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.
While this new self-titled release may technically be the third album under Male Tears’ belt, it does in many ways represent a debut. What originally began as a solo act — under which the albums Endless Tears and Artism reside — is now a duo as Mister Mellow joins up, and the sound of the group has shifted and changed to reflect this new formula. While Male Tears remains at its core a synthpop outfit, there is now a greater representation of sounds, of styles, and most importantly, of personality.
Right out of the gate, the opening track, “Chained Up” is able to evoke the greatest acts of the new wave. If that’s a genre or sound you’ve grown up on or just grown fond of, the influence is immediately apparent. But this is no mere copy. The music doesn’t exist merely to pay homage to that which came before. The tandem has something of its own to say. Between the many music videos that have been released for tracks off this album, as well as the artwork itself, there is a cohesive vision at play. While sonically things scream New Order, visually we are met with something a bit more malleable. Think more along the lines of the chameleonic nature that helped define the career of David Bowie and you’re in the ballpark. The album elicits a fiercely androgynous sex appeal that permeates every layer of the release. The masks of these two personae –lipstick, eye shadow, hairstyling- are no better represented than on the album cover, with a version for each member of the group. Even the instruments contribute to this, as the tones and choices made culminate to help you peer at the world through the lens of Male Tears.
After the opener, things get even more energetic, with the intriguing “Let’s Pretend,” an uncannily catchy tune that revels in hypotheticals. In a world still reeling from the ongoing pandemic, the idea of viewing love or romance as an idea to be solely indulged in hypothetically is an especially intriguing concept. After the opener, it’s the first real moment where the album “locks eyes” with the listener as well. While the gaze may grow ever intense as the release wears on, here it’s teasing, playful.
But as we dive deeper into the release, the darker side of things starts to show up. While the tunes maintain their airiness thanks in large part to tinkling synths, the subject matter gets more concerning. Even the track titles themselves start to paint this picture. Playing pretend was fun and all, but “Good in the Dark” starts to take these fleeting fantasies further. While on the surface, this is the best Pat Benatar track in decades, the manifestations of those casual glances are getting more intense. Things are heating up, but what happens when the dark gives way to light?
“Creep Distance” is the answer to that question, which carries a far less peppy melody. The drums cut that extra bit harder, the vocals croon more, and the fantasy seems to be over. The most frequently uttered line in the track is “don’t stand so close to me.” A divide in the earlier dreams has formed. This is further reaffirmed by the lyrics explicity, saying “now that we’ve grown far apart.” If that doesn’t spell things out enough, the next track, “Human Errorz,” unbelievably gets more sinister. While the lyrical content is more pensive and less dramatic, the synths in this one are downright sinister. And that’s to say nothing of the punctuating, downright propulsive percussion.
But things can’t all be grim, can they? Surely you’ve got to be able to turn a corner eventually, right? Well what if we just fast-forwarded right to that? That’s what “Future X” decides to do, jumping forward past the dour ruminations of the last couple emotional tracks. We have a more peppy beat again, the synthesized strings are back, and the lyrics talk about not wanting to “think about any time but the future,” before repeating “take me to the future” in the chorus. A future where things are looking up perhaps?
But not so fast. “Adult Film” hasn’t had its say just yet. Opening with a solo bass line that sounds handmade for a keytar, this track probably has the most dramatic vocals of the release. The rigors of singing are more evident than ever, with the emotional strain of the subject matter being most evident. Really, the whole track feels off the rails. The dizzying arpeggiated xylophones represent the nucleus of the tune running through basically the whole song. But this manic pace was never going to last.
“She Lives in the Pipes” tones things back down a bit, bringing the tempo to a calmer, more controlled level. While the subject matter on the surface might sound, well, strange, sonically, this is one of the standouts on the album. While it’s a little trickier to find a place for this in the “story” we’ve crafted here, it’s got maybe the best chorus on the whole album. So let’s think of it as a narrative interlude or the infectiously catchy commercial that interrupted your regularly scheduled programming.
The respite doesn’t last long though, as the penultimate track brings an incredibly important revelation both in the context of the album, and more broadly, in everyday life. “I Should Feel How I Feel” may attempt to tackle the ability — or inability — to accept oneself for who they are. The song appears to deal with some pretty troubling subject matter, almost as if not being accepted is deserved for someone being the way that they are, and trying to come to grips with that revelation. After all of the events that had come before, this track may represent some kind of resigned acceptance to one’s role or purpose in the world. But understanding and acknowledging that is an important step in being able to move beyond it. It’s pretty bleak stuff, so what comes next is rather surprising.
