Tuesday, 31 December 2013

my pieces this year

Thought I'd do a post gathering together everything relatively major I wrote in 2013. Click the links to get either the relevant piece or a fuller description I put up here on the blog where you can click through to the piece itself. Happy New Year!

End of 2013 Stuff

I loved 2013 for music - loads of huge and really fresh material. The second half of the year in particular was a constant stream of amazement, with Burial, Beyoncé and a new E+E release just missing the boat for most of the end-of-year coverage too. I did masses of lists and writings for the end of year, and here they are (in roughly chronological order). At the bottom I've jotted down another list of albums that were great but which you are less likely to have come across outside my writing and end-of-year contributions.

Wire

Wire's January 2014 issue (#359) was its annual Rewind issue. I contributed some reflections and an essay on the year in the online underground featuring vaporwave, newcomposed vaporwave (Eyeliner, PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises), hardcore pastiche (Yen Tech, Gatekeeper), post/para/quasi-vape beats (Contact Lens, Blank Banshee), weird beats (RAP/RAP/RAP, Karmelloz, Pazz Cherofoot, Suicideyear) and the new epic collagists (E+E, Diamond Black Hearted Boy, Total Freedom, TCF) with nice pics of Suicideyear, E+E and Diamond Black Hearted Boy. There's also a review of 18+'s MIXTAP3 by me, which I picked as my release of the year. And as ever, Wire's Rewind issue is worth a look, with a great list of best releases and everyone's reflections. At some point everyone's lists will be accessible online too.

Dummy

Dummy did a load of stuff, much of which I got involved in voting and writing for, including best albums (click here), best tracks (click here) (ft. me on Autre Ne Veut's 'Ego Free Sex Free'), best EPs (click here), best mixtapes (click here) (ft. me on James Ferraro's Cold and 18+'s MIXTAP3) and everyone's individual lists (click here). I did one of the 'Trends of 2013' pieces too, on Neo-Eski, Alien Shapes and the New Grime (click here).

Electronic Beats

My Pattern Recognition column for Electronic Beats became a couple of best-of-2013 lists covering the online underground, one for non-vaporwave (click here) and one for vaporwave (click here). These are pretty good for releases you might have missed, and the second one is a good intro to vaporwave and its recent activities.

Boomkat

I did an end-of-year list for the online music shop Boomkat (click here to see it). It's probably the best list if you want to know what I liked this year, and features an almost lifesize and increasingly outdated pic of me. If you needed persuading.

No Fear of Pop

Top-notch mp3 blog No Fear of Pop came to me wanting to realise an offhand comment I once made (here, actually) that 'maybe one day the chart will rate musical objects of the year' and the result was a gorgeous page featuring lists contributed by myself and NFOP's writers (click here to read), with an introduction to musical objects written by me. The project ended up with a personal and thoughtful character, and was beautifully designed to - do check it out. I wrote about Burial, Janelle Monáe, war dubs, Laurel Halo, Autre ne Veut, Yen Tech, Metallic Ghosts, Lou Reed and Drake, the others picked a great range of specific musical tidbits and experiences.

Recommendations of Less Famous Stuff

18+: MIXTAP3
a i r s p o r t s: BE THE 1 I DREAM OF
Alak: Guardian Petted
AyGeeTee: Fools
Blank Banshee: Blank Banshee 1
Bloom: Maze Temple
Cakes Da Killa: The Eulogy
Contact Lens: Free Throw Banquet (CL keeps taking this one down from Bandcamp but it's worth seeking out. Much of it's on Youtube - e.g. here)
Cyan Kid: Free
Diamond Black Hearted Boy: Father, Protect Me
E+E: Recortes (currently down from Bandcamp)
E+E: The Light That You Gave Me To See You
Egyptrixx: A/B til Infinity
Eyeliner: LARP of Luxury
Glass Eyes: Cero
Infinity Frequencies: Computer Death (gorgeous bit of vaporwave, this)
Karmelloz: Bud Air
Luxury Elite // Saint Pepsi: Late Night Delight (gorgeous bit of vaporwave, this)
Magic Fades: Obsession
Marie Dior: Euphrates
Nima: Spirit Sign
Yearning Kru: Cracked Lacquer / Vanadium
Yen Tech: Revengeance

Longer lists of less famous stuff can be found in the Electronic Beats pieces (see above)

Liner Notes for Matthew Shlomowitz and Peter Ablinger

I wrote an essay for the liner notes of a great new CD of contemporary classical compositions by Matthew Shlomowitz and Peter Ablinger (click here for more info). The music is really worth a listen - both composers reconstruct and play with samples in absorbing and complex ways - Shlomowitz by comparing, contrasting and paralleling material between a piano and a sampler, Ablinger by replicating vocal samples on a piano in various different ways. Have a listen and read extracts from my essay below:

video
Matthew Shlomowitz - '1. Free Sound' from Popular Contexts

Peter Ablinger - 'Hanna Schygulla' from Voices and Piano

When first listening to the works of Matthew Shlomowitz and Peter Ablinger, it's tempting to reach for a well-worn concept and say that they take music or sound and 'deconstruct' it - but this would be a mistake. It's common to hear of how works playfully pick things apart piece by piece and layer by layer, whether found objects or objects of tradition, in gestures interpreted as knowing, self-aware, ironic. The work of Shlomowitz and Ablinger is more interesting - it reconstructs music, not merely by getting back to basics or back to where we came from, but one note at a time. The interest lies not just in what they manage to achieve, but in the nature of the task itself and the scope of its foundations.

Shlomowitz and Ablinger seem less 'knowing' than open-mindedly learning as they generate their material - composing as if beginning from an almost pre-intellectual or even pre-human starting point. They approach the world of music and sound like an intelligent but newborn child, a blank slate whose complex and confusing surroundings must be parsed and understood moment upon moment. Or like a pet starling, picking up sonic objects like household noises and human speech from its environment, perfectly replicating them, and incorporating them into its song wholly or in fragments but with little apparent understanding of their everyday meaning... Or like a complex artificial intelligence, designed in a lab, algorithmically building a knowledge base by tracking the trajectories of its stimuli, analysing spectral data, and haltingly interacting with technicians...

Emma by Chuck Close, an artist whose work was a point of comparison in the notes

Performances of the work of Matthew Shlomowitz (b. 1975) are often met with well-intentioned laughter - it's the natural reaction to suddenly hearing recognisable or banal sounds in rapid combination within a concert setting. His work is playful and flippant in this way, but sooner or later it asks to be taken more seriously. As the frisson of meaning in the sound effects dies down, as the 'jokes' outstay their welcomes, it's the processes of form and syntax that take centre stage, the purity of the latter all the more surprising given the down-to-earth nature of the former...

