分析: Vapour Can Be the New Rock

[First and foremost, I know there was a long delay between posts here.  Life makes its own demands, including working on making my own vapour (hint, hint).  Furthermore, when I began this project – like I do with most projects – my personal aim is quality rather than quantity.  I can imagine you can appreciate this aim when it’s easy to be prolifically lazy.]

When I first got into listening to vapour, one observation that was made was it could be understood as a punk movement.  This made sense to me immediately as someone who knows something of the punk scene from both the US and the UK.  Both punk and vapour arose during a period of economic low, contentious politics and general disillusionment, especially amongst the youth.  Amongst those youths were eager and ambitious creative types who decided to do something about this and end up charting their own destinies, making music that was exciting, challenging, visceral and, above all, honest.  It was not just one colour either.  Sure many were inspired by a few bands like The Velvet Underground (the proto-punk if you will), the New York Dolls or the Sex Pistols.  But the immediate progeny ended up covering a large sonic ground, whether it was the straight-forward rock sound to synthesizer-driven sound and everything in between.  It was music made on their own terms with support coming from the strength of their music and the eagerness of their loyal fanbase.  If you want to do it, you just do it.  The only thing really stopping this is you.

Right now, vapour seems to me to be in somewhat of a plateau state (though it is still quite big and I’m still exploring it whenever I can).  However, I know this is just me and I think there is still potential to be unearthed here.  What will certainly make it shrink, whither and die is if that relentless creative spark is gone.  Boundaries should be challenged, pushed and perhaps even broken.  One should not rest on one’s laurels or be merely complacent with a safe and sure bet.  After all, this is what is happening in music sold to – and I would add foisted upon – a massive audience right now.  In fact, I would imagine that one of the draws artists have toward listening to and even making vapour is a desire to hear something different.  That should never go away from the scene if the scene should still be relevant.  In fact, I anticipate that the great payoff will be that vapour will become the main form of popular music like what rock was for a prior generation.

The reason why I keep using the word “vapour” (or vapor if you still like American spellings) instead of vaporwave is historical precedent.  In the late 1940s in the United States, you had an emerging sound born out of various music from those of African descent – blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, gospel – with some folk traditions like country/western from that same region.  In due time, it was named rock and roll.  As it spread – and yes, that’s a whole story in of itself – others were inspired by that sound and took it new directions.  In fact, across the Atlantic, there were youths who went “straight to the source” as opposed to emulating a “racial knockoff” and this became the “British invasion” of the early sixties.  As more artists were inspired by other artists and people were continuously reacting to many things, music and otherwise, rock and roll would recede more and more and would be just known as simply rock.  This is apparent now when you notice you have artists like Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails that can be called “rock” and yet have little to nothing to do with sounding like Chuck Berry or Little Richard and the like.  And the same thing with vapour as there are plenty of artists now who have very little to do with say “Chuck Person” or Vektroid as Macintosh Plus.  So, like how wosX supposedly advocated for one time on reddit, just drop the “wave” and make it just “vapour”.

Continuing on that line, it’s easy to see the parallels between vapour and rock.  The Chuck Person and James Ferraro and Macintosh Plus are akin to that “rock and roll” sound where it was born out of previous musical traditions, mostly in the experimental and electronic realm.  Each of them had their own end goals as well as employing different means to achieve that sound.  But as others heard these works, it became its own scene for sure.  And it did not take long either for artists to emerge because of that sound or who would be embraced by the scene as they were like that sound.  Aspects of the previous works were retained or expanded or even outright replaced.  Nowadays, and most likely due to the assortment of practical considerations, the plunderphonics aspect does not play as big of a role in the current crop of vapour than it did in the beginning.  Another defining aspect of vaporwave is the use of a certain aesthetic palette, which again is not played up too much (unless you wanted to make a joke still).  Even the aspect of 1980s nostalgia is not so much front and centre anymore as it was in the beginning.  And yet, they were informed in some way by what was made between 2010 and 2012 or so.

Notice that the title is “Vapour Can Be the New Rock” and not “Vapour Is The New Rock”.  It is not quite there yet.  For starters, the audience for this is still quite small.  And as irritating as it could be for the seasoned veterans, vapour still has to be described to people who never heard of it.  However, it is steadily growing in its own way and more people are tuning into what has been happening for the past six years or so (give or take), especially since there are plenty of avenues to do it.  It is important to remember that as the audience grows, that same creative drive should still inform the art, no matter what choices are being made (i.e. either going “classic vaporwave” or doing something entirely different).  And finally, avoid as much as one can creating warring factions, especially on grounds of “sonic purity” (“this is not a e s t h e t i c enough”) or “longstanding loyalty” (“I was here long before you came to the party”).  In the end, vapour can be the new rock.


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