Vaporwave in 2023

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Vaporwave's defining features these past two years have been the prominence of physical media and the youtube algorithm.

Although physical media has genuine use, we have reached the point where the actual art is ignored. Fans of the genre are so preoccupied in the fear of missing out on a limited release, that less people are looking for new artists to appreciate and prefer to follow labels. This in turn, has limited the amount of times our community has mutually agreed when an album is worthy of the coveted "classic" tag. This road to becoming a loved vaporwave album, is (mostly) down to two options: The first, is that you are already a loved artist, and your album being released physically will put the community on a temporary hold. Since you have more fans, the fear of your album only being available secondhand at above MSRP, is enough to make more people actually listen to your album. If the music is critically acclaimed, it may become a classic.

The other way of becoming a classic is the second defining aspect of modern vaporwave, the youtube algorithm. Since YouTube favors quantity over quality for its algorithm, shorter and creative videos have suffered, while easier projects like video game game-play and podcasts have surged. This bias towards longer videos though, has paved the way for Barber Beats to become Vaporwave's most successful sub genre ever. The albums are produced through heavy sampling, and a consistent stream of longer albums is possible. As of today, Macroblank dominates the Vaporwave tag on Bandcamp, leaving not a single spot for any other artist on the genre's best-selling page. YouTube's love for longer videos has affected all internet music as well, giving genres such as Jungle and Progressive Electronic the most new blood since the early 2010s love for EDM.

I'd love to hear if Vaporwave these past two years has been a step forward, or disappointing to you.
 

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MacroMicrobial

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while not the best way to find the hottest tracks in vaporwave, the algorithm does do nicely in pushing compilations with some old classics but some new songs mixed in there too. It's a good way to find new artists at least.
 

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I'd have to say I was confused with the massive popularity of macroblank, as each album sounds the same too me, hell every song sounds the same. It's not horrible or anything, but I have listened to 4 of the albums, and don't intend to listen to any of them again. I don't listen to vapourwave often, it is one of many genres that I listen too, but I can't name a single "classic" style vapourwave album that I remember this year that was also from 2022/2023.

However the one vapourwave artist that I have found this year would be CRT麻痺, all the albums are good, and the new ones are great. I found this album looking around on bandcamp.
 
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remember_summer_days

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The way I use is to follow vinyl releases and vaporwave labels on Bandcamp... I'm not sure if there's a better way to stay up-to-date on what's being released.

This guy is pretty cool, he makes vaporwave remixes out of vaporwave songs lmao. He sometimes even livestreams his composting process. Pretty cool.


View: https://youtu.be/XmfRaSR9icc
(this one uses news at 11 iirc)
 
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Orlando Smooth

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Vaporwave's defining features these past two years have been the prominence of physical media and the youtube algorithm.

Although physical media has genuine use, we have reached the point where the actual art is ignored. Fans of the genre are so preoccupied in the fear of missing out on a limited release, that less people are looking for new artists to appreciate and prefer to follow labels.
This has been my feeling about the scene for quite a while now, at the very least I remember having these same thoughts pre-pandemic. I think it's a combination of a several key factors that made it inevitable:
  • The genre had already covered nearly all of the ground it was ever going to cover by the late 2010's. Musically, thematically, culturally, it had already been done by someone, somewhere. This is in part because there was a period of explosion, but also because you reach a soft threshold eventually that once crossed it's no longer vaporwave but something else entirely.
  • Business Casual, realizing this, opened itself up to be much more than just a vaporwave label. This makes sense from a business perspective and I totally respect them for it, but it also meant that the good vaporwave artists they did have were increasingly being drowned out by other styles in the same space.
  • Limited releases of physical media were/are the norm. This made sense for a time, when the market was still untested and it wasn't clear if you could sell enough vinyl records of a given album to be profitable. But when you're releasing beloved albums (i.e., Birth of a New Day, One Hundred Mornings) in such limited quantities that they sell out in minutes after release and then go for 4-5x on the aftermarket, you're just turning away more casual listeners while attracting flippers and needlessly generating FOMO. At a certain point there really is no legitimate excuse for denying fans the right to buy your music in such an arbitrary manner. This was all made worse by...
  • Shitty releases and customer service. There's the infamous pink vinyl Floral Shoppe scandal, which is on another level of shady (a.k.a. fraud), but also many of the records themselves were of very subpar quality. I'm admittedly a bit of an audiophile, but you do not need to be one in order to recognize the shit quality of a lot of releases. BoaND again comes to mind, as it was very disappointing audio fidelity for an album that is so masterfully produced, mixed and mastered. Don't even get me started on Qrates and other direct release companies - I once ordered an album from them that took almost a year to show up, only for me to discover it was on warped, paper-thin vinyl and the mix hadn't been adjusted for vinyl at all so it's literally unlistenable as the playback clips out continuously. This all made confidence decline even further for average listeners, so people would wait for a pressed album to be released, look at reviews of it online, and then buy on the second hand market if they felt it was worth having.
A part of me laments the vaporwave world as it existed in the mid-2010's, but I also acknowledge that the creative peak of musical genres is something that has a life expectancy of its own. It cannot go on forever. The paradox of art you love is that you neither want it to change nor stay the same. Only a certain amount of innovation can happen until it's no longer the original thing, yet if it remains unchanging it becomes stagnant and uninteresting. I'm just glad I got to experience the music at the period of life I was in, as it meant a lot to me then and I will always carry that appreciation with me.
 