Each of the Voices and Piano pieces can be thought of as a photograph of somebody's face overlaid with a system of lines and shapes that is uniquely generated according to particular architectural rules, suggesting a structure in the face not obvious beforehand. Discovering this process anew in each piece is what makes hearing them so beguiling. In some, such as 'Amanaulik' and 'Alberto Giacometti', the texture is wrapped very closely and tightly around the voice, almost masking it. So scrunched and fine-grained is it in the latter that they evoke the thin but turbulent bronze sculptures of the eponymous artist. In 'Jacques Brel' and 'Carmen Baliero', Ablinger constructs a halo of pitches at some distance from the pitch of the recording. The latter features staccato pitches high above the voice, which is talking about the rain in Buenos Aires, and it's as if the raindrops were falling from the clouds in straight lines and constructing Baliero's voice where they fell...

Monday, 30 December 2013

Essay (Trends of 2013): Neo-Eski, Alien Shapes and the New Wave of Grime

Artwork by Educastelo

This Dummy essay was also one of a number of end-of-year 'Trends of 2013' pieces for the mag, and looked at this years' new wave of grime, particularly its eski, sino and alien elements (click here to read). Pleased with this one - feat. Wiley, Logos, Visionist, Bloom, Inkke, Slackk, Murlo, SD Laika, war dubs, grime tonality (chromaticism vs pentatonicism), squarewave, auto design now and tomorrow, yo-yos and more.

Of all the areas of underground music that seemed to surge forward this year, grime was one of the most obvious and most intense.. 2013 might have been one of the most exciting years in emergent grime for quite some time - a year when the genre reached back to its roots to create its future...

Ultimately all these pressures on grime - what commercial success means, smoother dance directions and US approaches - really begged the question: what is grime? And for the answer to that, many producers have looked to its early days circa 2003, discovering there a freshness that stands out sharply against the productions of more recent years...

Visionist

If eski was a car designed in 2002, neo-eski feels like what the car would look like after a redesign in 2032, and not just the car itself but also the bizarre social, technological and climatological violence you'll be able to see out of its windows...

Visionist seems to be the avant-garde spearhead of grime's new wave, eschewing pastiche almost entirely in developing a range of distinctive sounds that are powerfully modern and that lose none of their effect to failed experimentalism...

The all-round biggest success might have been Bloom's 'Maze Temple EP,' an intense neo-eski raid that takes the futurism of Logos and makes you move to it. Bloom is one of the strongest of the new wavers, and his war dub send for Samename might have been my favourite of the lot, firing weapons that aren't supposed to be invented until the 23rd century...

Pattern Recognition: James Ferraro’s NYC, Hell 3:00 AM


Pattern Recognition 7 was on James Ferraro's latest album NYC, Hell 3:00 AM (click here to read). I was particularly pleased with how this one came out. There's a running theme of exhaustion and damage.

Up there, there’s Drake and Kanye, raging and weeping in their gloomy fortresses. Down here, under the dust, sirens and steaming vents, under the sidewalk and the rattling subway, under the dripping pipes and skeletons, here’s our James Ferraro, standing guard over a kingdom of rats...

Sorry we ran out of milk, but here’s your shot of James Ferraro, now fuck off...

Rather than being amazed, dazzled and possessed, NYC, Hell 3:00 AM weighs you down like a ghoul on your back and a concrete block chained to your legs. Far from presenting a particular concept—you don’t know what it’s about, can’t put your finger on a unifying reference or a commentary, can’t quite make the ends meet—the album’s power is in its dragging you into darkness. It’s like a flashlight shone into a pool in an otherwise lightless cavern, illuminating a few motes in a dull greyish beam that fades several feet later, leaving little impression of how far down it goes...


As they perform, the speckled, downcast members of Ferraro’s arcane backing band don’t make eye contact with each other or anyone else, but somehow their disunity settles, like silt...

The urgent but numbed scrubbing of hands and forearms in slow motion of “QR JR”, a ritual intermittently pierced by clock chimes and anxiety. The thin, suspended vocal of “Beautiful Jon K”, a human monument. In “Upper East Side Pussy”, a monastic refrain rolled like a carpet and pushed up the stairs as if after the occupant of a home has passed away...

NYC, Hell 3:00 AM is not just what happens to a city, but what happens to the public façade, the lungs, the muscles, and the mind, too...

Pattern Recognition: The Vanishing Frame of Blondes and Huerco S


Pattern Recognition 6 is a piece looking at the different ways recent albums by Blondes and Huerco S. frame dance music (click here to read). This one was implicitly a response to the whole 'outsider house' thing, and had me trying out a slightly more unusual writing styles.

Though they sound pretty different on the surface, they’re complementary—both are working through the same process with different outcomes. This process involves expanding out from older conceptions of where the ‘music itself’ is located and incorporating the sonic and formal consequences of its context into the wider musical appeal...

[Swisher is] bathed in low-Celsius streams of improvisational electronic minimalism, the kosmische microwave background. It’s like stepping into the clubs of that world you always wanted to visit, the one lit by a giant blue star, the one where the humanoid creatures step along with a sad dignity and no-one quite notices or cares that you’re there. There’s an almost melancholy voyeurism when you visit this imaginary club, where heads are down and backs are turned...

While Swisher zooms out to show you the club, the frame in Colonial Patterns is a zooming in, showing you the grainy physical life of the sounds themselves leaking through boxes and wires, so close up that you no longer see the wood for the trees. The forces connecting the sounds begin to weaken and they float freely as autonomous objects, and aren’t trees lovely up close when we can feel the rough bark under our fingers and smell the sap? Where are we again?...

Goddamn it, we’ve been coasting on post-modernism for at least thirty years now—and the idea of it spreading into house and techno only seems fresh and interesting for about 0.2 seconds. Blondes and Huerco S. don’t need to be casualties to the assumption that their music is simply a reaction, because every time I listen the music seems to get more abstract, not less...

Essay: Modules in Machine Modernism with Oneohtrix Point Never

Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven

Dummy essay giving my take on what might be going on in Oneohtrix Point Never's latest album R Plus Seven (click here to read). Includes thoughts on abstraction, modular composition, machine language vs human understanding.

If you have listened to 'R Plus Seven', make a list of ideas that R beautiful now that you have listened to 'R Plus Seven'. Here's mine: savannahs, stairwells, Mondrian, electric blue suits, cursors...

'Replica' was a mystery humanity may never solve, an ancient curse on the limbic system, a system of doorways leading only to other doorways. It managed to unify enormous godlike emotional forces and apparently inconsequential little sonic granules in some kind of fuck-me, Klein-bottle, infinite-Escher-ascent scenario...

