The Rise of Vaporwave & New Age Aesthetics

in #vaporwave5 years ago (edited)

If you're a writer, musician, visual artist, branding enthusiast, or just a lover of culture - this will interest you.


I'm a passionate follower of Internet countercultures. Discovering vaporwave was the end my part-time DJing career, simply because I was too mesmerized by it and subsequently refused to play popular music against my will anymore. Especially on repeat. Too many good music out there. Maybe I'll hit the clubs again one day, when they're ready.

If you are into cryptocurrency news, you might have noticed the meme-like, Ethereum-based project called Hermicity. The founder released a Rainbow Paper, a work heavily influenced by Vaporwave. Any Steemit hermits? Hermicity might be your salvation.

Anyway, I've been studying this certain shift in audiovisual consciousness. Is this the sign of the singularity? It's like an addictive meme to the n-th order. All facets of it jumbled, intertwined, and emphatically relatable in all ways. As if some sort of awakening.

Is this product the first-world's culmination of drugs, depression, and distress? Half right. Add godly levels of mental sovereignty and collective intelligence into the mix. This is the voice of the youth - the "jobless" and "entitled" generation. A generation that has been wronged by mainstream society. I'm here to convince you about this phenomenon. And get you hooked on it. There are so many things to learn and understand from it.

Plus you'll get a lifetime's worth of free good music that doesn't always sound the same.

To preface this, I am dedicating half of the future payouts coming out of this writeup to support the vaporwave and new age aesthetics community. More marketing points for Steemit as well, in hopeful reciprocation. Etherpunk's honor.

If you have never heard of Vaporwave before, take a look at the chart below that I've just stitched up.


It was all just in my mind before, but now I'm feeling validated.

Look at the decline of the popular genres and the exponential rise of Vaporwave. There's a reason why I have included Minimalist as well. There's a mindset correlation between Vaporwave and Minimalism (as both musical and lifestyle discipline). Minimalism is back in full-force. Why? The world is fucking up the millenials. Productivity has been heavily automated. But the spoils are being siloed. Governments are failing to engage next-level discussions with the public about stuff like basic income and the redefinition of work. So gotta stay zen and green and do everything with just a laptop or smartphone.

Some industry experts say that the music scene is cyclical, similar to societal progress as highlighted by the Strauss–Howe generational theory. Even if the theory may be sound, there is absolutely nothing cyclical about the singularity. Vaporwave is necessarily the product of exponential technologies.

Here's a pair of pretty recent Vaporwave effects on a popular commercial music videos:-



The approach of higher-grade commercial videos rely on pristine rendering, rather than the low-cost approach of indie bedroom musicians plundering old commercial videos and hacking bare minimum texturing for 3d renders, if any.

Let's step back for awhile and check out Wikipedia's entry on Vaporwave as of 7/7/2016:-

Vaporwave is a music micro-genre and art movement that emerged in the early 2010s among Internet communities. It is characterized by a nostalgic or surrealist fascination with retro cultural aesthetics (typically of the 1980s, 1990s, and early-mid 2000s), video games, technology, postmodernism, Japanese culture and advertising, and styles of commercial and popular music such as lounge, smooth jazz and elevator music. Musical sampling is prevalent within the genre, with samples often pitched, layered or altered in classic chopped and screwed style. Central to the style is often a critical or satirical preoccupation with consumer capitalism, popular culture, and new-age tropes. The visual style of vaporwave, as seen on album covers and in art videos accompanied by the music, is commonly referred to as "aesthetics" (often stylized as "AESTHETICS").

