What do you get when you mix Instagram with seasonal affective disorder? A little something called Vaporwave…
See, when you live in Columbus, Ohio, you have to endure some harsh winters. It sounds horrible, and believe me, it is. But there are some definite perks to staying inside 80% of the time. For one, you get to watch TV in bed and avoid judgment or any remorse for not being outside. You also get to order Indian food and pizza every weekend. For me, all of the above is a reality during the cold months, but what’s even better is that I tend to discover more music during this time each year.
For example, last winter my friends brought home a turntable. We raided some local record stores, shared a few of our favorites, hooked the system up to a couple of monitor speakers, turned on the fog machine like a bunch of assholes, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Oh, and the boys discovered Jim Post.
Well, this winter was a little different…
After throwing in the social media towel a few years back, I decided to give in to Instagram again last fall. At first, it was all fun and games: tagging my closest friends in random, extremely absurdist clips and horrifyingly immature photos. Then, it turned into a genuine, communal interest in “lowbrow” (I hate that term) artists promoting themselves almost solely on Instagram. Pretty neat. In fact, if you haven’t checked out Craig Gleason yet, you absolutely should. At this point in my life, my feed is almost entirely food, Schnauzers, and cats…
But I digress…
Basically, during that transition from fall to winter, my friends and I were knee-deep in memes. I don’t think we could take life seriously during those few months. But something caught our attention. We noticed that a lot of the clips were playing the same song, and we had NO idea what it was, but we wanted it. Like, ASAP. Well, thanks to the Instagram community, we found out that the song was called, uh… well, actually it’s all in a different language but it’s something about Lisa Frank and 420…
All you need to know is that the artist is Macintosh Plus, the album is called Floral Shoppe, it’s a Diana Ross song spliced and slowed down, and that you need to listen to this:
After a little digging, we discovered that this song is under a generally unknown genre called Vaporwave. Here’s a quick breakdown of the genre:
- It began online via Tumblr and Reddit around 2010
- It’s obsessed with 80s and 90s culture
- Its album covers and music videos can be described as 1980s + Japanese aesthetic (think: Blade Runner) + Tropical + Roman Busts
- Its musical origin is largely obscure 80s and 90s elevator music but has since evolved
- It’s almost entirely anonymous
I was immediately drawn to this phenomenon because of the distorted, early digital graphic design. It reminded me of a quality the Tim and Eric Awesome Show accomplished. But obviously, it was the music, itself, that truly hooked me. It forced Tom and I into three hours of discussion. You know, the type of conversation you have with someone when you first meet them and really “click.” Life convos. College kids do this a lot. It was weird.
So what sparked such a dramatic conversation between the two of us? Well, a lot of things. Everything mentioned above is worth discussing, but our conversation began the minute we heard what resembled a CD skipping in almost every Vaporwave song.
Let me explain…
Today’s mainstream music has acquired some sort of disco-70s vibe. You could certainly call it nostalgic, but not the way Vaporwave is considered nostalgic. Vaporwave isn’t just incorporating distinct tones of the 80s and 90s; it’s incorporating the entire experience we all remember – CD skips and all.
Hearing it made me feel sick. Not like how I feel when I eat too many gummy worms, but like, anxious and uncomfortable. It’s what Tom described this morning as “a true haunting.” Maybe it’s how my parents felt when I played them a record at my house recently. How is it that we make so many advancements in technology only to revert back to the lesser with appreciation? Kinda pretentious, I know, but bear with me.
It makes a lot of sense how we discovered Vaporwave. According to Marx, “all that is sold melts into air.” Like waves of vapor, right? This music isn’t meant to have a deeper meaning; it’s not supposed to be a song you listen to over and over again. Vaporwave songs will come in and out of your life as quickly as you read this post. Sort of like those memes on Instagram. Sure, you’re allowed to go back and laugh at them, but how often do you do that? Isn’t it true that when something is funny, it loses its luster if you revisit it too often? Plus, those hilarious little 10-year-olds on Instagram are pumping out, like, 30+ memes a day. Same goes for Vaporwave. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but there isn’t enough time to appreciate them all, my friends.
It’s ostentatious. It’s obscure. It’s angsty, controversial, nostalgic, and anonymous. Oh, how fun. Don’t listen to me ramble on and on about it for much longer. Check it all out at bandcamp.com.
Oh and hey, here’s some good music: