releases? Use the link down below to get ready for them when the albums drop on May 7th!
Twilight, by nature, is a transitional state. For many in our extended community, change is often met with anxiety – either mourning what it has taken or dreading what it may bring. But considering that each of life’s lived moments are themselves transitions between the past and the future, one could also say that change is to be cherished. In their inimitable SNES-dripped style, Gavriel seems to share this sentiment. Like getting a head start before a promising day to come or resting after a day well spent, the in-between moment of Red Twilight is celebrated with a sense of relaxed joy and serene gratitude.
One of the many implicit promises made about the imminent consumerist utopia sold to us in the heyday of the 80s and 90s was that of readily accessible space flight. In the past decade, technological developments have finally brought the prospect of commercial space tourism into the realm of plausibility, but the vast majority of humans alive today will certainly never be able to afford it. Thankfully, S P O R T 3 0 0 0 and waterfront dining have brought their styles together in Star Tour Agencies to explore this dream. Like many split albums, it ends up feeling more like a pair of semi-related EPs played back-to-back than a cohesive album, but there’s no denying that their choice of samples will get the listener grooving.
The S P O R T 3 0 0 0 side begins with a quietly inquisitive air, slowly building layers and culminating in an infectious drum beat and bass line. Accented by a lonely, twangy guitar and truncated vocals, it evokes similar feelings as staring up at the night sky with wonder to “c o u n t t h e s t a r s.”
Eventually the reverie is cut short, as the twinkling romanticism of “u p a n d d o w n” brings us back down to Earth. As the lyrics clearly indicate, we’ve made complex interpersonal commitments that demand our attention away from the cosmos. Before long, however, our thoughts again return upwards. The rhythm and vibe-y synths in “o r b i t a l u n a e” lend a sense of playfulness as we dream of soaring alongside the Moon in her ever watchful trek high above the world.
Not satisfied merely to dream any longer, the serious and methodical tone of “s t a r l i g h t h e a d l i n i n g” suggests we’ve dedicated ourselves to making it a reality. Fittingly, it’s also the longest track on the album, and the repeated vocal refrain brings to mind a laborer’s chant to help while away the hours. And it’s during those long hours that our anticipation gives way yet again to fantasies of an “i n t e r s t e l l a r j o u r n e y.” There’s no telling if the sights will match the fantastic visions flitting before our mind’s eye, but the eager, cinematic sound reveals our intense desire to find out.
Almost before we realize, the work comes to an end and we’re ready to begin the final preparations.The next track reflects a bittersweet nostalgic mood over everything and everyone that we’re about to leave behind for roughly a third of its duration before deep bass synths mark the start of our dramatic “a s c e n s i o n.” Slowly, the bass recedes as the atmosphere rarefies and finally disappears completely, leaving us in a stable orbit. Pausing, we take one last look at our home before launching into the void.
Next, the waterfront dining side opens with what sounds like an advertisement for the eponymous “star tour agencies.” The fiddle-and-banjo-like synths seem to signal that, unlike the mega-rich elite, this modern travel agency understands how hard the humble middle-class consumer works for their money. That’s why they’ve negotiated deals with star lines across the world so they can pass on the savings and bring the wonder of space flight to everyone!
Following this, we’re presented with “looking for magic,” the most incongruous track of the album. Despite not fitting into the prevailing theme, however, it’s also one of the most memorable and enjoyable tracks due to its bubbly 80s teen pop sound. Then at the “okayama astrophysical observatory,” we briefly discover said magic in the form of a cosmic broadcast, sending a message of peace and beauty to the universe with its hopeful, chime-y synths before fading back into the seething background radiation.
Perhaps hoping to find the source of this strange signal, we board the agency’s latest rocket – er, “rocket.wav”, that is. As the countdown commences, we nervously endure a ticking hi-hat and frenetic bass line before reaching lift-off, as signified by powerful drums and a subtly underscoring guitar. Midway through the track, the drums and guitar are temporarily silenced, as if discarding the initial booster stage, before igniting the second stage and blasting into the void.
Reaching the last known coordinates of the mysterious broadcast, we land on the night side of a nearby planet. At first, our search yields nothing but stones and silence. But as a pale blue sun slowly crests the horizon, we spot a “creature” in the distance and the final track begins to swell. Certain that this is the one who called out to us, we approach reverently, ready to receive their serene wisdom.
Star Tour Agencies presents a varied collection of highly engaging samples which manage to fit fairly consistently together. But with two noticeable thematic outliers taking away from the overall momentum, there’s a definite feeling of missed potential. One can’t help but think that -had the sample selection been slightly more collaborative- some of the ideas present might have crystallized into something more cohesive. Or it could just as easily have become a muddled mess. Whatever might have been, though, the curation skills of such an accomplished pair of artists haven’t failed to cast the listeners’ hearts and minds into the stars.
As exhausting as living in the 21st century often is, it’s little wonder that vaporwave in general – and late-night lofi in particular – is so preoccupied with escapist themes of luxury and relaxation. Filtering and refining smooth jazz and funk through gauzy layers of time, the subgenre creates a safe place to forget one’s troubles and while away the hours in opulence. VHS LOUNGE aims to be that place and it mostly succeeds, though the effect is diminished as many of the samples are too sedate and uniform to linger in memory. Still, the experience is a short but enjoyable respite from life’s ever-present stresses.