Vaporwave emerged as an internet-birthed style loosely derived from the work of hypnagogic pop artists such as Ariel Pink and James Ferraro in previous years. Daniel Lopatin's 2010 release Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1 and Ferraro's own Far Side Virtual are often credited for sparking vaporwave's development, as is Macintosh Plus's Floral Shoppe. In subsequent years, the genre has found wider appeal through websites such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and 4chan. It continued to evolve in 2013 with acts like Blank Banshee adopting sounds that "have a hint of virtual plaza but significantly transcend it". Subgenres have also appeared, including mallsoft, which "conjures the muzak played in shopping malls". In 2015, MTV revealed a rebrand heavily inspired by vaporwave and seapunk. Inversely, Tumblr launched Tumblr TV, with an explicitly 1990s MTV-style visual spin. According to Jordan Pearson of Motherboard, Vice's technology website, this change would mean the death of the genre, as the "cynical impulse that animated vaporwave and its associated Tumblr-based aesthetics is co-opted and erased on both sides—where its source material originates, and where it lives." Artists often embrace classical sculpture, 1990s web design, computer renderings, glitch art, VHS, Cassette Tape, East Asian Artwork, and cyberpunk. In November 2015, according to a Rolling Stone "10 artists you need to know" list, 2814's album 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) found success within a "small, passionate pocket of the internet." 2814 cited Boards of Canada, Steve Roach, Vangelis, Burial and Sigur Rós as influences. In the same year the album I'll Try Living Like This, by Death's Dynamic Shroud.wmv, was featured at number fifteen on the Fact list of "The 50 Best Albums of 2015".

Vaporwave has been described as "a degrading of commercial music" in an attempt to reveal the "false promises" of capitalism. Music writer Adam Harper of Dummy Mag describes Vaporwave as "ironic and satirical or truly accelerationist"; noting that the name "Vaporwave" itself is both a nod to vaporware, and the idea of libidinal energy being subjected to relentless sublimation under capitalism. Critic Simon Reynolds has characterized Daniel Lopatin's Chuck Person project as "relat[ing] to cultural memory and the buried utopianism within capitalist commodities, especially those related to consumer technology in the computing and audio/video entertainment area". 情報デスクVIRTUAL (Jouhou Desuku VIRTUAL), the alias of Vektroid, describes her album 札幌コンテンポラリー (Sapporo Contemporary) as "a brief glimpse into the new possibilities of international communication" and "a parody of American hypercontextualization of e-Asia circa 1995." Music educator Grafton Tanner argued in his 2016 book Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts that vaporwave is a rebellion against rampant, uncontrolled capitalism, particularly surrounding its treatment of nostalgia.

So wtf again is Vaporwave and the New Age Aesthetics?

As you can see in Wikipedia's entry, it covers a pretty wide spectrum of audiovisuals with huge philosophical overtones about consumer culture. Music can range from droning ambient atmospheric sounds to upbeat future funk. On the visual side - it's the gateway to both nostalgic and / or pristine, minimal high-def elements. With the chance of glitch and memory corruption. The whole premise is based on plundering, revitalizing, and playing around with audiovisual samples. Mashup and experimentation on steroids. Highly disposable. Elements emphasized usually taken to the extremes.

There are no clear boundaries. But there is an art to it and I will attempt to explain. Right after you experience for yourself the different tastes of vaporwave examples below. Some of these are the more mainstream and palatable adaptations of Vaporwave, while others, perhaps totally unusable in social clubs:-

[1] Proto Vaporwave

[2] Vektroid Era

[3] Hypnagogic

[4] Futurefunk

[5] Slowfunk

[6] Hardfunk

[7] Rebirthwave

[8] Vaportrap / Vaporhop

[9] Bae-beats

[10] 90s Feels Commercialwave

I can just pretty much make up any subgenres within Vaporwave. It's so broad that it becomes difficult to explain why something sounds Vaporwave. And why there is a New Age Aesthetics feel too it? Maybe I've been trapped in the bubble for too long. Maybe we're just pretentious tastemakers. But the point is whatever - we made it, we love it, we name it whatever the hell we want. The game is moving at exponential speeds. We don't sit down for 500 hours coming up with a potentially disposable masterpiece. We just keep doing and we just keep moving. Knowledge is being passed around at an accelerated pace, with softwares that enable producers to do just about anything in a laptop, and then we have Youtube with its infinite music library and audio rippers.

