Music: Here To Stay
by: 3D Blast
Written By: Zack
In the waning days of 2020, I made a prediction for how 2021 would play out. I said to myself “People missed out on a lot this year, and to make up for lost time, people are going to be a bit…extra.”
When I made that statement, it was with the intention that the “extra” would be people putting out their best, giving 110%. This January, 3D Blast gave us “extra” with his latest release Music: Here to Stay
Album Art By Iseeicy
This 9 track album has a lot to say despite the short tracklist. Each track, however, paints a vivid picture packed with plunderphonics, genius genre blends, and a healthy peppering of memes.
Starting off with the album’s opening track “3rd Best.” This track is a swirling symphony of warm sounds and synths. The expertly sampled “Kokomo” gives us a taste of what this album aims to be, something familiar but still forward-thinking. 3D Blast always reminds us that we shouldn’t take him, or his music too seriously. Interspliced in this track are samples of Sans from Undertale and Isabelle from Animal Crossing.
Before we can get too comfortable, “Here to Stay” plunges us into a dreamy, trip-hoppy track that mashes “Fireflies” with “Superman” in a combination no one else would think about. Listening to this, we couldn’t help but have a spring in our step.
We take an odd detour with “Jameela Jamil”. Named after the British actress, this track features Jameela talking in an interview about being a “feminist in progress.” Accompanying her speech is the S.E.S song “I’m Your Girl” stretched and slowed. Every so often, a pitched sample from Neon Genesis Evangelion adds a dream-like quality to the track. Is there a deeper meaning? Or is 3D Blast just a big fan of The Good Place? Who knows.
Up until this point, the overall aesthetic of this record has been relaxing, groovy plunderphonics, but 3D Blast shifts things into high gear to on the back half of this record. Tracks like “Twentyinfinity” and “Nailed Frequencies” are bonafide future funk bops anyone can dance to. Interspersed throughout these two tracks are some well-placed samples, including a Joe Rogan clip that sends us right back to the dance floor.
The last couple of tracks were certainly not slept on either. Music: Here To Stay’s final three tracks have some very interesting features. 3D teams up with psychedelic grunge band The Effens on the track “Live Forever (You Got it)”. The dreamy, hypnopop lyrics mixed with 3D’s sampling and mixing makes this track sound like it could come right out of a George Clanton album.
Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to the best track on this entire album; “Earth Worlder.” The Wizard of Loneliness and 3D Blast team up to craft a tale as old as time; The Legend of Earth Worlder. With a mix of high fantasy Bakshi-esque storytelling peppered with chiptune and video game samples, Earth Worlder rocked me to my very core and embedded itself deep in the caverns of my brain.
Last but certainly not least is “My Fault,” starring vaporwave’s saddest boy, Dan Mason. This song is actually a super wombo combo of two projects. The vocals are a pitched-up version of Dan Mason’s “little too late” and 3D’s own “Miss Resist”. The result is a track that makes us want to get up and dance while also holding back tears of unrequited love.
Put simply, this album is all gas, no breaks. It starts strong, maintains that energy through, and has managed to be one of our top vaporwave albums of the year, and it’s only January!
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Favorite Track: Earth Worlder (feat. The Wizard of Loneliness)
Written By: Stuad^Dib
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.
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Favorite Track: INTERLUDE
Written by: Zack
Into Dreams is the latest album by Epson, an artist who has released hit after hit in the late-night lo-fi scene. With vaporwave like this, you want the entire album to be an experience, one track blending seamlessly into another. The smooth jazz and R&B beats create the feeling of walking downtown after a long party. You’re tired from the night’s festivities, but you have a spring in your step.
Album Art By: EPSON
Right off the bat, we have what is easily the strongest track in the album, “VCR Melt”. As the title suggests, this song is a melty, ooey-gooey slope of slow R&B beats that open up to a ballad of beautiful synths, all while sampled vocals phase in and out. They are recognizable, but just before you can fully recall the song it fades away like a long-forgotten memory. VCR Melt effortlessly guides the listener into the rest of this album.
This is not to say that this opening track does all the heavy lifting. The sampling and consistent production throughout gives the listener a great transition into songs like “Space Jeep” and “Epson 93-95”. What this album is, above all, is an experience reminiscent of classic vaporwave — capital “V” vaporwave if you will.
At the end of the night, that’s where Into Dreams is trying to take you. Tracks like “Captain Midnight” are reminiscent of classic artists like Infinity Frequencies and Mindspring Memories while tracks like “ⓡⓔⓛⓐⓧ ⓡⓔⓜⓘⓧ” feel almost like Lux Elite B-Sides. With Into Dreams, the listener is transported into this world of hazy, smooth synths and distant drums. What Into Dreams is trying to sell you on is the holistic experience of late-night delights. Pun absolutely intended.
However, some might find the thematic cohesion of this album a negative. People love singles, and aside from VRC Melt and the album’s closing track “Deja Vu”, the album can’t really be picked apart. With most of the tracks being under two minutes, listeners might find it hard to tell the difference between tracks like “Which Way” and “Memphis Socks”.
To that point though; why would you want to pick apart individual tracks? I mean, this album is clearly meant to be consumed as a whole, and leaving tracks out is ultimately cheapening the experience. Like leaving the pickles out of the burger you ordered from the hole-in-the-wall diner downtown. Just like this record, it gives you savory satisfaction. Just eat the damn pickles.
Into Dreams offers a reliable late-night lo-fi experience that harkens back to classic vaporwave aesthetics. While some listeners might see this as a relatively safe release with few extraordinary qualities that might help it stand out from the sea of classic vaporwave sounds, this Epson album is still a solid choice if you’re aiming to recreate that nostalgic feel.
Written by: C A S I N O
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 i
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