Saint Pepsi
Gin City






Gin City is the latest – and to this date most coherent and well-crafted – Vaporwave/Disco/Ambient mayhem by Long Island-based bedroom producer Ryan DeRobertis aka Saint Pepsi. Celebrating his 21st birthday with an ode to cityscapes, Gin and other alcoholic substances, the self-released five-track EP is available to stream and download at Bandcamp in a digital-only form. It is important to me to make clear that Gin City is truly synergetic, polyhedric and shapeshifting, yet absolutely cohesive and harmoniously constructed. It is not necessarily 100% Vaporwave, for the artist both presents refreshingly pronounceable track titles and leaves the formulaic “slow down Pop songs until phantom frequencies appear” approach behind for good… and for the sake of creating instead of merely curating. I believe that many of the effervescent synths and effulgent filters are applied and spawned by him, although there are many Disco strings, House vibes and vocals grafted onto each other as well. These do not fit in one single bedroom, so they must come from the place we know as “somewhere else.” Most importantly for one of the intended audiences of AmbientExotica: Gin City is not 100% Ambient either, and blimey, this is the greatest euphemism if there ever was one! Beat patterns, Hip-Hop undulations and hi-hat hazards are imposed ad infinitum, ridiculing and mocking the concept of New Age… or so it seems. Many of the hues and colors are strikingly Ambient-like, but sternly seen from a viewpoint that evaluates their usefulness of being the inferior backdrop for the bolstered shininess of each tune. The ambience is never in the limelight, one shall rather dance to this album. And I do just that. But first a little in-depth review.


In the given context, the way the listener is greeted is appropriate, I suppose. The eponymous opener features the talent of Taøers, another glinting star in the Vaporwave nebula, neither revealing sex nor any of the identities behind the project, but these enigmas notwithstanding, Gin City is running on all cylinders the very second Saint Pepsi’s can is opened; superimposing suggestive lyrics and lascivious performances by Disco coquettes and R’n’B enchantresses, it is the conglomerate of balmy Rhodes piano globs in tandem with antediluvian handclaps and the right amount of cosmic laser pulses which inject a club-compatible ambience into the hindmost parallax layer that outshines the vocal parts. Once the coruscating undercurrent becomes ennobled by paradoxically staggering soft bass blebs, fusillades of staccato Rave screams and callisthenic shouts of encouragement, the title track turns into a heterodox tachycardia with ligneous splinters and admonitory incompatibilities aplenty. Tied together by a lotta soul and the blurred afterglow of the synth lines, Gin City is the legal adjuvant to a beverage of one’s choice. Walking Talking meanwhile embraces the club full-force as stomping 4/4 patterns – heard of ‘em before – are ameliorated by blotchy bubbles, aqueous glitters and rotatory Disco strings. French Filter House may be a chlorotic fad by now, but that’s why it is splendidly applicable in the Vaporwave discourse. Cherubic chants, helical haze, spiraling scintillae and sunset sparklers emit euphony and insouciance even in those moments where the state of elation is toned down. Torn between Disco House, Space Ambient and that V genre, Walking Talking exchanges the mall melancholy for a catwalk ctenidium.


Baby continues Saint Pepsi’s transparency in regard to the naming convention of his tracks. This particular critter is unexpectedly nostalgic and warm, almost propagating a return to the innocence of the musical copse or coppice. Surprisingly lacunar and filled with micro-clefts in-between the bursting snares and faux-cymbals, it is the zoetropic galactic music box melody which adds an amount of withdrawal to the scene. Even the adjacent hey chants and further Hip-Hop elements feel less like antimatter rather than amendments to the kaleidoscopic helicoidal corkscrew. The last third features both a change in the beat pattern and virtual ocean waves encapsulated in polyphonic goo. The isolated piano motif at the very end is a tad too formulaic and moss-covered, but it does bring back the cautious infusion of infinitesimal threnody and contemplation from the first few seconds of Baby’s runtime and hence makes it possible for the ditty to come full circle. Disappearing then presents itself hued in a moiré of granularity. The handclaps feel bit-crushed, the raspy synth arpeggio stutters itself to Shangri La, with the emaciated MIDI trumpets and calcined fret guitars evoking a surfer’s scenery at Hermosa Beach. This is Saint Pepsi’s most straightforward and easygoing artifact. Instead of showcasing the producer’s cleverness and shapeshifting driving factor at all costs, Disappearing succeeds with a steady yet eclectic beat and the aforementioned filtered haze as a dash panel and dividing wall between the listener and the shoreline. The closer is called Mr. Wonderful and has previously been self-released as a single in January 2014. It multiplexes every genre alloy mentioned before and pours it into an absorbing mould of glee, be it the military march pattern, the shawm-like pan flute synth, the House shrapnel with its legato counterpart or the three-note volutes from outer space. Electric pianos, female vocals and that hi-hat galore round off a great EP with a pulsating metropolis verve.


Gin City is no true-bred Vaporwave album. Even worse: it is no genuine Ambient album either, and that puts me with my back against the wall, lamenting apologetically about the reasons it is included here on AmbientExotica, you know the saying about jumping and sharks and whatnot. It is true that Saint Pepsi’s EP does fit in neither one of the genres, but this only makes its appendixes, placentas and sidenotes more valuable. The constant cavalcade of Rave samples and soulful queens does not do the work any harm, even though these ladies are clearly included to gain the interest of a certain audience and to harbor that certain feeling. That’s great, for it is the synth patterns and House-like structures, or even more so, the spacy ingredients as well as the filter elements which make Gin City a great gem during jogging and working out. Its core is Ambient-like enough to at least vaguely consider it as an Ambient fan who is also very fond of the cheesy parts and chintzy paths of the late 80’s and 90’s, although Gin City carries its fair amount of millennial French Filter House allusions too. The Vaporwave parts of it do not manifest themselves in the occasionally bit-crushed appearance of the synths, but exclusively through the tonality and timbre. I am not erudite enough to realize what parts Saint Pepsi produced on his own and which segues or tidbits are distilled from other works, but I sense that a lot of his talent is used to not just slow down an arrangement – which is, after all, one way of coming up with Vaporwave tunes – or to curate the popcultural matrix. Instead, Ryan DeRobertis blends them gently and creates a wondrous hybrid. Adamant Ambient listeners will probably not approve, no harm done, but whether one cares specifically for Vaporwave, House, R’n’B or even Disco only, there is plenty to choose from in this vivacious place called Gin City.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 321: Saint Pepsi – Gin City (2014). Originally published on Mar. 5, 2014 at