What is a Vaporwave?

Vaporwave refers to a broad collection of electronic dance music that integrates the melodies of chillwave, the DIY, nostalgia-invoking work of plunderphonics, and the aesthetic of digital life in the 80s and 90s, with an emphasis on the growing influence of “e-Asia.” Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 by Chuck Person (of Oneohtrix Point Never fame) and Far Side Virtual by James Ferraro are commonly viewed at key to the rise of the genre in 2010, although they in many ways represent the Pitchfork-approved tip of the iceberg. NEW DREAMS LTD. by LASERDISC VISIONS and the early assorted works of Vektroid are widely considered key to the genre’s development, and represent the genre’s ethos by the very circumstance surrounding their release; both are the work of Portland-based Ramona Andra Xavier, an artist who has quietly released dozens of albums under at least five different names, building a web of webpages and artificial ‘companies’ through which to move her work. Other highly regarded artists include Blank Banshee, Luxury Elite, and Metallic Ghost, MACINTOSH PLUS (another project of Xavier). Given the genre’s emphasis on listener participation and the relative ease of creating simple Vaporwave tracks, this short list only scratches the surface of what Vaporwave has to offer.

How do I Vaporwave?

With the fleeting superficiality of commercial culture being a theme of the genre (the name itself draws from “vaporware,” or a product that is announced but never released), it’s unsurprising that Vaporwave can be hard to find. However, two outstanding sources of new and old Vaporwave are the ‘Ailanthus Recordings’ and ‘Beer on the Rug’ Bandcamp pages. A fair amount can also be found on the r/vaporwave subreddit. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to shoot me an email!

Read more from Vice’s Thump, Chicago Reader, and Dummy.

M. Nolan Gray (01/17/2015)

Originally published in the RiFLe Fall 2014 issue.   Next in this series: What does Vaporwave mean?


One thought on “Everything you ever wanted to know about vaporwave, but were too afraid to ask

  1. Pingback: What does vaporwave mean? | Prudent Ranting

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