This new album 'R Plus Seven' is so quizzical that it only barely interfaces with a human player on levels such as familiarity and emotionality. It cares nothing for your human need for unity. It cares nothing for your human hierarchy of musical signs. It cares nothing for your human categories of culture...


After a while, one can begin to sketch up a new cladogram. 'R Plus Seven' has several species of soft sounds (not as in quiet - woozy, hazy, pastel-coloured, rounded) and hard sounds (pinging, slamming, tinny, metallic). It is singular sounds (this note, that one, that pipette-blob of whatever it is) and multilicious sounds (bells, bunches, combinations, conglomerations). Organic sounds (human voices, water, was that a bird?) and non-organic sounds (for which only formulas can currently be given) - well, they're all both organic and non-organic and neither, really, 'R Plus Seven' makes it difficult to draw the lines. Discrete sounds (attacked, decayed, sustained and released into the silence) and continuous sounds (drones, breezes, atmosphères)...

The album might be what the computer that used to work for the Art of Noise does on its own time, an AI enthusiastically generating art, who once wouldn't admit to preferring modernism to postmodernism but now refuses to be ironic or ashamed of the so-called uncanny valley. 'R Plus Seven' wouldn't quite be the sort of thing to play to the tech-investors next time they come around, maybe we'll stick to 'Moments in Love' and 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' but we'll keep it on diskette, maybe one day humanity will have ascended to the point where it can be grateful...

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pattern Recognition: Is ‘Internet Music’ the New ‘Lo-Fi’?


Pattern Recognition Vol. 5 (click here to read) was a thinkpiece seeing parallels in the fate of the early 1980s cassette revolution - that is, its eventual reduction to the quaintness of 'lo-fi' - and the possible fate of the online music revolution. Although I covered the relegation of the online underground to something patronised and/or trivial, in hindsight I didn't say enough on ideas about the internet being unnatural, perverted and fearful (which I looked at in the context of OPN's 'Still Life' video in this blogpost).

When you look up close and see the pixels or strain to filter out the tape-hiss, neither ‘internet music’ or ‘lo-fi’ are quite what they seem to be...

Ask anyone, especially ten years ago, what an indie approach to music-making looks like, and they’ll describe the ‘lo-fi aesthetic’: well, it might be a little bit retro or a little bit folky or a little bit twee, and maybe the sound would be a little bit muddy, hissy or woozy, the playing would be a little ragged, but it would be warm, intimate, minimal, gentle, like a hug from a bearded man in a charity-shop woollen jumper with a kind face. After all, this is what comes out when you make music outside of the commercial studio system, right?...

When home-recording and the cassette medium first turned up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, few musicians or writers regarded the medium as ‘lo-fi' ... What independent music magazines at the time recognized in the cassette was sheer potential itself—now anyone could make whatever music they wanted and send it anywhere that had a mailbox. Within a few years, the cassette medium had been adopted by fringe and avant-garde musicians in the industrial, experimental and electronic underground and the production of modern-music recordings was radically decentralized...

Soon enough, it was taken for granted that home-recording and lo-fi—a sloppy, hissy, amateur folk rock sound—were one and the same thing. But home-recording and lo-fi are not the same thing...

This is a reactionary and patronizing take on a new form of human—yes, human—cultural structure that might be so serious, so powerful, and so new that it’s frightening, that it’s too much and needs to be reduced to a quaint, charming place. This reductive maneuver is the lo-fi of the 2010s—it could be called ‘internetness’, in parallel with the ‘cassetteness’ of lo-fi...

Essay: London's Hi-Tech Noise

Art by Clifford Sage

Dummy piece (click here to read) on a network of artists (including Yearning Kru, Clifford Sage, Karen Gwyer, Brood Ma, Felicita and more) and labels (including Kaleidsoscope, Mantile and Astro:Dynamics) based in London that are sort of in an art/noise place but that are reaching beyond lo-fi analogue alchemy. Some great stuff covered in there, and a promising network.

Pop vitally needs its avant-garde sectors, and this London-centred noise network represents the hi-tech weirdness currently sweeping the underground in its most distilled form. If you don't normally consider yourself a noise person, it's worth giving it a try in this case - this is not something gurgling away as a static sub-sub-culture, but an insight into the modern sound...

Just as some techno, once clean and hi-tech, is becoming more distorted and hissy and thus more like noise music, this faction within noise and industrial music is becoming a bit more clean and hi-tech. It's a particular network headquartered in London (with an annex in Taiwan) and it's been slowly cooking over the past few years, with focal points provided by labels such as Kaleidoscope, Manile, Astro:Dynamics and No Pain in Pop. It's coming to resemble something of a counterpart to New York's own abstract hi-tech crew - the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never (and his Software Label), Laurel Halo, Ferraro, Gobby and Arca...


Sometimes 'Cracked Lacquer / Vanadium' is dense, angry and demented, pulling up clods of God-knows-what from the roots, pressing them together and twisting the whole bunch. Other times it's searching desperately for something deeper as its surface trembles with latent anxiety. Aethrr Wvlf starts off like a pocket call from a friend shopping for groceries in other dimension, but a mournful refrain slowly rises out of its centre with a halo of broken glass and crockery in its orbit. In The Confines, a handful of scrunched-up tones is cranked like a mad hurdy-gurdy. While the 'Cracked Lacquer' section is usually grander and slower-moving, 'Vanadium' is a series of smaller sketches featuring the signature tones of shifting high-resonance phasers, like wine glasses as they scrape and scoop up water, soil, stones and other all-frequency sonic components, most dramatically in effect on the final track...

The opening track, Oxidiation Fix by Brood Ma, takes the cake, an essential future-groove of chiming icicles and kick-drum fists. You may then want to listen to Brood Ma's album 'F I S S I O N,' a stunning, sharp-edged diamond, a classic of the modern sound that seems to have languished in woeful obscurity for roughly a year (it can be found as a free download here). It shivers with snares and flexes claws as it hurtles forward, now mutantly misshapen yet oncoming, now on-the-beat and sleek like a lightcycle. Not Going Home probably features the most terrifying use of the 'Ha Dance' sample out there, resculpting it as an eyeless bug scuttling down from the hive to feast on your pituitary gland. Disconnect From This & That takes some tonal sample or other and just wrecks it, rabidly shaking it in its jaws and sending flecks of acidic saliva in all directions. If just one of this album's bucketfuls of new techniques made it onto London's dancefloors, it'd be a transfiguring moment...

