Various Artists






AmbientExotica seems to jump yet another shark, right here with this very review, but it is such a pleasure to put oneself down to these otherwise noble endeavors that I cannot help it but declare my fondness for the Dream Catalogue label and its interplanetary roster of talented Vaporwave artists, notwithstanding the allusion that talent and Vaporwave don’t work well together in a sentence. Fair enough, since Pop music, braces and your grandmother's purple nightgown are mocked, too. But maybe this curious compilation might change one’s mind: DREAM_31 is released in July 2014, available to fetch and stream at Bandcamp and is not the follow-up to a presumed DREAM_30 compilation. Indeed, there is much to scrutinize and ponder, for there is a plastic and chintzy odor in the air, not just because we are talking about juicy Vaporwave material, but due to the appearance of this compilation and its quirky traits. Take, for instance, the implied promise of this omnium gatherum: it unites all-stars from the Dream Catalogue roster, but the odd number 31 neither feels like a polished anniversary, nor are there 31 artists on board to reflect this numbers game; the label presents 37 tiny sparklers instead. In addition, DREAM_31 awfully sounds like one of those millennial Dream Trance or Dream Techno silver discs from the Netherlands that flooded the living rooms of fashion hipsters, LSD victims and teenagers alike. And yet does this release showcase a prowess of every artist involved, many of them reviewed in-depth previously here on this site, lots of them known for a certain characteristic f(l)avor, almost all of them hiding their sex, age, face and location in order to let the music speak for itself. While I cannot possibly review all 37 tunes, not even 31 of them, I have decided to choose quite a few specimens whose independence amid the interdependence delineate the certain quirks and vibes of an admittedly dubious but oh so languorous genre: enter DREAM_31.


As stated above, I cannot possibly absorb the whole material over the course of this review – sad trombone anyone? – but I would be damned if I didn’t take the opener into account: Install_DREAM.exe by DISK_31 showcases a gorgeously vitreous elevator erethism qua its distantly shimmering rainbow cloudlets and GlaDOS-like – though less acidic – public service announcements. This is the Ambient kick-off, the capsule that introduces the varied material and is altered with an addendum at a later point during this release. Variety continues to ensue big time: take Luxury Elite’s Dynamic whose elasticized clockwork beat and Roland bass-alloyed snare lavabo towers in-between fir-green Synth Pop vestiges, all the while Vincent Remember’s five-and-a-half minutes longform piece Stomach 36 succumbs to a stokehold/steampunk dichotomy of reconditely glimmering square lead chimes and droning coils serving as illuminants in hatched colors. Whispers and dark interstices deliver a dream-like atmosphere, but the reverie remains heavy, somewhat Tartarean, asphyxiating the listening subject with its silkened metalization. The Netherland’s most wondrous feline 猫 シ Corp. is also included with a bling bling icicle called I Consume, Therefore I am; the marble walls of the mall are lit by uplifting 80’s morning stabs, brass-fueled torch lights and rhythm shifts that make the tune slow as molasses at a certain point, taking a bow before the archetypical Vaporwave formula. Horn(y) lovers should be delighted.


A huge favorite of mine and sax lovers all over dem worlds is delivered by Sapporo’s 豊平区民TOYOHIRAKUMIN and the shouty track DREAM BEACH which shuttles between synth pad-underlined diamond doldrums and Fender bass-backed benthic ocean views, whereas VHSテープリワインダー’s coast2coast remains closely attached to the scenery but is attracted by humongous Hip-Hop beats, fibrillar harmonica-like drones as well as absconded scratches and pitches. This is the Miami style of Vaporwave, and while I am already mentioning that particular locale, everyone’s best man Mike Tenay shows his muscles on this compilation as well: The Path To Glory is a fan-tazz-tic arpeggio vitrectomy full of hyperpolished synth glissandos, smashing pad blitzes à la Kavinsky’s Wayfarer and that sort of overproduced abundance of sumptuous surfaces. The neon photometry prevents this corker from being perceived as a dreamy ditty, but no harm done, for it is the right antidote and wakeup call. Another genre highlight is GalaxyboysStray Wind if only for its highly Japanoid aurora. Loops of enigmatic syringa syrinxes, bumpy bass protrusions and clicking claves create a ligneous aura of an enchanted coppice somewhere in the mountains. Frilly, clean and keen on merging the faux-ancient with the retro-reality of today’s tomorrow, it stands out of this compilation for all the right reasons. I am also delighted to see Incorporeal Visions Deluxe on DREAM_31, for the artist's album Network Entities (2014) is one of my favorite genre smashers chock-full with oneiric couch culture rotations. A new tune called Luxury ビジネストラベル is unveiled, and it is somewhat atypical in that its cataleptic glass guitar and cowbell-interspersed plink highways are yet again less dreamy than expected, but the euphony is vanillarific and tremendously rewarding due to the wordless R’n’B sermons and the clever chord progressions that hue the listener in aureate arcana.


