petak, 7. rujna 2012.

YYU - TIMETIMETIME&TIME: vaporwave + distroid


YYU - nastavak priče o vaporwave-pokretu (underground muzičari prisvajaju "ikone" kapitalizma-visoke-rezolucije za vlastite svrhe). Lounge muzika za poslovnu klasu prerađena u avangardu?
Glazbena kritika kapitalizma ili kapitulacija pred kapitalizmom? Fazni skok ili prodavanje digitalne magle?
U nastavku posta: esencijalni članak Adama Harpera, koji  govori i o distroidu (disturbing + dystopian + android + DIS Magazine), brutalnijoj i više cyber verziji vaporwavea [bendovi BODYGUARD (James Ferraro), Fatima Al Qadiri, Gatekeeper...].

Streaming albuma TIMETIMETIME&TIME ovdje

ghost toast cover art

YYU, ghost toast (streaming albuma ovdje)

moo.2 cover art




  YYU, moo​.​2  (streaming albuma ovdje)



YYU, HAWAIIBREAKFAST (streaming albuma ovdje)

Beer on the Rug is one of the most interesting labels to have emerged in the last year or so. Early releases from the likes of World Series, The Arcade Junkies, Midnight Television, and (a little later) Boy Snacks were all in that Ariel Pink, James Ferraro circa Night Dolls With Hairspray region of ultra lo-fi hypnagogia. But the next wave of output, beginning with Laserdisc Visions’ New Dreams Ltd. in July 2011 and continuing on with albums from Napolian and Computer Dreams, Macintosh Plus, and, most recently, 情報デスクVIRTUAL took the label into different territory entirely. All of a sudden, there was less emphasis on grime and far more on gloss.
Where hypnagogic pop was concerned with hazy and degraded re-productions of and odes to vintage pop, this new breed of artists — while still looking to the past for their raw material — seemed to be far more interested in re-using and re-purposing: re-branding, to use an appropriately corporate term, the sonic lubricant of commerce for the purposes of the musical underground. An act of appropriation and recontextualization. Sometimes the raw material is looped, restructured, pitch- and/or tempo-shifted. But sometimes it can be virtually impossible to detect the presence of the artist at all. And the effect is an intriguingly ambivalent gesture somewhere between valorization and critique.
The term being bandied around for this stuff is vaporwave. It’s by no means limited to Beer on the Rug, but the label is certainly a major hub for it. It’s these artists, most of all, who have brought the label attention. And as a result, I really wasn’t expecting their latest release, TIMETIMETIME&TIME by Californian artist Ben Straus a.k.a. YYU to sound like this.
Because on one level, YYU doesn’t feel like a good fit for Beer on the Rug at all. He doesn’t work with samples; his output doesn’t feel either “conceptual” or political, and — most of all — his music sounds overtly contemporary. Unlike every other artist on the Beer on the Rug roster, the most obvious reference points here are utterly current. What do I hear when I listen to TIMETIMETIME&TIME? Strange as it may seem, I hear Burial as much as Bill Orcutt, Dirty Projectors and James Blake as much as Brainfeeder and DJ Rashad. The great achievement of the record is that somehow the whole thing manages to come off as extremely coherent nevertheless.
Perhaps there’s some biographical reason for YYU’s relationship with Beer on the Rug that I’m unaware of, but it occurs to me that one possible point of connection between the two is a shared interest in repetition. In other words: repetition is, like, so in right now.
Vaporwave is concerned with it in a couple of ways. First, vaporwave artists exploit the fact that to repeat is always also to restage or reframe. So even when the “originals” being appropriated by an artist like 情報デスクVIRTUAL are left relatively untouched, the novelty of the context re-animates it somehow: it puts the listener in a different relationship to it. Repetition here means difference. Second, vaporwave artists tend to make extensive use of repetition as a production technique as well. The same material — whether treated or otherwise — is looped over and over and over, and soon enough we begin to hear it differently. Here, the influence of Daniel Lopatin and his so-called eccojams as Chuck Person is really pronounced. In this context, the act of repetition produces an experience of suspension.
In fact, “suspension” feels like a key concept in relation to vaporwave. When I listen to a track like “From Sacred Tapestry,” it feels like it should really go on forever. It’s as if the idea is to reproduce the sounds of nowhere and no-when — malls, lobbies, elevators, airports, casinos, the so-called “virtual plaza” — in a kind of blissful refusal of both time and space on and on to infinity. In part, it seems to me, vaporwave is about the sublime in capitalism then. Suspension here produces a kind of (sinister) transcendence.
Repetition is also right at the center of TIMETIMETIME&TIME (just look at the title!), but it’s doing something different entirely. For YYU, repetition isn’t about either recontextualization or suspension. It’s about rhythm: the way in which repeating something raises expectations that you’ll do so again… and again… and again… and allows you, therefore, to play around with such expectations by means of interruption… by means of interruption… by means of…
So on opening track “your hands/moo.3,” for instance, it’s the word “time” itself that’s sampled, pitched down, and then repeated sporadically as a whole host of short and discrete percussive patterns emerge and are themselves subjected to various different permutations of combination and replication before fading away again — sometimes to return, sometimes not. The effect is varied, rich and, rhythmically, extremely complex.
Here and throughout the album, YYU allows the fact of repetition to foreground itself. Whenever he samples acoustic material in order to repeat it — a vocal fragment, a muted piano, or a twanging guitar riff — rather than “papering over the cracks,” as it were, he frequently cuts the sample off early, resulting in that glitchy sound you get when a sound is interrupted before it has been allowed its natural period of decay. Or listen to that scuttling micro-percussion that features so extensively and that brings to mind footwork. Each tap, each throb, each bleep is literally identical to the one that preceded it. This, in other words, is percussion as replication. Totally inorganic, it has more in common with a photocopier than a drum kit.
Then again, the genius of a track like “&time” is that it probably could be played live. Again, the word “time” is repeated over and over, but this time it’s far less processed and there’s nothing but a naked guitar and a tapping sound for accompaniment. Even though the track was almost certainly put together on a computer, the effect is superbly ambiguous. What this sounds like is an attempt to replicate the logic of sample-based electronic in an overtly acoustic setting: the intrusion of digital techniques of composition and production into the analogue sphere.
TIMETIMETIME&TIME is a really fine record. In fact, I think it’s far better than anything else currently on the Beer on the Rug roster. Vaporwave may only just have arrived, but it’s already beginning to feel like it may have exhausted itself. It feels like a particularly transient genre, the bubbling up of a particular musico-conceptual gesture that will quickly either morph or disappear as its early exponents move on to the next thing. That’s not necessarily intended as a criticism. Transience is important. But it seems to me that there’s far more potential in the forms of repetition being explored here by YYU than by any of his labelmates. As a result, YYU’s appeal will be far broader and the shelf-life of his music far greater. Fittingly enough for an album all about “time,” it’ll stick around in your iPod for much longer. You’ll want to listen to it over and over and over and over and over… - James Parker