Essay: 'Something Beautiful?' The Hardcore Pastiche of YEN TECH and ADR

Yen Tech: Revengeance (download it here)

Dummy essay on the questions raised by such extreme and detailed use of pop pastiche, especially on recent releases by ADR and Yen Tech (click here to read). This one was a bit of a follow-up to last year's distroid piece. Since this essay went up, Gatekeeper released their Young Chronos EP in a similar kind of bag, and Yen Tech released two more great tracks - 'Creature' and the Christmas song 'All I Want for Christmas' (for the brilliant Christmas 2.0 Forever Priz Tats x PC Music compilation).

Earlier this year, two members of the Dis camp released what might be two of the most perplexing and provocative albums of recent years, and both of them work with the deepest, most detailed and most unblinking pastiche of among the most lurid and inauthentic (traditionally, at least) music around today: ADR's 'Chunky Monkey' and YEN TECH's 'Revengeance' mixtape. Both are spectacular. It's pastiche so hardcore that it seems like they form an extreme yet logical intensification, the furthest reach, an end-point perhaps, of the light pastiching that began with the likes of Stereolab, Boards of Canada and Ariel Pink messing around with cheesy old-fashioned pop. Where those artists casually invited you to a wistful afternoon of sunny, dappled nostalgia, safely distant in time and historicised, a little cheeky lemonade to offset the artisanal ales of indie folk, maybe a faint pang of poignancy here and there, 'Chunky Monkey' and 'Revengeance' slam your head right into the toilet bowl and shout over and over again, "YOU LOVE IT! YOU LOVE IT!"...

The gap between the caricature and its object narrows to a hairline fracture. No longer is underground new music merely caricaturing the sounds its audience associates with capitalistic or technological excess, leaving us space to comfortably situate ourselves in relation to it. For all intents and purposes, it is the music of capitalistic and technological excess...

Pattern Recognition: Indigo Beats

Pattern Recognition Vol. 4 is on the convergence of a number of beat-making trends in the online underground (cloud rap, 'trap,' witch house, vaporwave) into something euphoric, hi-tech, ethereal, based, weird and diverse I gently dub 'indigo beats' (click here to read). As well as doing an overview on 'beats the genre' and what it's been doing in recent years, the piece takes in several great lesser-known artists that are worth a look including Contact Lens, Horse Head, Party Trash, BLK SMK and more (and since this piece went up, the style has solidified further). In order to best introduce you to these artists I did a mix to accompany the piece, which you can download:



Since the piece went up, several more albums in the stylistic vicinity have been released, such as Blank Banshee's Blank Banshee 1, BLK SMK's 110, Horse Head's 3D and Spirit Armor, Party Trash's Scrapped (some tracks more than others) and MiaMee's Ghost Boy (even Burial's Rival Dealer sounded kinda like this stuff in places). The name 'indigo beats' comes from the generally blue and/or purple coloration on the covers of the releases and/or the Bandcamp pages, which parallels the music's mixing of 'blue sky' digital and seapunk sounds (blue) and cloud rap (purple, naturally):

Contact Lens - Free Throw Banquet (currently unavailable)

Some extracts:

Cut open modern popular music culture, squeeze it, boil it, turn it upside down and shake it, and you get beats. Hip hop instrumentals, riddims, productions, selected ambient works, call them what you like, beat music can be found everywhere... Today, this extraordinarily versatile and accessible genre—no, genre’s too narrow a word: medium—is practically the default setting of pop music’s base. Where in the 20th century, bored or fame-hungry youth would join a jazz or rock band, today they make or use beats...

But the clear ruler of post-vape crystal beats (or whatever) is Contact Lens... Free Throw Banquet is a different animal, finding a new sound and mining it capably. It might be the wallpaper music album of the year—it’s warm, masterfully crafted, very personable, very now, and has a sense of humor without being annoying or insincere. Sonically, it favors reverby e-piano and chiming synth patches and TR-808, like all the tech-company sound-logos of circa 1993-2003 got together in a hot tub. I say this, but the album isn’t retro or an arty conceptual jolly—it’s beat-making. No giant sea-view mansion should be without it, especially if said mansion is really a drab sofa in the suburbs...

Future beats, then, might be converging somewhere beyond the established formulations of cloud rap, vaporwave, trap and witch house, as restless producers use their old tools for new purposes. Most of the producers mentioned above show a tendency to avoid heavy sample use and classic organic warmth in favor of unconventional electronic textures with a strikingly emotional and blissful resonance, together with an inclination towards considerable heterogeneity in technique from track to track, each one constituting its own little world...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

on the new OPN video

Your Internet Needs YOU

I guess I sort of missed the comment window on this one, but there's been a couple of things people have said, and a couple of things I've read on a similar theme lately. I have some reservations about the video that came out of Oneohtrix Point Never's new album, R Plus 7, the video for 'Still Life (Betamale)'. Watch it, if you must, here. I've never had the chance to address OPN's work directly, but I'm still a big fan, I think R Plus 7 is brilliant, full of previously unimaginable forms and abstractions, really good music, and hopefully I'll get into that on another occasion (and the 'Still Life (Excerpt)' video? one of the best things I've seen all year). I also know other work by Jon Rafman, and think it's often pretty cool (though not everyone likes the way he does it). This video is a more or less separate issue. To begin with, it's important to emphasise that the people who made this video and the people who really liked it probably had good intentions, are not scoundrels, and probably were not conscious of the wider contexts, and that's understandable.

Yeah so people really liked this video. Someone on Facebook said about it 'The truth is...things are grim, and people DON'T feel things, so feeling drawn to and repulsed by media like this says a lot about our state and less about our tastes.' A friend of mine called it 'provocative in a modern way.' Sean DeLanty on Ad Hoc said:
In the incredible clip... we see flashes of disgustingly dirty computers and keyboards, screenshots of anime pornography, live-action shots of furries and other online fetishists, and a variety of other NSFW, internet-enabled manifestations of human sexuality, violence, and general carnality-- all presented through a hallucinatory digital aesthetic.
The Warp website says:
'Still Life (Betamale)’ draws images from a range of online fetish sites, engaging with the theme of obsessive desire. The narrated version of the album track is immersed in the simultaneously captivating and disturbing world of internet subcultures.
Let's get something out the way - don't take this response as a sign that the video is controversial, shocking or envelope-pushing. I'm not critiquing this video because I'm too 'challenged' by it, because I think it's in poor taste or pornographic, because I can't handle the 'truth'. It's precisely because it reflects pre-conceived notions of taste in a sham-realist, sham-sociological exposé that it doesn't challenge me or frighten me enough.