In regards to the emergence of New Age Aesthetics, the concept has to do more with utilizing the ever-expanding practices in color theory for compensating the lack of details. It's a low-cost approach that emphasizes the use of artistic shapes, geometries, colors and sometimes, the exploitation of the uncanny valley. It's still a peculiar kind of audiovisual science under development, as millions of bedroom producers endlessly tweak with parameters and repurpose samples of samples of other samples.

Here are some examples of what I call new age aesthetics:-





Anna Wang and Dom Sebastian




Some other diverse samples.

And then you find yourself asking again - wtf is Vaporwave? A redditor then says -

The aesthetic of vaporwave is one of a new virtual paradise, a virtual plaza if you will in which we relax in holographic utopia, under the watchful eye of the business professionals at a benefactorial mitsubishi group corporation.

You might ask yourself - what banality is this? What can we learn from this utterly confusing enterprise? For one, most of Vaporwave are products of free-labor. The producers mostly do it without any need for money or recognition. It's all disposable and not to be held on dearly. Just like all the broken dreams of society. We were told to dream. We were told to do what we love. But the realities of our socioeconomic system only allows for cogs that can fit in in between. Go find a real job, they said.

Vaporwave is a tale of childhood's end. Resistance from higher-ups. Their childhood has ended abruptly, but their caretakers have yet to get past it, mostly stuck in the cycle of luxurious fantasies provided by the crony capitalistic state. A long overdue mental impasse.

So for writers, musicians, visual artists, and branding enthusiasts: speak to the youth. They are, after all, the largest set of consumers and creators alike. Speak to them. Grab them into the realm of cryptocurrencies and empower them with its possibilities. They are the prosumers, finding their way out of the stubborn Old World entertainment, money, and politics.

This is perhaps one of the very first renaissance-like movement of teenagers ever since the word "teenagers" came about during the industralization age. Teenagers used to be cohorts spread out in different pockets of society, with their own bubbles of personality augmented by their newfound buying power. Enabled by factory labor wages. Fast forward to 2016. What happens when there's no buying power anymore, but the cohort is finally coming together as one in a hyperconnected network.. educating, and making stuff with each other?

Vaporwave and the New Age Aesthetics are signs of young healthy minds - it is work, learn, and play all the same. It's a body of work that is influencing so many parts of society. It's powerful and grassroots at its core. The value is there to be shared. Dots are to be connected, and the self shall be enabled.

kevinwong/[email protected]

#vaporwave #culture #society #music


Great post, Thanks.
The Art world takes itself to serious and this is very refreshing.

haha it's everything rolled into one: satirical, serious, fun, philosophical, trashy

I woke up and read this super cool
Post again ! You should get thousands for this ! 💕💜❣ I am still trying to follow you but my phone connection so slow ! Please keep the vapor waves coming ! You also speak to the " old school girls " like me !

Hahhaa! 2 years ago I was sitting in my jungle garden under palm trees with super bad internet connection and it was my first time I heard about vaporwave🙈💜 cool article!

So so so true !

I love vaporwave and was inspired to do this tune

Would be hella dope if you add percussions and some phat kick bass into it!

thanks, Ill try to find the phat sounds. I feel like its almost there

I noticed these songs and "aesthetics" but didn't really know much about the style. Thanks for the analysis, I think it's spot on.

Hey thanks man, glad you enjoyed the article :D

Thank you.

Thanks for the kind words! Sorry I just got to login again today xD

Such a nice post! I have always been a lot into music but never heard of vaporware before. As an European, I need to ask: where would you say most of the vaporware artists are located? Japan, US? Definitely a lot of Japanese aesthetics in the videos you posted

Yup you're definitely right, plenty in US, Australia, Japan, Brazil :)

Thanks for the kind words!