Then we have Innerϟpeaker’s Night Time Lover which resides in the same spectrum tempo-wise but revs up the cross-linkage between the high-chromaticity synth spirals and flashing swooshes. These ingredients are grafted onto a guitar-backed Funk convulsion with xenon aureoles aplenty. Don’t miss two additional addendums, namely the over-the-top backing singers and the otherworldly rising glissando of the warped synth propulsion, all of them very good alterations! HyperGanesh’s DreamLife meanwhile resembles a hazy senescence plastered with snare ctenidiums and saltatory shell adjuvants plus alkaline laser lizards, with Dreamcoat FantasiesCareless Vibes rounding this vision off with another more incisive or even piercing piano undercurrent. A steel mill ode at its heart, the heavy beats schlep themselves forwards, perfectly accompanied by dubiously chintzy harmonies and faux-threnodic overtones. Lavender Catnip by Telozkope then takes the artist's trademark of emaciated chord cauterizations right from the heart of the jungle and lets them pour into a simmering breakbeat of wooden sticks juxtaposed to an elysian fade-out phase you gotta experience yourself, with Windbreaker's Platinum Swords turning out to present that certain, er, link to the past of a certain 16-bit adventure game complete with Italian babbles and handclap-infused amendments to the wellspring. The album ends with telepath テレパシー能力者's mighty 彼女は夜に訪問 and underlines the artist's proclivity for loooong Vaporwave tracks. This one runs for over eight minutes, describes the visit of a lady at night and serves as the auroral aquamarine apotheosis. All is well with the world, and these excerpts are but 39% of the whole material that makes up DREAM_31. Don't do the math – it's true!


Incessantly seeking the balanced viewpoint and maintaining the equilibrioception (wait, what?), AmbientExotica cannot entirely approve of the DREAM_31 compilation when it is analyzed from this particular angle, and the reason is quite obvious: there is so much material on here that there is no way to perceive this as a perfectly carved out artifact of the very best Vaporwave and Dream Pop material. Your grampa's sapient adage "less is more" is somewhat true after all. Having said that, DREAM_31 is naturally a splendid affair, if only for the fact that it realizes all meanings of Vaporwave, be they complete aural, artistic or realized via the procession of pixels. The sheer amount of 37 tunes cleverly admits to Vaporwave’s incredibly short half-life, to the adventures these artists seek out and find at the very next corner amid the labyrinthine stimulus satiation. The wealth gathered here is but a mere drop in the bucket – or cesspool – that is filled anew and rearranged with every forthcoming release. Luckily enough, the fugacity of DREAM_31 is part of the plan, and so a reciprocation takes place, as the listener may float into another dimension, worshipping the transcendence of the material instead of forgetting it in the very next minute. The takes on Vaporwave differ enough to make this a worthwhile effort. There is everything one would want from the genre: hectic BGM heritages, jazzier eclecticism, 80’s breakbeat harmonies, synth sybaritism en masse, vocal billows, Ambient ambivalence… it is all in here, in this exciting art(s)ifact. The question remains why Dream Catalogue’s 31st release had to be a compilation, but Vaporwave does not want you to ask for reasons since, as Eurodance taught us in the 90's, “the reason is you.”


Further listening and reading:

  • DREAM_31 is available to stream and fetch on Bandcamp
  • Follow Dream Catalogue and its all-stars on Twitter: @dream_catalogue.  


Ambient Review 360: Various Artists – DREAM_31 (2014). Originally published on Jul. 16, 2014 at