Whatever you were expecting next, it’s probably not a brilliant Rick Astley-esque tune, is it? Well with “Take My Picture”, that’s what we get. The drums carry the expected crisp gated reverb that defined much of ‘80s drumming — and don’t get us started on the synth tones! Given how bleak some of the past few minutes have felt, it’s perhaps encouraging that the album ends so optimistically. It affords us some hope for the future. And it’s a wonderful closer on an album that has us as optimistic as ever for the future of Male Tears.
If you’re anxious to get your hands on the album you won’t need to wait long, as it will be dropping on Pacific Plaza Records Sunday, February 14th –yes, that’s Valentine’s Day- at 12PM PST.
gbanas92 Score:4/5 Favorite Track: Good in the Dark
A low level buzz heralds the start of NYX. A little glimpse of the general hue of warm feedback that follows pretty much throughout the release. There’s a sound like some unfathomably large freight train peeling out of a gnarled, gothic station; but as the atmosphere settles a similar sound emerges at a different pitch, clarifying that what we hear is a melodic sequence rather than a sound effect. The hybridization of fizzling static and muffled angelic pads was the cause of such a shocking and intense beginning, but the two aspects separate fairly swiftly. What proceeds from this point sounds something like footage from the rapture spewing from an old television set. Instead of sounding grand and palpable, the pad strings leak out of an unstable and non-grandiose set of speakers. It is almost like awakening from a dream, there was a fleeting moment that felt as though we were experiencing this strange celestial event first-hand. However as we come to understand what is being presented, we realize it claws over toward us from a tired old screen.
As if the old hardware has been on too long and found a way to connect with the spiritual plane. Needle-like euphoria pierces through the unpredictable waves of fuzz, at points the melodies even seem to push through like a hand of pure light desperately trying to permeate its shoddy, fizzling encasement. Throughout this, Zer0れい remains unafraid of leaving the listener in moments of silence. For some artists, music of this style would cause a nerve-racking pressure, where it might feel as thought the artist must always be presenting the atmosphere explicitly. This would cause an overexposure to the fascinating atmosphere. But with Zer0れい there are gaps peppered about, moments without the guiding light of the euphoric ambience, and also where the feedback ceases to spit out static as well. In these brief periods of silence, it almost feels as though your soul is recuperating after being set upon by a strange and entrancing experience.
These fleeting respites end with a reiteration of the desolate and decrepit aura that controls NYX. There is also something incredibly unique about the melodies Zer0れい utilizes. They are unrelenting tendrils that sneak past the grainy fugue; long drawling laments. When it feels as though a melodic episode has concluded, the artist finds another combination of notes to keep the sorrowful performance going. In this way the track limps at points, with breaks in feedback and melodic narrative. This serves to amplify the fragmented and heady nature of the music as a whole. At certain stages, it almost sounds like there are voices meshed into the slow-attack notes. Noises like bells can also be heard throughout, before the onslaught of melody is enveloped in waves of heavy distortion. Toward the end, a swirling pool of the euphoric ambience begins to build. The lashes of harsh feedback continue, but every time they hit they disappear, more swiftly than before, into the burgeoning sea of beautiful noise. The opening side to Zer0れい‘s NYX is truly haunting. The atmosphere submerges everything from the very start, everything happens through this heady, violent sludge. But even in such torrid audio conditions, Zer0れい sneaks in moments of pure beauty.
The narrative takes a darker turn still as we enter the second half. The same large sweeps of metallic viscera appear, but this time do not often relent in any meaningful way. Instead, gargantuan shrouds of noise crash into slowly descending whistles. The falling tones are unsettling, as if the music has buckled from the pressure and now hurtles downward like a faltering aeroplane. The feeling is one of overarching disorientation. At least the first half of NYX had a safe space in its sheepish melancholy. In this second part, the listener is completely on their own amidst screaming tunes and violent walls of muddy, metallic nothingness. Even when the melody gains a little bit more of a footing and certain notes are sent across the listener’s bow, they are completely bested and beaten down by the constant monotony of the void. Low notes begin to coo patiently against the tide, almost choral in their delivery.