I thought the beginning was atmospheric, and I liked its retro graphics. Then there are the images of computers in a state of physical neglect, portrayed in a forensic photography, crime-scene style, absent of people, like we've wandered into a house where someone's recently died. These are images of environments occupied by people who may or may not need some sort of help. Then there are images and videos from various alternative sexual subcultures. We're being invited to make the association, loud and clear, between the electronic world of these alternative sexualities and these sites of physical neglect. People have been praising it for this aspect, because it revels in the binary of the virtual and the physical, and the true alienation of the digital aesthetic and these modern times.

There's the heavy implication that these dirty computers are sites where dirty people have been practicing their dirty sexualities. Ew. You know the type. Ugh. Overweight, probably old, disgusting, wallowing in decomposing pizza, beating off to something fucked up. Yknow, internet-users. Cos, like, this is us. Well, not really, but basically. That's what's going happen to us when we use the internet too much. It's going to stop us being healthy and normal. Shit. Baudrillard or something. Koyaanisqatsi. Sad.

Nah. The video is policing sexuality and computer use, mapping them onto heightened constructions of a physical world ('IRL') vs an electronic world, unnatural excess in the one driving unnatural excess in the other and the whole thing turning into a cautionary tale of horror and disaster. Constructions? I mean to say that many of us have come to believe in a separation between 'real life' and 'electronic life,' and we constrain and tame the 'internet life' and all the troublingly relativising potential it represents by framing it as unimportant, trivial, unnatural, unreal, excessive, inauthentic, shameful, threatening, and often, as in this video, fearful.

If you survive the video, find it meaningful and feel the frisson, you're the lucky winner of a sort of 'reality patrol support officer' badge. The training was difficult (which enhances the sense of psychological reward and newfound cultural capital), but you've negotiated with genuine images (never mind the way they were framed) and discovered in them the valuable truth about The Way Things Are, that excessive internet usage, the inability to properly maintain that all-important boundary between 'real life' and 'the electronic world,' and 'normal sexuality' and 'fucked up sexuality' accordingly, is bad and a real problem with grave consequences. These ideas are generated somewhere between the video itself and the audience reaction.

('But all that stuff you said was true, there really IS a separation like that with all those characteristics.' If you believe in that, that's my point. It's like the separation between mind and body. It's not like your mind, your hard drive and the internet is floating beyond the boundary of some transcendental limbo dimension that's in some sort of hierarchy of existences whereby it doesn't properly exist or is situated above or beneath the physical somehow. In terms of 'existence,' the electronic world is ultimately nothing more or less than an extension of paper and pencil.)

(And if you think that the sexualities and other images represented in the video are uniquely contemporary, 'internet-enabled' and 'digital-aesthetic' try visiting a fanzine archive, or this exhibition at the admittedly culturally marginal British Museum, or a cave painting. If you think the position or the argument about grim, icky, contemporary alienation is uniquely Internet Age, look at Videodrome, Alban Berg, Egon Schiele, William Dean Howells, dark satanic mills etc. I have an academic friend who argues that the monstrous Caliban in The Tempest, for example, represents seventeenth-century anxieties about the new environments and possibilities of oceans, which trade and exploration were opening up at the time. If you want some contemporary-times / new-electronic-world satire that actually might be complex, illuminating and thought-provoking, watch Black Mirror.)

'Modern,' 'internet-enabled,' 'digital aesthetic.'
Now there's definitely a case to be made that some of the sexual images in the video are or were harmful to people / animals and harmful representations of people / animals, and that this does need to be brought to wider attention via for example this video. Strangling, distress, etc. (nb, BDSM is a lifestyle which observes rules and safety procedures, but yeah), there is certainly room for debate here, the same way that pornography has been debated in feminism, I won't go into that here. Is there an element of misogyny in the pictures worth being genuinely concerned about? Definitely, yes. Rape culture? Non-consenting sexual violence? Absolutely - big, big potential danger being hinted at in the video. But does the video make a clear, unambiguous argument about how these images function harmfully (other than to make the stupid association with hygienic neglect) and what we might do about it? No. Does it differentiate between a whole bunch of alternative sexualities? No. There is at least one element in there - furry fandom and other costumes - that probably needn't be included in the parade as harmful or worryingly freakish. I don't see how people doing that is inherently dodgy. But the multifaceted bucket o' freaky perversions it goes through before your appalled normative eyes is not unlike its equivalent a hundred years ago which included, yes, paedophilia, but also, of course, homosexuality and inter-racial sex taboos. Fifty years from now will we look back and think 'yeah, that that drowning furry-costumed person someone found on the internet really nailed the dark, fucked-up, unnatural place we were at as a culture?' Or will we feel an uncomfortable sense of phobia, gaze and exploitation about the whole thing?

If you were under the impression that furries are freaks or digital-age deviations, PLEASE watch this video. Not so weird and dark, huh.

(And a side-point here, as I can't count myself as a card-carrying representative of any of the alternative sexualities in the video, but I do know we don't have to worry about the ethics of using the images and videos and what these communities think about they way they've been represented and their potentially sensitive material used in the video. Because I know that whoever made the 'Still Life (Betamale)' video has long been involved with alternative sexual communities and knew that the representation in the video was appropriate. I know that whoever made the video was in an open and equal dialogue with the people who made and use those images and videos and got their consent and input. And during this dialogue, there must have been the conclusion that it was fine that those communities and their imagery be conflated with extremes of domestic and hygienic neglect. Because I know that whoever compiled those images wouldn't just have wandered into an online culture and just taken what worked the most for them because they believed that everything in culture and on the internet is free of context and free to use for whatever purpose they want. And even if they didn't, it would be very different from someone taking sensitive items of non-Western culture and putting them in Western museums and galleries for Westerners to gawp at and misinterpret. Thankfully we don't have to worry about these things, because the people who make videos for major independent labels are fair, responsible and scrupulous.)

Harmful or otherwise, there's no denying that these subcultures (as well as people who have one way or another unfortunately neglected on hygiene, a completely different category) are being objectified in the video for the amusement, terror and fascination of us normal, right-thinking people. It might be different if these people were deliberately objectifying themselves directly, for their own purposes and under their own control (as some of them might have been doing in the original videos), but that ultimately might not be the case here because those videos and images have been re-purposed and reframed. So it becomes the contemporary manifestation of the nineteenth-century freak show, really. You remember the way the bodies of women of colour were (as said e.g. here) used as props in recent widely publicised pop performances. And Warp have commissioned videos that ogle anomalous bodies before, particularly Chris Cunningham videos such as Rubber Johnny. He was dancing to the music of Aphex Twin in a potentially empowering way, but the opening and the depiction of him in the dark amped up the horrifying aspect as much as it could, just like 'Still Life (Betamale)'. Then there's the photography of Diane Arbus, pictures of people with all sorts of sexualities, disabilities and othernesses (disability activist David Hevey calls it 'enfreakment' and that's a great word for the 'Still Life (Betamale)' video) which in themselves are one thing, but Arbus and indeed Susan Sontag also explicitly drew connections between the subjects / objects in the photography and a supposed condition of alienation. Then there's Frank Zappa, who considered himself (and his fans still believe it today) to be an 'anthropologist' and sociologist of the seedy side of American life as he was recording a mentally ill person for his Bizarre label, and making music that reflected perceptions of bad taste in all its varieties. His fans say his music is tough, provocative and challenging, but fun, true and a genuine, important reflection of the way things are, and they say that he sticks it to the man, and that they know all this makes them the special chosen few.