Još od Beer on the Drugs:



by FREE WEED ovdje 



Adam Harper: Vaporwave and the pop-art of the virtual plaza 

 ...on the underground musicians co-opting the icons of hi-def capitalism for their own ends, Adam Harper charts the rise of business class lounge music and the selling of digital smoke.

Global capitalism is nearly there. At the end of the world there will only be liquid advertisement and gaseous desire. Sublimated from our bodies, our untethered senses will endlessly ride escalators through pristine artificial environments, more and less than human, drugged-up and drugged down, catalysed, consuming and consumed by a relentlessly rich economy of sensory information, valued by the pixel. The Virtual Plaza welcomes you, and you will welcome it too.
This is the world broadcast in brutal high-definition by a new faction within underground art-pop that’s exploring the technological and commercial frontiers of 21st-century hyper-capitalism’s grimmest artistic sensibilities. Wearing manic caffeine grins or concealed enigmatically behind corporate muscle and mirror-shades (or both), musicians such as Fatima Al Qadiri, James Ferraro, Gatekeeper, INTERNET CLUB, New Dreams Ltd. and many more are performing the next step in techno-capitalism’s disturbing and disturbingly logical sequence. They let flow the music that lubricates Capital, open the door to a monstrously alienating sublime, twist dystopia into utopia and vice versa, and dare you not to like it.

Is it a critique of capitalism or a capitulation to it? Both and neither. These musicians can be read as sarcastic anti-capitalists revealing the lies and slippages of modern techno-culture and its representations, or as its willing facilitators, shivering with delight upon each new wave of delicious sound. We could apply to their music a term used to describe a certain sentiment and praxis that has recently gained currency among philosophers of capitalism: accelerationism. Accelerationism is the notion that the dissolution of civilisation wrought by capitalism should not and cannot be resisted, but rather must be pushed faster and farther towards the insanity and anarchically fluid violence that is its ultimate conclusion, either because this is liberating, because it causes a revolution, or because destruction is the only logical answer. It sporadically found voice in the work of twentieth-century continental philosophers François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari but was explored most thoroughly and alarmingly by the British philosopher Nick Land during the 1990s. With William Gibson’s cyberpunk fiction and Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz among his reference points, Land’s heady, nightmarish philosophy melted together scholarship and art into a staccato stream of penetrating and, in hindsight, disquietingly prescient tableaux. “Life is being phased-out into something new,” said Land in his 1992 essay ‘Circuitries’. “And if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
Life is being phased-out into something new,” says philosopher Nick Land in a 1992 essay. “And if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
The anarcho-capitalist pop of these musicians, whether we hear it as ironic and satirical or as truly accelerationist, is something of a soundtrack to Land’s visions. Ferraro, who thinks we should ‘applaud’ the future rather than fear it, fired some of its first warning shots with his album ‘Far Side Virtual’. FSV and the ‘Condo Pets’ EP that preceded it pastiched techno-capitalist stock promotional music for the era of the personal computer and of bum-bags full of Apple devices, forcing us to confront the kitsch that’s used to make us excited about brands and their technological possibilities . But Ferraro soon morphed into something much weirder, more sinister and more sensual with his subsequent mixtapes as BEBETUNE$ and BODYGUARD. Meanwhile a small group of loosely related underground artists were converging on the same brutally affirmative territory as Ferraro but independently of him, clustered around the labels Hippos in Tanks, Beer on the Rug, UNO NYC and the New York-based art/fashion magazine Dis.
The movement could be described as ‘post-lo-fi’ and is often ‘post-retro’ too. Many of these musicians – such as Ferraro, Gatekeeper, Outer Limitz, INTERNET CLUB and New Dreams Ltd – started off in alignment with retro and/or lo-fi genres such as hypnagogic pop and chillwave, but have now ended that by doing exactly the opposite, exchanging their muffled glimpses of yesteryear for the present and the near future, glistening in cinematic HD. Where before they were half asleep or simply chilling, now they’re wide awake, their systems streaming with stimulants. Some acts, such as BODYGUARD, Fatima Al Qadiri, *E+E * Jam City are even venturing beyond pastiche and into a new, abstract and disorientating sensualism. Yet you could say that many of these artists are still situated within the world-view of the lo-fi underground, one in which an authentic, warm and grass-roots music-making is pitted against the top-down, cheesy, slick and impersonal technological mainstream. All these artists have done is underline the significance of this antagonism by caricaturing their cultural opponents. Perhaps since capitalism is so omnivorous with its co-optings and appropriations that defending the authentic no longer feels possible (Facebook bought Instagram, after all), accelerationist pop is lo-fi and avant-garde going on the offensive. This is clear from the context this music comes from – a saccharine chart-pop number by boyband HDBoyz sounds no different from ‘the real thing’, but then you learn that the band were featured in Dis magazine and that they performed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Since capitalism is so omnivorous that defending the authentic no longer feels possible, accelerationist pop is lo-fi and avant-garde going on the offensive.
It’s also possible to think of this music as lo-fi and retro in a more roundabout way, as ultimately reminding us that even music at the extreme cutting edge of technological and cultural modernity is always already obsolete. Today’s HD is tomorrow’s lo-fi, and today’s ultra modern pop is tomorrow’s old skool. These musicians often hint at these grim inevitabilities and futilities. Up until ‘Far Side Virtual’, many of James Ferraro’s albums were impressionistic lo-fi portraits of bygone eras – perhaps on ‘Far Side Virtual’ he decided to represent the present as is and then let nature take its course, over time, and do the aging for him. Returning to it in ten or twenty years time, we might discover that it was ironically a victim of its own futurist acceleration, and is now about as up-to-date as a ten-year-old carton of milk.
This potentially accelerationist pop fills and creates the spaces in which the business of capitalism is conducted, be it the motivational seminar on innovation or the propaganda of representation, suffusing them with an artificially purposeful aura. It might once have been called muzak, or lounge, but the spaces it operates in are larger now, shinier, more connected, and more impersonal than the home. Today and tomorrow, capital lives everywhere, in our TVs, phones and minds, but nowhere is it more holy than in the gleaming temples of its interface with the public – the office lobby, the hotel reception area, and most of all, the shopping mall. This music belongs in the plaza, literal and metaphorical, real and imaginary – the public space that is the nexus of infinite social, cultural and financial transactions and the scene of their greatest activity and spectacle.