We begin already immersed in the lounge’s comforts, quietly taking in the night’s beauty. We wonder for a moment how long we’ve been here, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Before long, the smooth, jazzy saxophone and flute in “SYMPATHY” cause us to relax even further, sinking into our cozy seat and drifting into sleep. Punctuating our descent with its driving rhythm, “RESONANCE” lends a more active tone with an edge of mystery. Perhaps we’re on an adventure, serenely plumbing the depths of our imagination?
Eventually, our inner journey fades into obscurity as we ease back into wakefulness, and we notice that it’s still dark out. Have we slept only a few hours or for an entire day? Either way, we feel well-rested. Cued by the relaxed, muted trumpet of “JOURNAL,” we luxuriate in the lounge’s pleasures a while longer before slowly deciding to go “STEPPIN’ OUT” into the city, ready to party all night long.
Strutting through the crowd, the funky melody and horns reflect our confidence before giving way to the seductive sounds of “BLUSH.” The crooning saxophone and wah-heavy guitar suggest our display has caught the eye of another lounger who wishes to spend the night with us. More than a physical affair, though, “INTERLUDE” blossoms into a gentler, more romantic tune. Basking in their warm embrace, we briefly think to ourselves, “Is this the one we’ve been searching for?”
Abruptly as it began, however, the entanglement ends and we’re left alone with the somewhat bittersweet, but ultimately carefree “BLUE BREEZE”. Musing to ourselves, we decide things are better this way. It’s just the lounge after all, and we had fun. As if triggered by this admission, the gray clouds above gently release themselves and we find shelter to lazily enjoy the “RAINY PARADISE” before us.
Finally, the contemplative trumpet of “SENTIMENTAL” signals that our time in the lounge is coming to an end. Gathering our things, we raise one final glass in commemoration of our stay. Staring pensively out the window of our transport, we watch the “DISTANT LIGHTS” grow dim and disappear. As our memories of this place already begin to fade, we promise to return one day.
On reflection, VHS LOUNGE is quite a soothing experience. Although the samples could be a bit more distinctive from one another and the tape warble could be just a bit heavier, it doesn’t fail to generate a sense of indulgence for the listener to briefly vanish into. For those needing some time away, they could do much worse than to spend a few minutes in the lounge.
Nigh uncontrollably funky, this re-release of iacon’s first album 並列処理 P A R A L L E L I S M sounds as fresh as ever. Lowering the overall audio level, the remastering also opens up room so that the tracks feel less flattened than in the original release.
Tingeing its highly dance-able rhythms with an edge of pitch-shifted melancholy and fairly sparse chops, AFFINITY rides a line somewhere between Disco and Vaporwave yet remains clearly distinct from Future Funk. In particular, if “再见 GOODBYE” doesn’t at least make you wiggle in your seat, you may need to seek medical attention.
In The Beholder, Nameless Warning has skillfully wielded a production style often echoing early-to-mid-aughts electronica. In this style, they’ve crafted a cohesive album with a consistent — but never monotonous — sound tied together by clearly heartfelt vocals. Throughout the album, the lyrics set an introspective tone and suggest a difficult but ultimately hopeful personal struggle that I find resonates with my own. This album is a high quality aural experience.
“The Origin” begins slowly, as if waking with the dawn, setting the stage with an eerie, portentous atmosphere enhanced by non-verbal vocals before transitioning into the soft drum beat and dreamy synths of “The Answers.” This evokes the same quiet excitement one feels at the cusp of a new beginning, reinforced by the lyrics “Everything is new, but I’m not scared, just unprepared.”
Following this, we reach the highest emotional point of the album with the bright sound and cheery hi-hat of “The Light.” This brings forth an exuberance that mellows into the more subdued cautious positivity of “The Stranded.” Both songs assert an optimistic outlook in the face of unpleasant circumstances.
Despite that optimism, the mood is brought crashing down in “The Future” by a rainstorm of doubt. The unknown is no longer exciting, but frightening and dangerous, as underscored by the morose atmosphere and lyrics: “I’m not taking any chances under these circumstances, the rain never stops and I finally drown.” In the final minute, the tone shifts with a defiant guitar solo seeming to signal the parting of the metaphorical clouds, but a lingering dread remains as the track closes.
At the halfway point, title track “The Beholder” takes a moment to recuperate from this setback and build the listener back up, restoring hope with the soft assurance that “it’s only up from here.” Thus rejuvenated, “The Memory” quickly accelerates with a powerful, confidence-inspiring beat and affirmations like “one day you will find out everything you fear’s all in your head,” before fading with an ominous breakbeat outro.
Though the debilitating sense of fear has abated, there still remains a tinge of apprehension in “The Real.” Moody synths and a downtempo beat accompanied by lyrics with a defensive edge reflect a guarded presentation to the outside world until, in the final third, the pitch suddenly shifts up and takes on a more relaxed, vulnerable tone. This vulnerability gives way in “The Night” to a kind of ghostly longing, a wistful pleading for some unknown other to lean on and to help carry us “through the night” as we near the end of our journey.
In “The Resurgence,” we are presented with quite a dramatic sonic arc. Beginning quietly, the music slowly layers itself into an almost frenzied dance beat. Then, smoothly transforming into a swelling crescendo, we are inexorably propelled to a stirring climax before tapering off into an ethereal, far-away rendition of the refrain from “The Beholder,” and we are finally allowed to rest. The lyrics, too, lend a particular grandiose quality, vague and mysterious enough to map any desired significance onto.
In fact, it’s that very sense of universality pervading The Beholder that allows it to transcend beyond a mere collection of enjoyable tracks into something remarkable. Whatever literal events in Nameless Warning’s life inspired each song, they’ve gently winnowed away the chaff and left a core emotional grain that should stir something familiar in anyone who hears it.