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Orlando Smooth

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Wait, what happened to Business Casual?
I mean, nothing, they're still around. It's just that they slowly transitioned to being a more general "electronica" label rather than being exclusively vaporwave and associated sub genres. They still release vaporwave, it's just not their only thing.
 
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I'd have to say I was confused with the massive popularity of macroblank, as each album sounds the same too me, hell every song sounds the same. It's not horrible or anything, but I have listened to 4 of the albums, and don't intend to listen to any of them again. I don't listen to vapourwave often, it is one of many genres that I listen too, but I can't name a single "classic" style vapourwave album that I remember this year that was also from 2022/2023.

However the one vapourwave artist that I have found this year would be CRT麻痺, all the albums are good, and the new ones are great. I found this album looking around on bandcamp.

Signalwave is a sub-genre that has gone through creative growth in my opinion. The aesthetic and sound has gotten moody again, with artists looking to build off of what Infinity Frequencies started - what if technology was sentient and could speak to us? Hollywood says the robots would seek revenge, while the Computer Trilogy thinks that machines are suffering just as much as we are, and would like to be heard.

Asutenki made signalwave fun and accessible, but following the project's retirement, signalwave's new era has brought some of the best recent vaporwave projects.
 
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This has been my feeling about the scene for quite a while now, at the very least I remember having these same thoughts pre-pandemic. I think it's a combination of a several key factors that made it inevitable:
  • The genre had already covered nearly all of the ground it was ever going to cover by the late 2010's. Musically, thematically, culturally, it had already been done by someone, somewhere. This is in part because there was a period of explosion, but also because you reach a soft threshold eventually that once crossed it's no longer vaporwave but something else entirely.
  • Business Casual, realizing this, opened itself up to be much more than just a vaporwave label. This makes sense from a business perspective and I totally respect them for it, but it also meant that the good vaporwave artists they did have were increasingly being drowned out by other styles in the same space.
  • Limited releases of physical media were/are the norm. This made sense for a time, when the market was still untested and it wasn't clear if you could sell enough vinyl records of a given album to be profitable. But when you're releasing beloved albums (i.e., Birth of a New Day, One Hundred Mornings) in such limited quantities that they sell out in minutes after release and then go for 4-5x on the aftermarket, you're just turning away more casual listeners while attracting flippers and needlessly generating FOMO. At a certain point there really is no legitimate excuse for denying fans the right to buy your music in such an arbitrary manner. This was all made worse by...
  • Shitty releases and customer service. There's the infamous pink vinyl Floral Shoppe scandal, which is on another level of shady (a.k.a. fraud), but also many of the records themselves were of very subpar quality. I'm admittedly a bit of an audiophile, but you do not need to be one in order to recognize the shit quality of a lot of releases. BoaND again comes to mind, as it was very disappointing audio fidelity for an album that is so masterfully produced, mixed and mastered. Don't even get me started on Qrates and other direct release companies - I once ordered an album from them that took almost a year to show up, only for me to discover it was on warped, paper-thin vinyl and the mix hadn't been adjusted for vinyl at all so it's literally unlistenable as the playback clips out continuously. This all made confidence decline even further for average listeners, so people would wait for a pressed album to be released, look at reviews of it online, and then buy on the second hand market if they felt it was worth having.
A part of me laments the vaporwave world as it existed in the mid-2010's, but I also acknowledge that the creative peak of musical genres is something that has a life expectancy of its own. It cannot go on forever. The paradox of art you love is that you neither want it to change nor stay the same. Only a certain amount of innovation can happen until it's no longer the original thing, yet if it remains unchanging it becomes stagnant and uninteresting. I'm just glad I got to experience the music at the period of life I was in, as it meant a lot to me then and I will always carry that appreciation with me.
I think the worst part of the limited release culture has to be pre-orders of popular albums... that are still short-printed. Okay, so you don't even have the stock in hand, and you know this album is a huge deal, so why are you taking limited orders? Some notable labels are looking to feed the demand for albums that have not been pressed or repressed instead of pushing new sound. I can understand this decision, there's money to be made and significant parts of vaporwave history have yet to be released physically. What I don't appreciate is when this decision is made, and your premiere label releases are items you KNOW will sell out, and the whole 'set your alarms at 8am, only 200 copies :)' nonsense is still going on.
 