Or rather, the plaza was once a public, civic and communal space. These days the plaza is privately owned but the public can come and spend their money on the nice things there. The word now brings to mind a corporate-sponsored marble square between office blocks lined with Starbuckses and Prets and Yo Sushis, or a glittering premier hotel staffed with the prettiest serfs, or an enormous semi-underground cathedral of consumerism with a reverb that would out-do Notre Dame, were the sounds not absorbed by thronging shoppers. Central Plaza, Hong Kong, the Millennium Plaza Hotel, Dubai, the Pantip Plaza, Bangkok. And Times Square, New York, Cabot Place, London, Shibuya, Tokyo, Nanjing Road, Shanghai. In short, these are the places where the riot police clear away the tents of those calling for democracy, or will do one day soon.
As I see it, this notionally accelerationist zeitgeist in art-pop falls into two distinct branches, even if they’re thematically and genetically related on everything I’ve mentioned above. The first, represented by INTERNET CLUB, New Dreams Ltd. and a number of related artists on Beer on the Rug and elsewhere, has been called “vaporwave”, discussed below. I will look at the second branch – Fatima Al Qadiri, BEBETUNE$, BODYGUARD, Gatekeeper and others – in part two of this article.
Its name crawling mysteriously out of blogs and Last FM tag clouds and familiar to many of those who make it, vaporwave is a next step in the evolution of hypnagogic pop. In many ways it’s the opposite of hypnagogic pop, but maybe it’s better to think of them as two ends of a continuum, parts of a spectrum. Hypnagogic pop and vaporwave both share a fetish for the trash music on either television or just somewhere in the background, by turns chipper and dreamy, and they both treat it through endless loops, drones and small-cell repetitions. Hypnagogic pop and vaporwave both like to manipulate their material to defamiliarise it and give it a sense of the uncanny, such as slowing it down and/or lowering the pitch, making it, as the term goes, ‘screwed’. Finally, hypnagogic pop and vaporwave both have an eerie tendency now and again to turn trash, something shallow and determinedly throwaway, into something sacred or mystical.

But then there are the differences. Where hypnagogic pop took the trash music of the 1970s and 1980s, vaporwave typically takes material from the early 1990s onwards that can pass for contemporary. Where hypnagogic was manifestly lo-fi, with tape hiss and muffled hi frequencies in the extreme, vaporwave is very often as crystal clear as a brand new entertainment system playing its demo disc. Where hypnagogic pop tracks were often long and induced a trance, vaporwave is made up of brief, cut-up sketches that just as often jolt you out of a trance as cause one. Where hypnagogic pop aimed at close pastiche but was nevertheless newly composed, vaporwave uses samples almost entirely, cutting out the middleman. Yet, characteristically, the line between hypnagogic pop and vaporwave is blurred. As I said, there’s a continuum between the two, and many examples of both styles are halfway along it. And of course, this continuum and these terms are just particular ways of looking at musical activity, one angle on its aesthetics. They’re just stylistic markers, vague patterns and alignments that we do or don’t observe, that always look different from different angles and scales.
The typical vaporwave track is a wholly synthesised or heavily processed chunk of corporate mood music, bright and earnest or slow and sultry, often beautiful, either looped out of sync and beyond the point of functionality or standing alone, and sometimes with a smattering of miasma about it. It’s made by mysterious and often nameless entities that lurk the internet, often behind a pseudo-corporate name or web façade, and whose music is typically free to download through Mediafire, Last FM, Soundcloud or Bandcamp. Occasionally vaporwave produces a material object, a cassette or CD-R decorated with internet-age and hi-fi-era pop art that both sickens and astonishes. The text surrounding vaporwave – the artist names and track titles – is almost entirely in declamatory, brutally attention-craving capital letters, and often employs Chinese and Japanese lettering whose inscrutably (to me and most other Westerners, at least) enhances the music’s sense of tapping into the airwaves of global techno-capitalism and overhearing its business as usual, meant for someone else. The typical vaporwave zip file (album, if you like) presents itself as a collection of inspiringly modern, motivational and mood-regulating settings – perfect for that infomercial, that menu screen, that in-flight safety video, that business park promotional video, that drinks reception in the lobby.