They don't see what all this is, the dubiously celebrative and undeconstructive gaze of the normality police masquerading as new and meaningful commentary.

'In times of socio-cultural stress, when the need for positive self-definition asserts itself but no compelling criterion of self-identification appears, it is always possible to say something like: 'I may not know the precise content of my own felt humanity, but I am most certainly not like that,' and simply point to something in the landscape that is manifestly different from oneself' - Hayden White, 'The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea', in Dudley and Novak (eds.), The Wild Man Within: An Image of Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism.

'Modernism' has a long and ugly history of using Others and 'deviants' to say what it wants to say about a confusing, changing world quickly and easily and with the greatest impact. Progressive weirdness and depictions of modernity, don't have to - and shouldn't - involve things that are actually part of actual people's actual lives and turn them into objects that represent, enforce and amplify constructions and alienations that we already brought to the table.

This is precisely what I was going on about in the latest Pattern Recognition, about how online music is in danger of being confined to a set of easily recognisable characteristics that serve to maintain a reductive sense of 'internetness'. If the central focus of underground new culture is going to move online - and this is an exciting prospect - it should not proceed by objectifying, reducing and colonising what it finds there into a series of ostensibly edgy symbols that only serve to shore up its own prejudices in a facile postmodernist Seth-MacFarlane-come-Douglas-Coupland-come-Frank-Zappa way. The internet and the digital world are not pathologies, the cultures that develop there are not symptoms to be gazed at, to titillate us and make us feel both in the know, bravely in touch with the challenging truth, and superior to the freaks. Call it the IRL gaze. Call it the Internet Other. I shudder to think that the positive reaction to this video reflects the way people have been listening to other artists who have been associated, tenuously (as many are) or otherwise, with internet culture or internetness, or that this is what people think the potential of the internet is.

And, problems of inter-cultural art-making aside, I hate to think that this video is supposed to be what relevancy and modernity, or truth and satire, are today. Really? This? A confirmation of the ugly suspicions of people who are freaked out by the new technology blaring as subtly as an eighteen-wheeler airhorn? Next we'll have a music video about that baby you heard about that thought a book was an iPad, or people who say 'hashtag' out loud (why do people hate that? Cos it violates that precious physical / electronic boundary), or about how there are too many albums to listen to now and how horrible that is, or a terrifying video about how someone spent more than half an hour looking at jpegs of cats and they had no idea it had been that long. And people will be all like Yes. This. This is What The World Is Coming To, never suspecting that the very pleasure and ease with which they accept all this represents and stems from the fact that they're not moving on, not adapting, not discovering anything or seeing the new structures openly, but keeping them in their place, at arm's length.
The Matrix claims its latest victim
And if you're thinking, 'But the internet really is evil, we have to bear this in mind!' I'm not disagreeing that there are drawbacks to the rise of the digital world. Again, watch Black Mirror. Or, as I said, to certain sorts of sexual imagery on it. But even as a cause for genuine concern, I don't agree that parading objectifying representations of its deviancy in an atmosphere of horror and the grotesque is fair or helpful, and certainly not a great artistic statement we can be proud of.

Again, I don't mean to say that anyone who made this or liked this is did so deliberately or maliciously, and if people who made it and liked it are not aware of critical perspectives like these that are admittedly not well-known or well-developed, that's hardly their fault. And God knows I've been guilty of approaching all the stuff I've moaned about above in some of my writing, but my perspective has been changing and I hope it will continue to do so - I'm feeling that new music has more to offer than this.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Essay: INVEST IN VAPORWAVE FUTURES!

My latest essay for Dummy takes a second look at vaporwave, a year after my original article on the emerging genre (click here to read). A lot of what I wrote was positive, some of it not so positive. This one got a bit of flack, and, again, I'm genuinely sorry for any upset it caused in the vaporwave community. If there was anything amiss about my aesthetic approach, especially my approach to some of the more recently emerged artists, other than a basic sense of annoyance it has generated, I would urge people to put their thinking in publicly available online writing and send me a link. It is very important that music writers associated with established publications (such as myself) should not be the only people who get to describe and debate about new music such as vaporwave. The internet is your mouthpiece, and I will listen.

I'd like it to be noted that I do not 'endorse' the 'broporwave' tract, I simply agreed with its general point. More particularly, I don't agree with its complete damning of such institutions as Fortune 500 and SPF 420. As I say in the article, I think a lot of the work associated with them is great. And in my general criticisms of what was described as 'broporwave,' it was naturally not my implication that the music-making and listening was illegitimate or unlovable (and maybe even 'inferior' was too unkind a word), just that in my opinion it generally had less to contribute than earlier vaporwave did. My stance was relatively mild.

As for the usual accusations that my approach to new music is too considered / too deep: as ever, I make absolutely no apologies for that :-)

some chillwave differences

In my recent Dummy article taking a second look at vaporwave (click here to see it) I wrote
there has been some confusion between vaporwave, hypnagogic pop and chillwave. OK I'm sorry, I know that there's a special place in hell for people who, like me, constantly strive to maintain a separation between vaporwave, hypnagogic pop and chillwave - it's a back room where Satan forever explains the differences between death metal, black metal and doom metal. But vaporwave and its sibling genres each had different beginnings, different artists and different approaches when they were first identified, before they were blurred together by writers, fans and artists unable to tell the difference between the three.
So I thought that I would outline some of the differences that have been made in the past between the three - just for the record, just for anyone that wants to know. Clearly they are all part of the same family of styles, but there are, or at least have been, stylistic and contextual differences between them. Please note: I am abundantly aware that most people, musicians, fans and bystanders alike, might not give two shits about these differences. Nor should they. Or the history, for that matter. People can and will use these terms however they want to - I am no-one to stop them, and I wouldn't want to. No one appreciates more than me that 'in the end it's all music.' No one appreciates more than me that genres are imaginary constructions. But at their most historically differentiated, this is how the three terms / constructions stand. If this is all ridiculous to you, so be it, it's pretty ridiculous to me too. And to me, this is less about being a 'hipster' (lol hipsters lol omg haha let's move on) than about surveying the landscape of underground new music in the detail it deserves.