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Salad_Snek69

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I think the worst part of the limited release culture has to be pre-orders of popular albums... that are still short-printed. Okay, so you don't even have the stock in hand, and you know this album is a huge deal, so why are you taking limited orders? Some notable labels are looking to feed the demand for albums that have not been pressed or repressed instead of pushing new sound. I can understand this decision, there's money to be made and significant parts of vaporwave history have yet to be released physically. What I don't appreciate is when this decision is made, and your premiere label releases are items you KNOW will sell out, and the whole 'set your alarms at 8am, only 200 copies :)' nonsense is still going on.
I've been trying to figure out a way to bring this style and subculture into different mediums other than music and static visual art pieces in a good way that really epitomizes the idea. because I feel like other subcultures, even the music based ones have literature, and film etc. that allow fans to expand their enjoyment of the subculture but I can't figure it out and I don't know why. Maybe because the lack of presence of people makes it difficult to develop a narrative in mediums that require something more tangible? not sure. maybe its just because the microgenres, especially vaporwave rely on reference. I just wish we could expand yano?
 

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I've been trying to figure out a way to bring this style and subculture into different mediums other than music and static visual art pieces in a good way that really epitomizes the idea. because I feel like other subcultures, even the music based ones have literature, and film etc. that allow fans to expand their enjoyment of the subculture but I can't figure it out and I don't know why. Maybe because the lack of presence of people makes it difficult to develop a narrative in mediums that require something more tangible? not sure. maybe its just because the microgenres, especially vaporwave rely on reference. I just wish we could expand yano?
I get what you're saying. Modern vaporwave has evolved into something that is more than just the music itself, yet we don't have many experiences that bring this idea all together. Just an example is how we never got any official visual albums from a prominent artist like Asutenki; signalwave with old footage of commercials alongside the album could make it more than what it already is.

Treating the music as an experience is part of what made Daft Punk so popular during and after their Discovery era. The robots had screen presence and could be directed like actors in a movie, which was much more intriguing than two shy people from France.
 
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SolidStateSurvivor

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As of today, Macroblank dominates the Vaporwave tag on Bandcamp, leaving not a single spot for any other artist on the genre's best-selling page.
I really enjoy MacroBlank and the barber beats genre but it's hard for me to consider it proper vaporwave. It doesn't have the same sort of soundscape that invokes a sense of nostalgia.

Vektroid sampled older synth heavy tracks, Corp had a public access vibe complete with analogue audio distortion, and Macross's Sailorwave had this subtle ambience to it that I liken to a crisp November morning (although that could be my own bias/nostalgia getting in the way.)

Barber beats don't really have that contextual ambience. It's chill, even a little dreary, but the sampled material doesn't really bring me back to the past in the same way. Listening to vaporwave brings me back to a sense of optimism with an undertone of lingering dread knowing what the future holds, it makes me want to cling to that moment and not let go. With barber beats, I'm just kicking back and relaxing.
 
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imnotdeadyet

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I really enjoy MacroBlank and the barber beats genre but it's hard for me to consider it proper vaporwave. It doesn't have the same sort of soundscape that invokes a sense of nostalgia.
I'm very forgiving with what I consider vaporwave is but I feel the same. I have similar feelings about most of the subgeneres like future funk and in a way vaportrap, leaning way more on it not really being vaporwave. I do get why future funk is considered vaporwave though and that's why I'm fine with calling it a subgenre, even if it personally doesn't invoke the same emotions vaporwave does. I think barber beats is in a similar situation where in essence it still is vaporwave even if it might not scratch the same itch or invoke the same emotions.

I'd love to hear if Vaporwave these past two years has been a step forward, or disappointing to you.
It's been a bit hard to follow even if I've been listening to genre on and off for years now. To me in essence "vaporwave" has stayed the same for a long time now, the subgenres it keeps spawning while great on their own could never really capture the emotions old school vaporwave could. "True vaporwave" (there's really no better way to call it) is relegated to the classics, along with the occasional 300 view youtube album and obscure soundcloud and bandcamp stuff in a way being "dead" for years now.

I"ve come to terms with it though because most of the times the subgenres it spawns sound great and because it's normal for genres to evolve. The most popular artists in the genre are often the ones carrying it and evolving, that's why you see barber beats being so big now and microblank dominating (although as of writing this there is a great varied selection on bandcamp). It also had to evolve as bog-standard vaporwave is very limiting and has arguably been done to death. There's a reason why labels and music channels branch out from a genre or die out.

Or in short: Vaporwave is Dead, Long Live Vaporwave
Although physical media has genuine use, we have reached the point where the actual art is ignored. Fans of the genre are so preoccupied in the fear of missing out on a limited release
As much as I love physical media I refrain from buying limited releases for this exact reason, it encourages fomo and bad consumer practices. I get why limited releases are a thing, especially for small artists that do it as a hobby but I still can't support it or the culture it spawned. Many popular artists and albums could support a larger physical release but choose not to. It's also worth mentioning that limited release culture is far from unique to vaporwave.
 
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I don't really buy any physical releases of Vaporwave, but from what I can tell, vaporwave suffers from the same phenomenon as other genres- people overvalue vinyl and undervalue cassettes. Cassettes have good sound quality, they can hold twice as many songs and are much cheaper to manufacture, and also offer the creator more customization. Vinyl is nice, but should only be made for a special anniversary press or something. Cassettes are the format of the people because they're accessible to everyone, and once people realize that, I think the physical release ecosystem will be a lot healthier, across the board.
 
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