Why the name? Will Burnett, the north-east Texan and internet citizen behind INTERNET CLUB, says “a lot of music in the genre reminds me of fogged-out environments – places where everything is obfuscated and uncertain”, and adds that it’s “based on uncertainty and sometimes even dread”. Often the fog element is induced by some lo-fi effect such as screwing. But the significance of “vapour” doesn’t end there. It’s one letter away from, and strongly reminiscent of, the word ‘vaporware’, a derisory term for a software or hardware project undertaken by a tech company that is announced to the public but which, after much time passes, never actually comes to fruition. Such is the deferred and even tragic promise of fulfilment in vaporwave. But vaporware can also refer to the deliberate fabrication of future products, with no intention to eventually release them, so as to hold customers’ attention and appear to get to the next best thing before their rivals. Here the promises of capitalist advertising and PR become an outright fraud borne of the proclivities of the marketplace. Hence vaporwave as ‘selling smoke’.
Sublimation, a concept in psychoanalysis and aesthetics describing the transmutation of libidinal energy, is the name of the physical process that turns a solid into a gas. The name ‘vaporwave’ is also reminiscent of a famous passage from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, “all that is solid melts into air”, referring to the constant change society is subjected to under bourgeois capitalism. In context, the quote becomes part of an almost accelerationist credo touching on the inevitably of obsolescence, and echoes the vaporwave artists’ critique: “Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”
Will Burnett certainly hopes to reveal the true extent of the alienation of capitalist social relations, as represented by the corporate background music he drags into the light of attentive listening. I stumbled across his INTERNET CLUB persona as part of an epic trek through the digital wilds of Last FM and was quickly directed to an Angelfire page where his substantial back catalogue is free to download. It soon become apparent that he used other aliases too, and after tracking him through a bewildering series of Web 2.0 sites (behaviour we once considered the preserve of the stalker but is now the compulsion of the good internet consumer), I finally found an email address and was able to find out what sort of person makes vaporwave.

Over email, Burnett is a staunch anti-capitalist rather than an accelerationist per se. Referencing the French thinker associated the Situationist movement and involved in the aesthetics and ideology of the 1968 protests, he says that with INTERNET CLUB he wanted to do “something very Debordian, about how this capitalistic society has generated a dehumanizing hyperreality by focusing on infinite generation of ideals as shown through commodities. I view society as entering a hyperreal state, and how it has is part of what INTERNET CLUB is about.” IC tracks usually take stock music and music from corporate YouTube videos and degrade them somehow, with effects such as reverb, compression or glitchy looping, which achieves “the defamiliarisation of things we’ve become so use to that we don’t notice them any more”. Corporate culture, he summarises, has lead contemporary society to “deny justice in the name of appeasement and false promises”.
INTERNET CLUB (not the most inviting moniker, but it does the job with the requisite deliberate tactlessness), has zip albums called ‘MODERN BUSINESS COLLECTION’, ‘NEW MILLENNIUM CONCEPTS’ and ‘REDEFINING THE WORKPLACE’, and tracks called AS DREAMS GO BY, NEVER LOG OFF, TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE NEW WEB MARKETER and, ominously, BREATHE IT IN. Before INTERNET CLUB, Burnett generated ultra lo-fi hauntological dustscapes as Datavis, name-checking tape composer Philip Jeck as an influence. Other side projects include the hypnagogic Datavision Ltd. (alongside Leonce Nelson, with whom he co-owns the tape label Hexagon Recordings), long-form lo-fi tape vaporwave as ECCO UNLIMITED and, as ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░ (in Roman letters, ‘Atarashi i Derakkusuraifu’, meaning roughly ‘Deluxe New Life’), a zip folder of spooky, crunched-up detritus apparently taken from Japanese television broadcasts called ‘▣世界から解放され▣’ (‘Freed from the world’) and that’s something of a tribute to Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Replica’ (“one of my favourite records ever,” says Burnett).
“Cyberspace. Here it comes. The terminal social signal blotted out by technofuck buzz from the desiring-machines. So much positive feedback fast-forward that speed converges with itself on the event horizon of an artificial time-extinction.” – Nick Land, ‘Machinic Desire’, 1993
Starting out as a hypnagogic label in early 2011 with acts following in the footsteps of Rangers and Matrix Metals, Beer on the Rug then inched along the continuum towards vaporwave on mini-albums from Boy Snacks and Midnight Television. But in July 2011 the hi-fi landed with NEW DREAMS LTD, a cassette full of high-end synthesiser studio jams for the Windows 95 era, decorated with beaming Far Eastern women, a rippling blue ocean and italicised Times New Roman. Another key player aligned with vaporwave, New Dreams Ltd. is the umbrella term for the many aliased, sample-based releases by an anonymous producer currently based in Portland, Oregon who had previously produced music in various locations between chillwave and vaporwave as Vektroid (*** The tumblr pages gathering them all together is here One side project is MACINTOSH PLUS, whose album ‘FLORAL SHOPPE’ features chopped, glitching and screwed adult contemporary soul alongside twinkling spa promotional tunes. As esc 不在 (‘esc fuzai’, the latter characters meaning ‘absence’) and New Dreams Limited Initiation Tape s/he often takes choice loops from adult contemporary pop of the eighties onward, exploring the territory of Oneohtrix Point Never’s renowned ‘Nobody Here’ loop.