Wow wow wow !!! I need my laptop
To read all this !!! 🐬🐬🐬 here is the track I told
You about ! That's how I walk and it was created in my living room 💜

I will follow you because I am in this platform to find people like
You ! Respect for this piece of crazy vapor wave

I can finally reply! Awwww. thanks!

nice music, it's curious how this sounds bring me back to some of the sounds I listened in my childhood but with some kind of a new touch and the visual aspect of it brings a lot of relaxing moments

Yes there's plenty of nostalgic overtones to it somehow. Indeed very relaxing ;)

songwriter here. thanks for the heads up buddy

wow, that's a very nice article! there's a lot of wiki info about vaporwave but it all looks generic, you made it interesting :) as a big fan myself and new to Steemit, I'd like to find more people here interested in vaporwave / ambient / new age genres, can you recommend me some pages to follow? searching by a tag doesn't gives much...

seriously we lack vaporwave here. as for vap musician i only know @granturismo89 so far. thanks for dropping by, I'm actually surprised it has 1000 views now. Back then there wasn't even any counter :) are you a musician yourself?

edit: by the way, how did u end up here? google search results?

I ended up here when friend told me about Steemit, saying exactly same thing that it lacks modern music genres and musicians. As far as I can tell now it's cryptotraders den :) so your article was a big find!

I'm musician, yes - mostly in ambient / drone genres, you can check my output here, if you like such things - As for vapour, I run this label - and collect tapes from other labels as well :)

And DreamCast96 is your alias?

I've not been making music since around this post actually lol. Focusing on crypto stuff now, although I'd like to help build a vaporwave community around here. I just created a discord with nobody yet. Feel free to join and have a chat:

And nope, I usually just put up music with random names each time. Pure vaporwave haha

True vaporwave, indeed, haha :)

Joined discord!

What's wild is the influence vaporwave has had on popular music in the last few years that most in mainstream music journalism are hesitant to admit. Of course there is one no ultimate influence on things, but the lack of mention on vaporwave in this Rolling Stone article is absurd:

Blasphemy! lol but i think they have some articles on it :)

I would thoroughly enjoy more writing about how youtube has become a leveler of influences for a younger generation. People only want to talk about the obliteration of scenes and the changing of the way of things as a detriment to music but I feel like there's a whole new world and way of things happening thanks to the Internet. The number of rap and rnb songs I hear know that have obvious Boards of Canada influence warms my heart to no end.

Love love love this! As someone who just graduated college with a music degree I can absolutely see all the thematic and stylistic themes you're drawing on in this discussion, as well as understand the elusiveness of the idea of vaporwave.
It certainly describes the aesthetic of this time, of being lost in a world where you're never lost, alone in a world where you're never alone, and on the precipice of a complete transformation in human consciousness.

Hey there, glad you enjoyed it! Are you producing, and any friends doing something similar? I'm trying to draw the vaporwave crowd (or just about any music producers) and try out something new here.

This is by far the best vaporwave thesis I have read. Plus your examples of the music/subgenres are not the typical ones that people use when explaining vaporwave. Thank you for the good read!

Hey thanks! Glad my random vaporwave article is getting some hits :)

I love pepsi

Then you'll love saint pepsi. Feel the freshness..

[4] Futurefunk = Genius!

Pool party!

LMAO! - So basically the infamous new vaporwave is the new subgenre for Reddit-meme-culture-inspired music..?! Too precious xD

It's jam packed with memes!! :D

Great article. I just posted an introduction inviting a collaborative community to form to create the future of vaporwave audiovisual experiences. I have been trying to go it alone, but it would be great to find a community of people devoting their time and resources to this beautiful artform, something I believe the world is hungry for whether they realize it yet or not. Here is an example of one of my own vaporous creations, music and video made by me, mekkanix.

Great post, thank you for sharing.

Thanks for the kind words, come back on in awhile, i do write plenty of stuff :)

A little late, but whats with Vaporware and codein cought sirup?
Or is this nor really related?