Nor, indeed, is this account definitive, of course. If I am wrong or missing something about the history, let me know and I'll make edits to this page. And please feel free to debate anything and everything in the comments.

Note that although the terms have regularly been blurred together in articles and blog posts for four years now, a decisive factor today comes from Bandcamp tags, which are (like it or not) heavily promoting the genre-identification of music, since they're a way to get new releases noticed by the right people. Usually, the genre tags are multiple, and a great many artists use both the 'chillwave' and 'vaporwave' tags at the same time, often more as well.


Chillwave


Probably the most well-known term today, 'chillwave' was identified and described by Carles, the author of the widely-read Hipster Runoff blog, in a post on July 27 2009 (click here to read). Referring to new acts Washed Out, Neon Indian and Memory Cassette / Memory Tapes, he says:
Feels like 'chill wave' is dominated by 'thick/chill synths'... Feel like chillwave is supposed to sound like something that was playing in the background of 'an old VHS cassette that u found in ur attic from the late 80s/early 90s.'
Carles is writing within, referring to and situating 'chill wave' in relation to the indie community and its traditions, mentioning Animal Collective, Pitchfork and Gorilla vs Bear. It should be noted that the blog is predominantly satirical in nature, but actually I don't read the post as 100% sarcastic or nonsensical. Clearly tongue in cheek to varying degrees in various parts? Yes absolutely. A complete falsehood both in intention and effect? No. There will of course be disagreement on this. Carles went on to mention chillwave a number of times, adding Toro Y Moi to the genre, which made a lot of sense musically.

Subsequently, the meaning of the term mutated as it was passed around. For many, most prominently Simon Reynolds, chillwave was a general term that referred to a number of lo-fi indie / underground musicians exploring 80s pop styles who could have been seen as following or influenced by Ariel Pink (I have disputed this interpretation here, preferring to talk about an 'Altered Zones Generation'). Chillwave arguably still carries connotations of prominent indie musicians with an easy-going, relaxing retro style. But now that it's become closely associated with vaporwave, chillwave's connotations of technology that was cutting-edge (and pretty yuppy) in the 80s but that are charmingly lo-fi and kitsch now are heavier than ever (remember, interest in and attachment to kitsch doesn't automatically imply insincerity, irony, satire, mockery or bad music). But in the beginning at least, chillwave was a lot more poppy, whereas vaporwave is a more raw / hardcore approach with a much more specific and developed visual / conceptual / extra-sonic world. Since Carles's chillwave resonated so well with a particular hipster stereotype that was popular at the time, it's unsurprising that Washed Out's track 'Feel it All Around,' the mp3 attached to Carles's original post, became the theme tune to the comedy series Portlandia.


Hypnagogic Pop


Appearing at almost the exact same time as Carles's chillwave post, 'Hypnagogic Pop' was described by David Keenan in an article published in the August 2009 issue of Wire Magazine (#306). It mentions The Skaters and its constituent parts James Ferraro (this long before he was well-known and hi-fi) and Spencer Clark, Pocahaunted, Zola Jesus, the Shdwply label, Emeralds and more. The article is a great read, with some wonderfully expressed images and insights, and can be read by clicking here - I don't endorse the comments made below it though. Keenan, the Wire and the artists discussed in the article are generally speaking in a more underground and experimental place than the artists associated with chillwave. This distinction is borne out in the music described, which typically has clearly more exaggerated lo-fi qualities than what was in the same month called chillwave, and a more free-form experimental feel.

Taking its name from the hallucinatory state between being asleep and being awake, Keenan gave a rich and full description of its stylistic characteristics and prevalence that can't be reduced to any one quotation so do read the original, but to pick out some key parts:
Hypnagogic pop is pop music refracted through the memory of a memory. It draws its power from the 1980s pop culture into which many of the genre's players were born, and which is only now being factored into underground music as a spectral influence... Hypnagogic pop is 1980s-inspired psychedelia... it homes in on the futuristic signifiers of the 1980s.
Although aesthetically and thematically there is considerable overlap between chillwave and hypnagogic pop (and, indeed, hauntology), it should nevertheless be noted that the cultural contexts of each original statement on the genres, together with the artists described therein, are different. Moreover, to my ears at least, the differences in sounds between each group of artists are also pretty audible. However, as the terms passed into the underground new music discourse, they understandably blurred together.


Vaporwave


As far as I know, this term started life in a blogpost of October 13, 2011, describing 'Surfs Pure Hearts' by Girlhood. I would have identified the sound of this release as squarely within hypnagogic pop, but of course that's just me, and it seems quite possible that the post's author wasn't familiar with that category. Then when I was researching for the first part of my article on 'the virtual plaza,' I found the term 'vaporwave' as one of a number of Last.fm tags attached to the music in question. I showed Robin Burnett (i.e. INTERNET CLUB etc) the set of tags and they liked that one best. In the article, I explored my own sense of the term's connotations ('vaporware,' and a Marx quote that 'vapor' reminded me of, 'all that is solid melts into air') and quoted Robin Burnett and Vektroid's reactions to it too.

It should be noted that much of the descriptive language in my article was aimed at 'the virtual plaza,' which included not just vaporwave but a bunch of rather different artists surrounding Dis magazine, Hippos in Tanks and UNO NYC as well. However, since the first part of the article, on vaporwave, was far, far more widely read than the second part on the Dis, HIT, UNONYC artists, and since it began with an introduction to the virtual plaza as a whole, the associations with vaporwave might have been skewed for readers more towards the cynical and dystopian music of the second part. As a sub-category of / differentiation within 'the virtual plaza,' then, I described vaporwave as:
a next step in the evolution of hypnagogic pop... 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... 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.
The bulk of my description of the term was focused on its similarities and differences with hypnagogic pop. My use of the term 'vaporwave' reflected how I saw it as something new and different from hypnagogic pop (even though it was on a continuum with it), something with a more modern, hi-fi sound often favouring e-piano and crystal chimes and a sample-based approach. It's clearer to me now that the vaporwave community were using the term to describe something a lot more synonymous with Keenan's hypnagogic pop (again, those people could well have been less familiar with the latter term). My reaction to the term's use in the article was complex, but for many of the artists, 'vaporwave' was simply a reference to a perception of fogginess and cloudiness in the music (and I quoted Burnett on this).