The latest incarnation of New Dreams Ltd. is 情報デスクVIRTUAL, which in Roman letters is written ‘Jouhou Desuku VIRTUAL’, roughly meaning ‘Virtual Information Desk’. The album, released in April, is called ‘札幌コンテンポラリー’ meaning ‘Contemporary Sapporo’, a reference to the Japanese city, and its track titles are quite something to behold: ODYSSEUSこう岩寺「OUTDOOR MALL」 (the characters in the middle mean ‘granite temple’), HEALING 海岸で昼寝MY LAST TEARS (in the middle, ‘nap on the beach’), 3D崖の端 ∕ ‘‘B E Y O N D’‘ THE LIMIT (begins ‘3D Edge of a Cliff’) and the astonishing XX ‘‘RUBY DUSK ON A 2ND LIFE NUDE BEACH’‘ ☯ . . . の生活・・・「ロベルタ」 (‘… Of life… “Roberta”’). With aeroplanes and a flight attendant on the cover and track titles referencing malls, museums and hotels, the album seems to present itself as an aid to the tourism industry, but then are also references to sports cars, the internet, weed and pornography. The music on ‘Contemporary Sapporo’ is the most dead-pan vaporwave can get – sultry smooth jazz instrumentals and exotica from session musicians in the glossiest studios, ringing with E Pianos and other infinitely engineered synthesiser presets. And yet even here, the producer throws in the occasional moment of glitch or pitchbend to jolt the listener out of complacency, and to smash the glass.
Over email, the producer behind it all says, “New Dreams Ltd is entirely a caricature of mass media and its evolution in the late 80s right before computer culture blew up in America. I wanted to create some rift between reality and fiction because I feel like that’s exactly what they were trying to accomplish back then.” S/he elaborates: “It seems like the world has been slowly tuning out of reality for the last 20 years and that fascinates me. There is a big undertone of surrealism to everything that was going on at the time, especially in Japan, and I wanted to capture that in a way that would strike people now the way it did then. The lengths people went to in advertising, even then, is shocking to me, I think shock factor is a huge element of things like this.”
Does the term ‘vaporwave’ have any significance to her/his music? “I’ve heard the term used a lot but I don’t affiliate with it personally. When I started assembling the original LASERDISC VISIONS tape, we just called them eccojams – of course referencing Oneohtrix’s quintessential “Chuck Person” tape, the entire catalyst behind a lot of what we began doing. We had a pretty tight but private group of people working on it and none of us were concerned about it ever existing as a genre. Screw music has been around for ages now – we’ve just changed the context we see it within and the means by which we conceive it”. Upon further reflection and now that s/he wants to return to beat-making, s/he “would definitely put the New Dreams Ltd. projects in the “vaporwave” category, even if only incidentally”.
Along similar lines to Burnett, the producer “wanted LASERDISC VISIONS to sound alienated and otherworldly to anybody who heard it. I didn’t want it to sound too familiar. I wanted to take that familiarity and re-contextualize it so it was just slightly out of place.” Referring to the psychological effect that causes people to recoil from humanoid robots and other simulacra because they’re not quite human enough, s/he aims to achieve “an “uncanny valley” effect, so to speak”.

Yet New Dreams Ltd’s relationship to the music s/he samples is not quite one of straightforward critique. Though she describes her method of sampling as “conceptual”, “sarcastic” and “simplistic”, s/he continues with an interesting take on its capacity for self-expression: “What I hope people draw from my work is that it is sincere – I want people to feel my presence in what I make because it gives me the opportunity to never have to have a physical identity to accompany it.” On the political implications of using corporate stock music, s/he concludes enigmatically, “I think it’s very important that we as musicians react to our world. I guess part of me misses the era of protest songs. Now everything’s a protest song, now I feel like the most effective social commentary is the one without dialogue honestly”.
There are other vaporwave producers out in the digital wilderness too. Two particular highlights: the gorgeous E Piano heavens on Computer Dreams’s zip EP ‘Silk Road’ are so painfully alluring that you’ll never want to go home again. 骨架的 (‘Hone Ka Teki’ or ‘Rack of Bone’) has a zip EP, ‘Holograms’, which ably explores vaporwave’s spookier side in between righteous screwed contemporary soul loops. Based on similarities in the music and its mode of distribution, it’s crossed my mind that Computer Dreams and 骨架的 are actually the same person, but we might never know, and it doesn’t seem important really. The musicians behind the real corporate stock music, the real vaporwave, wherever they are, are never named, or seen – they’re anonymous craftsmen simply supplying a product that is pumped directly into the engine of global capitalism and eventually released as exhaust.
For a summary of the vaporwave sound featuring tracks by the artists discusses above, download or stream the mix:

