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The Rise of Niche and Micro-Genres: Exploring Vaporwave

In the vast landscape of contemporary music, the emergence of niche and micro-genres reflects the endless creativity and diversity of the digital age.

One such fascinating micro-genre is vaporwave, a unique and enigmatic style that has captivated listeners with its retro-futuristic aesthetics and cultural commentary.

This article explores the essence and influences of vaporwave and highlights the three indie artists who are making “vapor” waves.

Vaporwave Defined: Sound & Aesthetics

Vaporwave is a micro-genre of electronic music that emerged in the early 2010s, characterized by its use of nostalgic and retro elements from the 1980s and 1990s. It often incorporates samples from pop culture, smooth jazz, elevator music, and early internet aesthetics, transforming them into dreamy, surreal soundscapes.

The genre is heavily influenced by consumer culture, digital art, and the technological optimism of past decades, often presenting a satirical and critical perspective on modern capitalism and consumerism.

Vaporwave Origins

Vaporwave draws inspiration from a wide array of genres and cultural phenomena:

1980s and 1990s: Pop and Lounge

Vaporwave heavily samples music from these decades, including smooth jazz, Muzak, and early electronic music; it often repurposes these sounds to create new, surreal compositions.

Plunderphonics

This experimental genre involves the use of existing audio recordings to create new compositions; artists often use this technique, manipulating samples from old songs and media.

Chillwave and Synth-wave

These genres also explore retro aesthetics and sounds from the 1980s, focusing on synthesized music and a nostalgic atmosphere. Vaporwave shares this affinity for the past but with a more critical and deconstructed approach.

Early Digital Aesthetics

The visuals and themes of vaporwave are deeply rooted in early internet culture, including old websites, pixel art, and the utopian visions of technology from the 1990s.

Vaporwave Sound

Vaporwave’s distinct sound is marked by slowed-down tempos, reverb-heavy production, and a fondness for lo-fi, degraded audio quality that evokes a sense of faded memories and lost futures.

Vaporwave Aesthetics

The visuals associated with vaporwave are equally iconic, featuring retro computer graphics, neon colors, Greek statues, and other elements that evoke a sense of nostalgic futurism.

Top Vaporwave Indie Artists

Saint Pepsi (Skylar Spence)

Saint Pepsi, now known as Skylar Spence, is another key figure in the vaporwave movement. His work is characterized by a more upbeat, danceable take on the genre, blending elements of future funk with traditional vaporwave sounds.

  • Upbeat and Funky. Saint Pepsi’s music often incorporates funk and disco elements, creating a more energetic and lively vibe compared to the more introspective and ambient side of vaporwave.
  • Innovative Sampling. He uses samples from a variety of sources, including old pop songs, TV commercials, and more, to craft tracks that are both nostalgic and fresh.
  • Visuals and Branding. The visual aspect of Saint Pepsi’s work includes vibrant, colorful artwork and retro imagery, aligning with the vaporwave aesthetic while also infusing a sense of fun and playfulness.

ESPRIT 空想 (George Clanton)

ESPRIT 空想, an alias of George Clanton, represents the experimental and ambient side of vaporwave. Clanton’s work as ESPRIT 空想 focuses on creating lush, immersive soundscapes that blend vaporwave’s nostalgic elements with contemporary electronic music.

  • Ambient and Dreamy. It often features long, drawn-out synth pads, reverb-drenched melodies, and a slower tempo, evoking a dreamy, almost meditative atmosphere.
  • Minimalistic Approach. Compared to other vaporwave artists, the tracks are often more minimalistic, focusing on subtle variations and textures rather than complex sampling.
  • Visual Artistry. Surreal, abstract artwork and digital imagery enhance the immersive, otherworldly feel of his music.

luxury elite

Another prominent name in the vaporwave scene. She’s known for her smooth, nostalgic sound that leans heavily into the aesthetics of the 1980s; you can say that her music often feels like a journey through a high-end, glamorous past, filled with the sheen and polish of a bygone era.

  • Luxurious and Nostalgic. Her tracks are often infused with an aura of sophistication and nostalgia, utilizing samples that evoke the glitz and glamour of the 1980s.
  • Smooth Production. Her music features smooth jazz and R&B samples, slowed down and processed to create a lush, relaxing atmosphere.
  • Retro Visuals. The visual presentation often includes retro commercials, VHS aesthetics, and a palette that screams vintage luxury, further cementing her unique place within the vaporwave genre.

T e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者

This artist is known for his ethereal and ambient take on vaporwave, blending traditional elements of the genre with a more futuristic and meditative approach; his music often feels like an otherworldly experience, taking listeners on a journey through dreamy, digital landscapes.

  • Ambient and Ethereal. His music focuses on creating expansive, atmospheric soundscapes that are both calming and immersive.
  • Futuristic Aesthetics. While rooted in the nostalgia of vaporwave, his work often looks forward, blending retro elements with futuristic sounds and visuals.
  • Cultural Fusion. His music often incorporates Japanese characters and themes, adding a layer of cultural fusion that enriches the vaporwave experience.

Vaporwave: The Future of Sound

Vaporwave Future Sound
Vaporwave Future Sound

Vaporwave stands as a testament to the power of niche and micro-genres in shaping modern music culture. By drawing on a rich tapestry of influences and presenting a unique, satirical perspective on consumerism and technology, vaporwave offers a distinctive and thought-provoking listening experience.

Artists like these exemplify the diversity and creativity within this micro-genre, each contributing their unique voice to the vaporwave movement. As we continue to navigate the digital age, vaporwave reminds us of the enduring allure of nostalgia and the ever-evolving landscape of indie music.

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