分析: Goodbye Vaporwave/Vapour, Hello Post-Electronic

Just today, I was involved in a Twitter discussion with the “Prom King” himself (in reality, Ryan DeRobertis; in the past [and perhaps present] Saint Pepsi; also can be known as Skylar Spence).

He was talking about the “post-rock” label and went on to give a nice shout-out to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. He was clarifying how those albums may not be obviously post-rock but it is still there, particularly in how it approaches dynamics. Between the two of us, we elaborated on this and concluded that the foundation of something does not always anticipate the movement it creates, and yet is still a foundation. I jokingly added that if you consider vaporwave’s “foundational tripytch” – Eccojams Vol. 1, Far Side Virtual, Floral Shoppe – they don’t anticipate everything that would become vaporwave.

This got me thinking even more about the ever-present problem of “what the hell to call this thing” (old habits die hard, I guess). While I hold that vapour has a certain elegance, I am also thinking about it is about time we use “post-electronic” to describe not just the scene now, but also vaporwave in its entirety and even “distant off-shoots” (like synthwave).

I know there’s a certain eye-roll that comes with calling everything “post”. And it’s probably even more ridiculous to use it here because it is fundamentally still electronic in nature. But this scene has plenty in common with the other “post” scenes. First and foremost, it is all about expanding possibilities, rather than restricting them. It often happens when a certain style feels stale, route, uninteresting. In this particular case, I cannot help but sense that what was being done back in 2012 or so was in part a reaction to what was happening (and what would continue to happen) in the Big Music scene, particularly with electronic styles.

When I’m thinking “electronic” here, I am thinking of what was first popular and understood beginning in the 1980s and through the 1990s. It started with experimentation – whether it was in instruments used or arrangements or execution – but then it would develop into something familiar, usually right away. Once it gets to the familiar phase, then it tends to stay that way and it becomes stale. What needs to happen is an eagerness to break away from the familiar. This is not necessarily “reinventing the wheel” but it can be as simple as returning to sounds that were around but were maybe not as popular or caught on. From there, you can develop it even more.

In the end, I like it when music opens up instead of closes down. What you call it is irrelevant in the end.

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