00:00 – LASERDISC VISIONS: ‘Into Dreams’ from NEW DREAMS LTD.
01:33 – Computer Dreams: ‘Track 2’ from Silk Road
03:41 – 骨架的: ‘RELAX’ from Holograms
11:08 – LASERDISC VISIONS: ‘Data Dream’ from NEW DREAMS LTD.
12:57 – Lasership Stereo: ‘Pole Position’ from Lumina
13:52 – esc 不在: ‘aurora3d’ from midi dungeon
14:24 – fuji grid TV: ‘warm life / legs’ from prism genesis
15:42 – 骨架的: ‘Silky Sheets’ from Holograms
17:05 – 情報デスクVIRTUAL: ‘☆ANGELBIRTH☆’ from 札幌コンテンポラリー
19:18 – LASERDISC VISIONS: ‘Mind Access’ from NEW DREAMS LTD.
21:27 – Computer Dreams: ‘Track 5’ from Silk Road
22:13 – bitterTV: ‘last night with you’ from Soundcloud
24:13 – 情報デスクVIRTUAL: ‘’‘GEAR UP’‘ 4 FLIGHTシアトルズベスト’ from 札幌コンテンポラリー
31:01 – esc 不在: ‘archway’ from black horse
33:40 – Computer Dreams: ‘Track 9’ from Silk Road
35:01 – fuji grid TV: ‘heaven’s gate / sneak out!’ from prism genesis
36:09 – 骨架的: ‘Breeze’ from Holograms
39:23 – Lasership Stereo: ‘Daytona’ from Lumina
41:37 – 骨架的: ‘Fountain’ from Holograms
44:34 – LASERDISC VISIONS: ‘Los Santos’ from NEW DREAMS LTD.
46:10 – Lasership Stereo: ‘Plastics’ from Soft Season
47:40 – esc 不在: ‘in a cave watching the blizzard’ from midi dungeon
48:30 – 骨架的: ‘Memory’ from Holograms
50:43 – ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░:: ‘プロミセス「▣世界から解放され▣」’ from ▣世界から解放され▣
51:37 – 情報デスクVIRTUAL: ‘HB☯ PORN’ from 札幌コンテンポラリー
53:19 – esc 不在: ‘tonight on hbo’ from black horse
55:35 – new dreams ltd initiation tape: ‘camaro’ from part one



 "Distroid" – the muscular music of hi-DEF doom The digital brutality and deluxe Dadaism of Gatekeeper, Fatima Al Qadiri, Jam City and DIS Mag, as Adam Harper completes his survey of underground musicians making art from the new data vistas of Capital. 


“Why the helicopters, artificial body-parts, and manically dehumanised machine-music?” – Nick Land, ‘No Future’, 1995
The second main branch of this potentially accelerationist stance in art-pop, represented by artists like BODYGUARD, Fatima Al Qadiri, Gatekeeper and others, is much more brutal and cybernetic than vaporwave. As a shorthand, I’ll label it ‘distroid’, and that should probably be written in capital letters, but I’ll keep it quiet on the eye. The term could be a combination of ‘disturbing’, ‘dystopian’, ‘android’ and ‘steroid’ but its primary association might be with the satirical art/fashion site DIS Magazine, who are perhaps the key focal point for the network of artists working in this aesthetic. Found on DIS Magazine’s site and on the Hippos in Tanks and UNO NYC labels, distroid is not quite a genre in the conventional sense – you might call it a style, it’s really a collection of relatable tropes and tendencies, a spider diagram of angles on a particular theme. And of course, anything we can describe as being related to distroid can also be described differently too, related to other, probably contradictory ideas that have not been named or have yet to emerge.

