WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE DIE?
Written by: icelevel
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”.
Album Art by William R. Detwiler
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.
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Favorite Track: Dream Catcher