At a certain point, a deep bass sound begins to enmesh itself in with the dissonance, allowing for melody to inch its way into focus without being hindered by the relentless din. Here we find a little ballast upon which to try and weather the storm; we hear muffled ghosts of notes pulse through a thick fog. After throbbing feedback, all sounds begin to falter. Only certain crackles and flickers have a volatile feel to them, the rest of what we were hearing seems to have hurtled far away from us now. This is one of the only times it seems we are able to hide away from the atmosphere Zer0れい has created. But it is in no way comforting, it feels as if we are mere yards away from this strange ghostly tower in which the noisy struggle rages on. A heavenly chorus emerges through the grayscale rage of sound, its tune bending and screeching. The conclusion to NYX is not the rapturous recalibration of light and dark that we may have hoped for. Rather the two sounds slowly simmer down and stop, the pause is so sudden that it almost feels as if it could just be another swift intermission before the roaring shrieks back in. It fills the listener with dark wonderings about the sounds, which harbored so much power and rage that they could easily burn on forever past the project’s runtime.
Zer0れい assembles defunct sounds and feedback, pitting them against each other and occasionally fusing them together. This is a fairly basic methodology. But, in NYX the artist instills an incredibly harrowing atmosphere, an incapacitating journey through a volatile and alien landscape viewed through rusted old machinery. In the first part, one might imagine a lone TV set, spewing sick light into a living room and entrancing an unaware subject with visions of angelic beauty. The second part sounds like what would be playing when the police break down the subject’s door a few weeks later, finding the apartment’s contents vaporized and the owner driven to madness by the indescribable dark energy enshrined within what was playing.
It is hard to say whether or not walking simulators should be considered games. After all, there is no such thing as losing or winning in these sorts of games and most of your time will be spent holding down the W key on your keyboard to move forward. As such, they need to make up for their lack of actual gameplay with striking visuals, a proper mood-setting soundtrack, and an engaging story that has the player coming back for more. The question is, does Argent Games’ “Self-Checkout Unlimited” tick off all the right boxes?
The game starts off with your faceless and silent protagonist waking up in an empty, mid-90’s indoor mall with no obvious way of getting out. It is up to you to explore this strange embodiment of American consumer culture and to find your way out, though the game makes it very clear that not all is as it seems with posters telling you “Rapture is giving up the need to control” and reminding you “Nothing that you see here was, is, or ever will be real.” Directed by the friendly voices coming from intercoms above head, you go on a journey of self-discovery and self-reflection to find out who you really are and exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing in this big scary world of ours.
If it sounds deep, that is because it is, but also it is not. It is like looking down into the depths of a giant pool that seems to have no bottom… only to jump in and discover that what you thought was an endless abyss was actually only about two feet deep and now your legs are broken. Throughout the game you go to various stores, each with its own purpose in helping you discover your true self, but the game never seems to get to any kind of point. It tosses around a lot of deep sounding words and phrases, but at no point did I feel like they had any kind of meaning to them.
Furthermore, there is very little interactivity in the game. There are a couple of very minor puzzles, but most of the time your tasks involve walking from point A to point B and occasionally placing object C into spot D, and the above is only done in the context of progressing the game forward. It seems like such a waste to have an entire (albeit rather small) mall at your disposal and for there to be so little to do. There are only five outlet stores which are open to you in this place which exist solely for the purpose of progressing the story forward. The others are closed off and kept in darkness so you cannot even go inside to have a look around.
What the game does get right, though, are the visuals and sound design. Clean and polished tile floors reflect the lights that shine overhead, the constant babbling of the grand fountain in the middle of the shopping center, the barely audible Muzak that plays from unseen speakers. The soundtrack is completely original to the game and was produced by Mr. Zunino, along with beloved vaporwave producer desert sand feels warm at night, who provided the music for the more abstract parts of the game. The Stores and small size aside, this place feels like the proper abandoned mall that fans of 猫 シ Corp. keep dreaming about. Furthermore, as you go along your quest you will be transported to other settings that are staples of the vaporwave genre such as an indoor swimming pool and a seemingly endless parking lot.
All in all, “Self-Checkout Unlimited” really nails the aesthetics, but with a price tag of eight bucks and a shallow experience that only lasts for around an hour, it is a damn shame that the developers could not do more with it.
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.
Premium Value has everything you need to pull at your heartstrings without emptying your wallet. Love Languages is made up of 7 tracks of unadulterated vapor, ready to pop and jam to while you drive, work, or stare at dim lights in your bedroom at 3 a.m. The timeless, desolate streets of Shinar hide a convenience store close to the great tower. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it crumble down in slow motion due to some unseen might. It’s been falling before you ever started dreaming. Stop by and satisfy your thirst. You know this song. Someone out there is thinking of you.