If vaporwave is the doomed Japanese businessman roaming the halls of the virtual plaza with a vacant grin on his wrinkling face, distroid is the former soldier and body-builder now working for a private international security firm, his bulging muscles criss-crossed with blade and flame tattoos and his face screwed into a macho grimace above a tight black T-shirt bearing the Monster Energy Drink logo. He has been involved with rap, rave and street dance before but today in the virtual plaza he’s making sure this evening’s pop-up Monster promotional rave goes exactly according to the corporate client’s design. Next to him sits an enormous translucent green polythene bag full of empty cans. And the speakers are stacked taller than he is.
Distroid is ice cold and white hot, unnatural and sublime. Its starting point is contemporary hi-tech ‘overground’ subcultural pop (i.e. underground sounds that have been reprogrammed by major labels or other businesses and have now become top-down movements), be it techno, trance, rap or R&B, but it drives them further, with an often religious or apocalyptic fervour, into the futuristic, lurid and brutal sensual territory that they were already bordering on. Either rapid in tempo or slow, stifling and calculating, distroid is hi-fi to the point of actively fetishising the hi-frequency hisses and twinkles that lo-fi was unable to produce, and, taking vaporwave’s penchant for E Pianos further, it has a particular affinity for metallic pitched percussion or ‘metallophones’ such as steelpans and gamelan, along with any synth timbres that sound like them. It also favours complex, non-standard percussion elements in the form of violent, powerful or robotic (or all three) noises and effects, luxuriates in sheets of hi-tech synth, and likes to reduce the voice to a sonic object, largely absent of real semantic content, screwed, autotuned, choral, or merely simulated on a keyboard preset. Although intensely macho, distroid is inhuman and post-human, and perhaps the scariest thing about it is that it’s often genuinely, thrillingly alien in the process.
James Ferraro has flirted with this territory before on industrial albums with themes of violence, futurity and body-modification such as ‘Postremo Mundus Techno Symposium’, ‘Body Fusion’, ‘Virtual Erase’ and the two Edward Flex albums, but this was through a hypnagogic 1980s lens. His projects as BEBETUNE$ and BODYGUARD are hi-fi, ruthlessly contemporary and have a hip-hop element. The BEBETEUNE$ zip album ‘INHALE C-4 $$$$’ was a ‘Far Side Virtual’ for the street, and although it approached distroid in many respects it had moments of sweetness and smoothness that set it apart, altogether suggesting an android replica of Drake performing charismatically in the year 2050.
The ‘Silica Gel’ mixtape released under the name BODYGUARD was distroid in full effect – BEBETUNE$’s taller, stronger and more intimidating older brother. It was slower, harsher, more violent and more hardcore. BLACK AND RED juxtaposes a crystal clear gamelan riff with horrifying noises like cyberpunk battle axes being thrust down and enormous centrifuges whirring overhead. The whole mixtape hisses with high frequencies like the nanodrills mounted on the 10ft tall robotic arms of an automated car factory in H.U.M2.E.R, the future tambourines, hammered cables and screwed emporer synth-strings in BLOOD TYPE: 5 HOUR ENERGY and the gaseous emissions clouding the steelpans of DRY ICE ¥2K12. Underneath all this is a profound bass – again, a frequency that lo-fi could never reach – and slow, sexual trap beats. Accompanying the dulcet laser light of the single RAIDENBLUE LIGHT is the imposing SEX WITH AXE™ ON, referencing the deodorant that smells like nothing Nature has ever produced. All suggestive of some kind of extreme multimedia advertising campaign for cosmetics, stimulants and vehicles aimed at young men and giving off a considerable fascist vibe, ‘Silica Gel’ the gruesome logical endpoint of a culture that pushes body supplementation and modification products and their ideologies well beyond the point of inhumanity.
“‘So it’s all over,’ you mumble weakly… Metal flexes beneath vatgrown skin. Hard jungle hacks through blue gloom” – Nick Land, ‘No Future’, 1995
But before the Silica Gel mixtape was an EP by artist and DIS Magazine contributor Fatima Al Qadiri, ‘Genre-Specific Xperience’, released on UNO NYC in October 2011. This seems to have been an originary moment for many of distroid’s tendencies, most notably its sinister, crypto-fascist feel and penchant for metallophones (in this case steelpans, right in the foreground on Hip Hop Spa and D-Medley and featured in Vatican Vibes too). On the EP’s cover is a glittering gothic veranda, complete with plasma screens and a sports car, looking out on what is probably Dubai. The music is punchy, uptempo and heady, and although it claims to represent a range of pre-commodified genres, it is well beyond pastiche and frighteningly fresh. The main drop of Corpcore is wholly percussive, like a machine gun, before colliding head-on with a monstrous synth lead.
Al Qadiri’s videos, often featuring superbly simulated computer cityscapes, carry much of what might be called the message. Vatican Vibes is presented as a console game based on a high-tech, computerised Catholicism fighting a holy war with Apache helicopters that ultimately destroys the Earth in its quest for spiritual fulfilment. D-Medley has exotic female dancers dancing on a computer screen in front of psychedelic screensavers. Similarly, Hip Hop Spa taps into the male gaze imagery of hip hop culture. As the blurb to the YouTube video goes, “_Hip Hop Spa_ posits an uncanny parallel between the luxurious solitary confinement of a spa experience and the introspective image of prison solitary confinement often presented in contemporary, genre specific, hip hop cultural product. Solitary subconscious is the experience of virtual age hip hop culture. The track expands the lexicon of the genre, while questioning the general public’s consumption of rap and hip hop aesthetics.”

“Matter goes insane. You are led to a simulation of God as a hypermassive ROM security construct at the end of the world. It is 2011 and monocrat New Jerusalem approaches climax, directing retrochronal counter-insurgency sweeps down into the jungle, where space-programmes subside into the inertia of myth.” – Nick Land, ‘No Future’, 1995

Gatekeeper’s debut in December 2010, ‘Giza’, explored retro, John Carpenter-style industrial 80s disco, but the new album by the duo of Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell, ‘Exo’, released this month on Hippos in Tanks, brings things up to date and into the future. It’s high-energy, high-octane techno throughout, often reminiscent of the sort of music found accompanying violent, futuristic first-person-shooter computer games since the late nineties. Indeed, it’ll be complimented by a first-person virtual gaming environment designed by Tabor Robak, who did the video for Vatican Vibes as well as ‘Exo’’s cover. But as well as a formidable accomplishment in complex, hi-tech, if unsubtle music, ‘Exo’ is starkly creative too, especially with its percussion, timbres and textures. It has as much ultramodern HD terror as you’ll find in the most palacial cinemas – indeed, the first track Imax is something of a sound logo, and feels like being squashed repeatedly by enormous plasma screens. Other tracks bristle with the unconventional and irregular percussion effects distroid celebrates, suggestive at varying degrees of abstraction of motors and smashing glass.
Tracks bristle with the unconventional and irregular percussion effects distroid celebrates, suggestive at varying degrees of abstraction of motors and smashing glass.
‘Exo’ sounds so detailed, serious and hardcore that it can be too difficult or too simplistic to see it as merely sarcastic, as a ‘Far Side Virtual’ of digital brutality. But then it can be put into context in comparison with another band that Aaron David Ross is in, HDBoyz. With visuals designed once again by Tabor Robak, HDBoyz are ‘the first boyband in high definition’, and performed a choreographed dance routine to their hyper-kitsch songs at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in August 2011. With lyrics like unzip me tonight and you should lose your boyfriend – he looks photoshopped, HDBoyz have been pictured in the latest fashions and clutching bottles of Mountain Dew, the labels facing outwards. Sarcastically accelerationist rather than grimly distroid, HDBoyz nevertheless share a thrilled anxiety about the increasing extremity of technological representation and its inverse proportion to depth and reality. Similarly, former hypnagogic explorer as Matrix Metals Sam Mehran, following some YouTube instrumentals relatable to vaporwave and BEBETUNE$-style trap, has styled himself as a slightly screwy answer to Justin Bieber as Outer Limitz, whose single I KONTACT also visits this theme of looking.

