An Idiot’s Guide To Vaporwave
Just what is vaporwave?
Back when I was a ketamine addict I often heard the drug described as “lovely but wrong” – just like a hug from that dodgy aunt of yours.
Much like an evening on the old wobble dust, a single vaporwave track can bring on confusion, delight, nostalgia and dismay in quick succession.
In its purest form, you can typically expect to hear samples from the cheesiest, most glittery '80s pop tunes, dragged through an array of lo-fi effects, with vocals slowed to a crawl, or percussion cut barely in time with the beat, at times producing a nightmarish cacophony from an otherwise sequins, smiles and big hair-covered sample base.
The first record I play anyone who asks me about the sweet sweet vapor is Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus aka Vektroid.
Floral Shoppe is a dive into the deep end in terms of new listeners of the genre having to endure some truly jarring outros, while at the same time being treated to some of the most unique, stylised and enjoyable music they may have heard up until that point. It's a dichotomy, and that perfectly sums up vaporwave. It displays to us the glittery appeal of consumerism and '80s excess, with the top layer peeled away to reveal a seedy underbelly.
Nearly seven years after its release, the album now lives in infamy as arguably the birth of popular vaporwave, and at the very least as home to the unchallenged vaporwave anthem ‘Lisa Frank 420 / Modern Computing’.
Amidst an outburst of controversy, hiked prices and late shipments due to extremely high demand, Floral Shoppe finally got a vinyl release, the record itself coloured in none other than the signature vaporwave bubblegum pink (phwoar) and the sleeve sporting the signature statue busts and Microsoft Paint artwork that has become synonymous with Floral Shoppe and vaporwave in general.
The audio starts with the '80s, kisses the '90s, then jumps to the present day – it’s not uncommon to hear a disco-inspired beat in a mix, followed by a lounge music swayer, then a banger sporting high production value synths laid over wonderfully complex trap style drums.
The visual style that is so important to vaporwave on the other hand, starts in the '80s and stays firmly in the '90s. Expect neon pink, purple, turquoise and a healthy dose of Greek statues, all thrown together in Paint with the type of moody graphics your dormant PlayStation 1 would scoff at.
It’s retro but just modern enough to never possibly be considered cool – it started as an internet meme and it’s a laugh for fuck's sake – if anyone tells you they won’t listen to vaporwave because the aesthetic leads the charge and they think it’s pretentious, then they’ve missed the point and haven’t listened to enough of the genre to fall in love yet. When they do, it’ll grab them like it does everyone else.
Some homework for you.
Go on a vaporwave pilgrimage and listen to Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus.
After that, take in some cleaner, crisper, more palatable production with Blank Banshee's Blank Banshee 0 and Esprit's virtua.zip.
If you’re after some straight up feel good disco vibes, go check out Saint Pepsi, and then once you’re ready to plunge yourself back into chaotic sample madness, settle down to Oneohtrix Point Never aka Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol.1.
Finally, relax and unwind to literally any track produced by the godly Telepath.
Go forth and enjoy the madness you sickos.