Thank You! Private Suite! A Compilation by First Class Collective
For those who might not know, Utopia District comprises quite a few former members of the Private Suite Magazine team. As such, we thought it would be interesting to share our thoughts on the magnificent and humbling release from First Class Collective; Thank You! Private Suite! Consider this not so much a review as a handful of us giving some love back for the overwhelming support the magazine received during its run, and more heart-achingly, upon its closure.
Cerulea_d.lux:The sheer breadth and depth of this compilation is stunning and humbling. To know our work touched so many corners of our community and inspired such a beautiful album is an indescribable feeling! I can’t think of a better send-off for a project that meant so much to so many in two short years.
Darkfez:As it did for so many, Private Suite gave me my first home and family in vaporwave. I was encouraged and supported even as I encouraged and supported others. I’ll miss having that group of folks all in one place. But we’ll find each other again!
DJ Nonn:As someone who was first drawn to Private Suite for their coverage of lesser-known artists and smaller parts of the scene, it’s heartwarming to see this compilation full of familiar names I never would have known if not for PSM. With so many artists of different sizes, this compilation embodies one of my favorite aspects of Private Suite Media — that of inclusivity. First Class Collective is truly doing their part to keep vaporwave a welcoming artistic community.
gbanas92:While I wasn’t a part of the Private Suite team for a terribly long time, it was really rather heartwarming to see just how many people wanted to step up and send off a magazine that so many of us loved in style. Plus, so much of the music on the compilation is really great too!
Indy Advant: What a thoughtful idea. Private Suite meant so many things to so many people, it’s hard to quantify the impact this compilation album will have on us as individuals. Thank you, Ethan and Zico, thank you First Class Collective. This is such a treat, especially to all those that volunteered so much of their time working to make Private Suite a cohesive and meaningful product.
Priestess:This compilation album has something for everyone, from the fizzy pop melody of “sweet suite” to the Tarantino-esque “Television Scenes.” Overall slightly melancholic, perfect for fall and ushering out the wonderful publication that was Private Suite.
As a parting thought, we’d like to thank First Class Collective one more time for having the drive and the passion to make this happen. For those of us that helped make Private Suite a reality, it means more than we’ll ever truly be able to say.
In genres like vaporwave, it’s not every day you see risks taken. Though innovation and pushing the boundaries of the genre are oft-discussed topics, producers can be a little too comfortable with simply pitching down an ‘80s jam and calling it a day. Neon95’s latest release, What Happens After We Die? is a fresh take on the genre that proves to be much more than the norm — a little less “abandoned shopping mall”, a little more “watching ‘80s sci-fi on VHS”.
The EP opens with “Welcome to the Afterlife,” an upbeat, cheerful song compared to the usual moody vaporwave fare. A catchy, synthy melody is laid over chunky hip-hop drums with sounds reminiscent of the 16-bit video game era; think SNES’ Earthbound on steroids. The album completely changes direction with “Dream Catcher”, beginning with an ominous synth line before becoming a full-fledged jungle/drum and bass track. Crispy, slappy snares shuffle around a simplistic but practical bassline, while the synth continues over top. This would work great in a DJ set, though it does lack a mixable intro/outro, so you’d have to get creative.
“RE: Incarnate” conjures up major goth nightclub vibes. Buzzing bee-hive synth, ‘90s house drums, and sci-fi synthesizers create a sinister feeling of looming. You know the scene in Blade where they’re in the vampire nightclub? This is that moment in the form of a song. For the purists, “Far Far Away”, “Stars Shine Brightest in the Dark”, and “Pass Through the Fog…” return to a more familiar vaporwave sound. The slow, detached nostalgia is there, but it doesn’t rely as heavily on samples as some of the genre’s heavy hitters. The album finishes with “…into the Great Unknown”, another synth-laden track with big, resonant vaporwave drums, strong hip-hop influence, and a less-obvious repetitive synth riff.
In a genre that can sometimes feel like a giant meme, it’s refreshing to hear songs that don’t conform to the sometimes rigid boundaries and aesthetic of vaporwave. What Happens After We Die? combines elements of hip-hop, synthwave, jungle, house, and more while still maintaining a cohesive theme and highlighting Neon95’s diverse musical skill set. It’s admirable to see such a wide and unexpected set of influences make it into the EP. If you’re looking for an interesting fever dream with which to end the year, the risks taken on this little EP provide many sonic rewards for the listener.