For me, the unique departure that I saw as 'vaporwave' (i.e. the stuff that distinguishes it from the other genre categories above and below) begins with NEW DREAMS LTD. by LASERDISC VISIONS in July 2011 (I am less sure of the INTERNET CLUB chronology, but for me it also has this quality). I stand by this.

EDIT: Robin Burnett tweeted this:
@RougesFoam w/r/t to chronology: a year or so ago vek said she considered a record me and @Leonce made back in january of 2011 called Vector Tables (http://datavision.bandcamp.com/) heavily influential towards New Dreams Ltd.—VT in turn i'd say was influenced by Games' SPEND THE NIGHT WITH GAMES mixtape and Lopatin's Eccojams, although with the hindsight of two and a half years it's fair to say VT (especially the second and last tracks) took from the wreckage of hypnagogic pop in general, and i guess just an observation that r&b and 80s ads sounded great slowed down—even before VT though, vektroid's TELNET EROTIKA record from late 2010 was on this same exact wavelength, but produced much better, haha. I suppose just me and vek were just doing the same sorts of things at the same time, but we didn't know it until like, mid 2011.
@RougesFoam INTERNET CLUB itself started as a bit of a turntable.fm-based joke to make purposely ridiculous nonsense
@RougesFoam but it changed tack after Leonce turned me on to Computer Dreams in july 2011
However, in the past year it has become a lot clearer that the most influential album by that artist is FLORAL SHOPPE by MACINTOSH PLUS, released December 2011. I had placed less emphasis on this album in my article because I associated that album more with hypnagogic pop, screwing and echo jams, and less squarely with 'the virtual plaza.' Given the average sound of stuff tagged vaporwave today, for the bulk of fans at least 'FLORAL SHOPPE' seems to be the definitive vaporwave album (and the November 2012 Needle Drop review of the album, currently at 28,000 views, is probably highly responsible for this - I for one was a little disappointed in that review, its generalisations and its cynical parts, and hope that people haven't been putting my article(s) in the same boat with it - I fear they might have, but que sera).

(It's also worth noting that vaporwave producers are very often, I think, younger than the chillwavers and hypnagogic pop artists, the latter being now generally in their mid / late twenties.)

Other articles had their own definitions, probably influenced to varying extents by what had come before: Leor Galil for Chicago Reader (February 19, 2013):
Vaporwave... is sample based, layering and warping pieces of the most reviled forms of music in the recording era: chintzy 80s lounge, smooth jazz, Muzak. Sometimes producers slow down and layer samples till they sound like velvety R&B slow jams, or chop and repeat them to create a sort of languid stutter. Its dreamlike feel recalls the hypnagogic pop of multiply pseudonymous New York musician and producer James Ferraro.
Michelle Lhooq for Thump (June 25, 2013):
Imagine taking bits of 80's Muzak, late-night infomercials, smooth jazz, and that tinny tune receptionists play when they put you on hold, then chopping that up, pitching it down, and scrambling it to the point where you’ve got saxophone goo dripping out of a cheap plastic valve. That’s vaporwave. 
Today there is some internal tension over a subcategory / degradation of vaporwave going by the term 'broporwave.' See my second essay on vaporwave for more on this. Many of the artists involved have appropriated this term with tongue-in-cheek but ultimately fond connotations (good for them). To whatever extent broporwave is something distinct from vaporwave, it's clear that much of what is being discussed as or tagged as vaporwave today is heavily to do with retro, technostalgic kitsch and 80s smooth-jam pop music (remember, interest in and attachment to kitsch doesn't automatically imply insincerity, irony, satire, mockery or bad music), bringing it a little closer, spiritually, to hypnagogic pop and chillwave than I initially saw it as being. Of course, it is not for me, or Fantano, or Galil, or Lhooq, to say definitively what vaporwave 'is.' It is for you and the underground new music community to decide. (Or of course, you may take none of these terms seriously in the first place).

EDIT: See also: interviews of Ailanthus Recordings and some of the artists on it: Part 1 - The Head of Ailanthus and Part 2 - 회사AUTO.

UPDATE: Liz, the co-founder of SPF420, said this in a Dummy article on New Generation:
"Vaporwave, in my opinion, is our current 'punk scene'. The digital rebels. The ones who 'steal' others' music, just to manipulate it and chop it up a bit. That is so fucking punk...It's like how punk bands only knew how to play power chords. It's brilliant. Vaporwave isn't lazy, and neither is punk. I think that these two genres of music are parallel: short tracks with messages that are very literal, made with minimal intent (for the most part)."
The writer of the article, Russell Thomas, concluded:
New Generation, its associates and sister-collectives, consist of a marginalised set of up-and-coming music-makers who make being the natural underdog seem cooler and more rewarding than ever before - this movement speaks of a more connected world, with embryonic punk spirit living in each sampled track, cover and remix.  

Also: Glo-Fi

Glo-Fi was a term gently pushed by Pitchfork that they first started using, amazingly enough, in late July 2009 as well, within the same like two weeks 'chillwave' and 'hypnagogic pop' were coined. Perhaps the music in question here is even lighter, more guitarry and even more typically indie than Washed Out etc, but it's kind of besides the point, ultimately because you rarely see the term used nowadays - it lost out to the others, and it's so similar to them, just less specific / useful.

Also: Hauntology

This is definitely part of the same broad historical genus as the others, but it's at a significant remove from them in terms of time, space and culture. While the term is usually associated with Derrida's coinage of the word in Specters of Marx (and I have written my own, more general and abstract interpretation of the aesthetic) in most cases it implies the work of a generation of musicians who grew up in the 60s, 70s or 80s, generally British, exploring music from the mid-twentieth century (typically 60s BBC music) using various techniques of estrangement. The category was described and developed by Mark Fisher and Simon Reynolds in late 2005 and 2006. Lots of the stuff that's seen to be quintessential hauntology, such as the stuff by The Caretaker, is deeply comparable to vaporwave. The creative process is very similar, but the cultural contexts and source material is very different. And actually, I've always seen hauntology as darker, more tragically ironic.

Also: Echo Jams / Ecco Jams

It was Daniel Lopatin's sideline in what came to be called echo jams that, it seems, provided the initial spark of influence that led to vaporwave. Vaporwave artists have counted Lopatin's Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1 (2010) as a key influence. Lopatin's track 'Nobody Here' was also hugely popular in the underground. To me, echo jams is proto-vaporwave - looping and often screwing the sweetest bits of late eighties adult contemporary pop, before the distinguishing interest in more modern, hi-tech corporate sounds took hold. The early stuff by Computer Dreams, 骨架的, esc 不在 etc. is very much cut from this cloth. Now, this technique is so prevalent in what's now being discussed and tagged as vaporwave that they're practically the same category.