“The replicants drape themselves in wolf-pelts, and cross into berserk zones of alien affect, or melt into data-suits that pulse with digitised matrix traffic streams. They do not need to be told that cyberspace is already under our skin” – Nick Land, ‘Machinic Desire’, 1993
So you might say there’s occasionally a cutesy side to distroid that’s part and parcel with, and just as revolting as, its macho spectacle. But you could also, almost but not quite, say that distroid is anything that DIS Magazine is associated with or has posted on its site. The dozens of mixes it hosts, along with the imagery surrounding them, frequently embody or resonate with the distroid aesthetic and are sometimes even more hardcore, pushing many kinds of sickly, high energy rave and hip hop that both mock and luxuriate in the extremism that courses through the underbelly of Western leisure thanks to capital’s acquisitive, hedonistic and race-to-the-bottom ideologies. As the mixes collected together on the DIS site indicate, there are many artists and DJs who seem to be taking this angle. One German dance label related to the DIS crowd both sonically and by remix is, appropriately enough, called Dyssembler. It’s difficult to say if cynical dysphoria is always the intention here, especially since DIS blur the line between sincerity and satire with the people they feature and promote. Perhaps much of this is really nothing more than a sincere enjoyment of and engagement with hi-tech rave from the 1990s onwards and a simple love of hardcore, which, if that’s the case, I would say seems a lot less of an interesting thing for art-pop to do. Distroid is one way of reacting to it all this material, at least – one of many.

Indeed, some recent dance music has had sonic similarities to distroid even if they don’t appear to have the same degree of conceptual agenda. Arca, Jam City (on ‘Classical Curves’) and Nguzunguzu (on ‘Warm Pulse’) have used hi-tech and metallic synths, vocals as sonic objects, non-standard percussion effects and even irregular, unconventional beats lately, perhaps showing the influence of Fatima Al Qadiri. With the glossy, pristine marble lobby and modern motorbike on the cover of ‘Classical Curves’, it’s tempting to read its machine-gun rhythms, cybernetic swish, laser synths and precision energies as representing an inhuman future. But this could – and has – also been said of a great many genuinely modernist moments in the history of music and its application of new forms and technologies. We simply expand the borders of humanity to include what we’d previously heard as alien. One listener’s accelerationist is another listener’s modernist.

In the same way, E+E is an artist that’s composed a mix for Dis and appears to share some of the imagery and sonic world of distroid, but who pushes its more imaginatively alien aspects until he seems to be operating on the level of pure surrealism. There’s a beguilingly Utopian and sentimental element to some of his reworkings of R&B songs, too, that could make him the post-lo-fi equivalent of the hyper-Romantic How To Dress Well. It just goes to show that unifying stylistic handles like ‘distroid’ only go so far, and that there are other ways to paint the picture too.
Ultimately, it’s the profound ambivalence of this potentially ‘accelerationist’ art-pop that is its most constructive and provocative contribution. It asks us whether we accept or reject the image of the future, and indeed the present, that it conjures. It might make us feel powerless, bewildered and over-stimulated or it might leave us thrilled, blissful and entertained, and it’s at its cleverest when it can do both at the same time. This is when we see ourselves reflected, together with the ways that we and our fellow human beings have been manipulated, modified and dragged, either against our will or along with it, by the seductive violence of contemporary culture. Whether it makes us anti-capitalist or more capitalist than ever before, we’ll know where we stand when the future really does get here.

00:00 – Gatekeeper: ‘Imax’ from Exo
01:11 – BODYGUARD: ‘SEX WITH AXE™ ON’ from Raiden Single
03:40 – Fatima Al Qadiri: ‘Corpcore’ from Genre Specific Xperience EP
06:52 – BODYGUARD: ‘BLACK AND RED’ from Silica Gel
09:27 – M. E. S. H: ‘On My Body’ from Share the Blame EP
14:27 – Jam City: ‘Backseat Becomes a Zone While We Glide’ from Classical Curves
15:46 – BEBETUNE$: ‘Pepsi Baby’ from INHALE C-4 $$$$$
15:52 – Gatekeeper: ‘Vengier’ from Exo
20:16 – BODYGUARD: ‘DRY ICE ¥2K12’ from Silica Gel
24:15 – BODYGUARD: ‘BLOOD TYPE: 5 HOUR ENERGY’ from Silica Gel
25:29 – Fatima Al Qadiri: ‘Vatican Vibes’ from Genre Specific Xperience EP
32:12 – S.A.M.: ‘Free Hip Hop Instrumentals #011 Creative Personal Commercial Use HOWTO & STYLE’
33:02 – SICH MANG: ‘024XADAEX420’ from Soundcloud
37:12 – BEBETUNE$: ‘Sahara Jr.’ from INHALE C-4 $$$$$
39:08 – Gatekeeper: ‘Tree Drum (Pre-Gen Exo Mix)’ from Exo
42:52 – Fatima Al Qadiri / Nguzunguzu: ‘Hip Hop Spa (Nguzunguzu Remix)’ from _GSX Remixes)
47:00 – BODYGUARD: H. U. M2. E. R from ‘Silica Gel’
48:41 – Jam City: The Courts from ‘Classical Curves’
52:47 – BEBETUNE$: ‘NERO CEA$ER/ANTI CHRIST’ from _INHALE C-4 $$$$$’
56:34 – E+E: ‘THE GUTTING’ from BOUND ADAM


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