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.
When we think of vaportrap, we all know the first artist that comes to mind. Ever since he emerged on the scene back in 2012, Blank Banshee has reigned over the microgenre with three damn fine albums and is hoping to keep the vaportrap train going with his newest album, Gaia.
The album begins with “Primordial” which gives you a taste of things to come. You are going to hear a lot of familiar sounds on this track if you have listened to Banshee’s previous albums, but among these beats lay new, acoustic-styled instrumentation, which hints at the artist taking a step outside of his comfort zone.
The appropriately named “Mind Trap” comes at you next with a fast and thumping rave-like beat, along with some interesting punkish vocals. This one is light on the vapor and heavy on the trap with some heavy pounding, hard thumping beats that are just a tad on the aggressive side for a vaporwave album.
The plucking string acoustics return in “Tetralix” and while it is still undeniably a vaportrap song, they take center stage in this track creating an upbeat and less electronic sounding treat that is rather enjoyable.
The fourth track on the album, “Blue Marble” was a bit all over the place, but in a good way. At one point you are listening to a rather standard trap beat, the next you are hearing some guy go to town on a pair of bongos. All of it though has that Banshee touch to it which acts as a glue to ensure that it sounds like one whole and complete piece of music rather than various parts of different songs haphazardly taped together.
“Green Ray” follows it which was a rather average Blank Banshee track. The track had a great beat, cool electronic sounds, spot on percussion, but all in all was rather plain for the king of vaportrap. What follows is “Teknofossil” and “Mythril”, two tracks that are slightly slower in pace, but the instruments on “Teknofossil” did not seem like they ever came together in any way and “Mythril” sounds like it is preparing for a drop that never comes, which leaves the listener wanting.
Things improve with “Chlorine”, though — a percussion heavy song, but one that should make fans of his previous albums feel more at home. The fast rhythm of the song goes great with the dubstep-like electronics that are stacked on it, and makes for a fun listen that can still reasonably be called vaporwave.
The album stumbles again with “Aquaduct” which was a strange song, if only for the typewriter sound effect that plays throughout. Usually Blank Banshee is a master of turning mundane sounds into musical genius, but this one simply does not pan out because of how non-musical the inclusion of the typewriter sounds in the song.
Things slow down a bit with “Enso”, a relaxing track that borrows sounds from Blank Banshee 1 and is the return of the motivational tape woman from “Visualisation” off Blank Banshee 0, seemingly a favorite sample of the artist.
“Neo Geo” follows, and while it is not a bad track by any means, it may sound somewhat plain for the first one or two listens. I admit though that as I listened to it on repeat, it has a bit of an earworm to it. It has an infectious hook in what, at first glance, appears to be an unassuming song. Great melodies can do that to you.
While “Sentinel” may sound like another relatively simple tune, I grew to admire it for the hang drum sound that Blank Banshee is known for using. The beat, while slow, is varied and keeps things entertaining.
“Fund my Death” is a strange one. It is another track on the album that includes vocals, but this time both sung and spoken. While it is interesting, it feels like two separate songs. Soft vocals sing over the gentler slower parts of the track— then out of the blue, a man aggressively tells you to “fund his death” while dubstep sounds blare and “wub wub”.
“Uncanny Valley” is in the same zone as “Neo Geo”, interesting simplicity. There is only a small variety of instruments used in the track with not a lot of variety in how they are used, but it is nonetheless skillfully created and makes for an enjoyable song.
Blank Banshee meets cyberpunk in this banging track with the fitting title of “Escape.” It is a song like no other on the album so it feels a bit out of place, but I would love to hear more experimentation with sounds like this. The intensity is not too overwhelming and makes for a heart-racing thrill ride that leads up to the mildest track on the album, “Batteries,” a series of very slow and calming tones, wrapping up the album on a gentler note.
I am gonna come clean and say that I had some bias for this review. Blank Banshee is one of the artists that got me into vaporwave and his first album Blank Banshee 0 has got to be up there as far as some of my favorite albums go. After listening to this album though, I had to have a looooooong think about what I was going to rate it and decided that it would not be right to rate this album solely based on Banshee’s previous releases. My conclusion is this: Gaia is a solid vaportrap album. There are some stumbles, but if you take the album as it is, it is more than worthy of being enjoyed and listened to as a good addition to the Blank Banshee discography.