1978: the year that gave rise to the Dawn of the Dead. Vaporwave came to life a couple of years later when the 80’s and its glitzy, acidic colour scheme arrived on the scene. Tangerine synths rocked slowly to soft sunsets and the teenage romance of the cinema collided with some heavy power ballads that rivaled Top Gun with their turbo-charged intensity. They took the breath away. Nobody knew it back then, but vaporwave was already in its infantile state.
Fast forward to 2014 and it’s clear that vaporwave is now its own walking, talking zombie that feeds off the music of the lost decade and then progresses into the 90’s, chewing on the Sega – Nintendo generation and then the 21st Century corporate office. Mario himself would once have had no second thoughts on eating a red mushroom that he’d just unearthed, but now the only mushrooms around are up above, nuclear clouds that come to announce the rise of internet culture, the insatiable lust for the latest in-thing and the advent of twenty-four hour rolling news television. Nowadays, the era is a long way off in the distant past, but music has always defied the decades and the Olympic games were around then as they are today. death’s dynamic shroud.wmv is a vaporwave artist who brings new life to the genre with his very own virtual Olympics. Rio can move aside – the five iconic rings have translated into fallen Dreamcast logos.
世界大戦OLYMPICS sounds fresh, and yet it clings to the Sony Walkman. Sampled lyrics are sung in slow motion, and the vocals are wrung with emotion because of it. This is a 16-bit adventure where we aren’t just looking down onto the screen – we are central characters in the quest. And it’s a changing, colourful world – “ǤØLƉ // ℳΞƉAŁ // WİƝƝΞ℞” chops up the vocals and then seamlessly cuts into a sparkling synth that shimmers like a rainbow in the sky. He races to the front and takes out the rest of the competition as if he had just used the gold star in Mario Kart. It is, at times, a strange yet lucid acid trip that disorientates with subtlety. It’s a lush, bright sound, and unlike the 80’s it avoids the cheese. Vaporwave isn’t a Mickey Mouse genre – it’s a highly creative, fun genre. It shovels itself through the soft jazz that plays its tin-treble, tangy music in countless early Saturday morning shopping malls across America. Padded beats eternally echo, as if they’d just come from the 80’s, delayed in their reaction like the sun’s historic rays that dapple the Earth eight minutes later with its reborn light.
世界大戦OLYMPICS is a delicate work of art. Like a Judo stance, it has one foot in the past and one planted in the present. Ultimately, that’s what makes it sound so dream-like. “⚐⚑⚐A ƤŁAǤỮȄ ǾƑ ƑŁAǤṨ⚐⚑⚐” sounds like the final boss fight from hell, the kind that doesn’t give you any save points or any hope of getting that gold medal you so desperately craved. Seagulls flock in, and the cream-coloured seashell conceals a beautiful ambient track. This leads to “負けSMILE”, and the jaded sunsets have returned. The final track booms out the melody to Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A” (1984) that was once flaunted as being a patriotic anthem but in reality was anything but. The melody is a triumphant survivor who has climbed to safety in the zombie infested shopping mall. A hundred television cameras beam the finale to a billion television screens – evidence enough that vaporwave just came back from the dead. (James Catchpole)