First and foremost, I know it has been a long while. Like very long. But you can understand why and … let’s just leave it at that.
So every now and then, I take a look at the Twitter feed and I note any one from the vapour crowd discussing … well, vapour. Yes, I’ve noted some contentious ones. But there have also been some amiable and cordial discussions. It’s the usual discussion points: Is it still relevant? Who can lead the way if change is needed? Is this approach the right one or something else? What about [insert scene name here]? And so on.
I want to make something clear if I have not done so already (and apologies for any “repeats”). I am not a “musical tribalist”. Yes, I can adopt any tags and labels that I think are relevant to what I am doing. And yes, I can quite loyal (and sometimes to a fault). But my loyalty is not exclusionary when it comes to music. I am neither “mod” nor “rocker” to use a classic tribe battle. That’s what I mean by not being a musical tribalist.
So with this mind, I like to think there are more things common between scenes. This is not to say scenes cannot be unique in of themselves. In fact, that’s what makes it so interesting. Furthermore, sharing a large umbrella does not make you “joined at the hip” or it turn into some amorphous mega-conglomerate. I see the “vapour” label as something like a confederation, not a union.
So what is this “tie that binds”? It all has to do with our musical pedigree and being especially informed by electronic music made during not just the 1980s but the 1990s and even into the 2000s.
Yeah, yeah, vaporwave thrives on nostalgia. But I don’t mean mere callbacks to adverts and cultural artifacts. I’m talking about the music itself. To be a bit reductionist, you have what was happening in the 1980s. There’s the pop scene utilizing – and arguably over-utilizing – various synthesizers and electronic instruments. Then there’s the underground scenes from Chicago (techno) and Detroit (house) as well as New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Then you have “new age music”, which was in part a continuation of the progressive side of electronic music that started in the 1970s (see Tangerine Dream and Vangelis amongst others). Then again, there’s always this assessment of it … but I digress =]. Finally, there’s what was happening both above and below ground with the UK, which culminated in the rave scene that led into …
The 1990s, which continued onward until you had the egregious, embarrassing and insulting piece of legislation ever to have passed in the Realm. But even then, it was an opportunity to go into other realms. Furthermore, the technology continued to develop: faster, better, cheaper, higher quality. Sounds developed and ideas were swirling around and there were plenty of artists taking wind of all of it. From the Warp Records roster to The Future Sound of London. From Enigma to Deep Forest. And so on.
One of the aspects I picked up early on when exploring the scene – and would inevitably become a part of – was these artists were listening to some of the same stuff I had whilst a teenager and an early adult. This was even confirmed, such as this guy liking these guys and this guy liking her … and him too. But it’s not just nice that our music collections intersect/overlapped. We clearly took notes from all of these artists and it helped us to find our own particular voice. Furthermore, we continued that legacy and drive, whether intentional or not. This is what has helped to create the most interesting, engaging, vibrant underground scenes … probably ever.
So to wrap up, whether you like vaporwave or dreampunk, future funk or synthwave, or anything else … be aware that these are not strictly separate locales.