Fatal Memory Error






“Don’t fall asleep,” the liner notes warn the listener, and given that these are attached to a work released by the prolific Vaporwave vortex called Dream Catalogue, chances are that this must be a misunderstanding. Or rather not. This warning is part of the full-length debut by an artist called Fatal Memory Error. His 18-track album is titled Cherished, released in September 2014 and can be streamed and fetched at Bandcamp. The front artwork is undoubtedly luring, what with its sunset and distant shore where the next electrifying mall is surely waiting to be discovered.


But all faux-witticisms aside, there is a darker side to this artifact, and the depicted asthenic alien gives a first hint: Cherished is a concept album about a computer AI who, according to the liner notes, “will quietly, calmly, lovingly lull you to a peaceful rest. Slowly, it will absorb all your memories and experiences. It will reassure and convince you that everything is alright, that you don’t need to be scared. Once it is all taken, you will be but a shell.” Its first victim is a girl called Lilith… or is Lilith seemingly resembled by the computer AI as the album progresses? Given that Vaporwave is a fast-paced and comparatively turbulent genre with lots of short stops, full stops and tunnel visions despite its often prolonged material that’s slow as molasses, Cherished sports an intriguingly mature concept alright. But is it detectable within the various synth washes, 80’s retro mirrors and New Age flavors? That’s a topic for another day. Goodbye. Nah, just kidding.


If there is one conglomerate of tracks to aptly describe the elemental dissonances of Fatal Memory Error’s debut and its little shady interstices within the mesmerizing cleansing rituals, all things lead to the morphogenesis: Lilith. Cut into four pieces and spread over the course of the album, the name itself is beautiful and graces many a beautiful coquette… it’s probably a less common name in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I must admit. However, religious allusions are a tad more spectral, and I’m not talking about Vaporwave’s first church of consumerism, for Lilith is actually a female demon of Jewish folklore, always cheerfully trying to kill newborn children. To make matters even more twisted, she is the first wife of Adam, known for his later, er, entanglement with Eve. Here, she serves as the victim who is taken over by the aforementioned computer AI and its bellicose trains of thoughts. But enough of these discourses, it’s the soundscapes that count.


Lilith I (Initiation) hence serves as the opener, comprising of BBC Radiophonic Workshop bird recordings, stokehold beach sides and melancholic pads whose antediluvian New Age erethism retrojects legato washes of warm dark matter pads over a whispering woman which for the sake of argument I presume is Lilith herself. While she is withdrawn into herself in this state, Lilith II (Induction) is aglow with Far Eastern pentatonic crystal synths and afterglows of sine tones, thus encapsulating the spirit of the 80’s amid another New Age context. Lilith III (Assimilation) turns out to be an electro-acoustic pianolicious bonfire cesspool mélange with ignis fatuus sequences surrounded by swamp crickets, with the final piece Lilith IV (Cessation) being hued in heavy wind gusts whooshing through a crypt. Shudder! Aqueous whispers and doleful drone cascades kiss the demonic entity goodbye… but there’s 14 additional tracks to discover!


With the little Lilith cycle, Fatal Memory Error sets the mood, no matter how torn apart these constituents are from each other. The vast majority of the intrinsic serrations aptly absorbs the fallow incandescence of the demonic AI. Luckily, the wit and charm of Vaporwave shimmers through the thickly wadded fogs, leaving cracks while scything through the lactal soup. Existential Crisis In Your Bedroom is such a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek moment that breaks reality as it is presented in the album. Slick Funk guitars, filter fusillades of elasticized R’n’B s(t)ingers, wonky loops and fuzzy cymbals prove that the artist doesn’t want to hide his love for Vaporwave in thickets of erudition. No, this artifact is as transparent as can be. The adjacent two-movement song Affection In The Time Of Asphyxiation cautiously adds a Nick Cave-like dubious Spy Jazz mélange to the aesthetic footing. The reverberated nylon stringed guitar emits femme fatale rhizomes before the second movement presents these tone sequences in a glacially preserved state of viscid voids. Meanwhile, In A Sleep As Sweet As Death, To Dream succumbs to chord progressions that are ablaze with AM frequency-alloyed synth choirs, megacatchy melody lanes and cajoling cosine coils.


Soon, Tell Me What You’re Really Feeling turns out to be a nod to that famous Depeche Mode song about silence that was created with all things not silent. Those crazy effers! Ameliorated piano clangs quaver along, nurturing and dissipating themselves in Ouroboros style when the heterodyned reverberation of the decay covers each new tone, resulting in a pointillistic Drone track hued in deep twilight. There is that track, however, that towers above this nihilistic remoteness, as it yet again opens the rift to a Vaporwave vitrectomy: Ephemeral Streams Of Consciousness is particularly ethereal and trumpet-driven. Normally, jazzy flavors decrease the sumptuous allure, but here the cloudy-sylvan Italo piano prongs exude a photometry of tasteful fuzziness in tandem with softened bell layers. Two great forces meet: euphony and plasticity.


While Holding On To A Belief That Doesn’t Exist presents a magnanimously double bass-underlined superstructure of a ploy as its Modern Classical approach with harp-like textures and alto syrinx patterns is based on a slowed-down Pop puissance complete with theophany-compatible vocal patterns, Double Fabrications lets the listener gaze through a polyhedric prism which reveals another spermatocystic superfluid à la Vaporwave with swinging midtempo hi-hat helixes, purple polyphonic lyrics, MIDI brass blebs and that spirit of the 80’s. Let me not forget the real closer of the album, the long-winded 90+ seconds long apotheosis At The Edge Of Eternity (And On Those Nights, I Still See You Again) with its Japanoid piano susurration before a pitch-black backdrop of nothingness. This is devoid of Vaporwave and a void filled with an almost cinematic reduction. Since this is the endpoint: has Lilith taken care of the listener now?


With Cherished, Fatal Memory Error blends New Age, electro-acoustic Modern Classical, steamy R’n’B and that scintillating V-genre in what is said to be a concept album. In this latter regard, Cherished fails, not because the artist isn’t cleverly hinting at the presence of Lilith as a former human and increasingly malfunctioning, forceful AI – which is clearly the case with the divided Lilith quadrology –, but due to the missing relevancy once the coruscating technicolor hymns of the 80’s are nurtured, bent, dazzled and altered in such a way that no looming force or mean-spirited omnipresence could possibly degrade the album’s relaxation process. The liner notes to this release are, after all, as follows: “All it wants is to know what it is to feel. To know what emotion is. What memories are. To experience what it is like to be human.”


This effort with all its progresses, setbacks and interim states is not mirrored in the soundscspes themselves. Whether this is bad news or not is up for the listener to decide. The good news, however, is the interdependency of each track, as it can perfectly live and exist without the concept that is attached to it. The overarching New Age spirit that wafts through the album is again not always detectable on a per-song basis, but undoubtedly quasi-ubiquitous. Here, the Lilith quadrology really does set the tone with each of its allotted installments. Cherished therefore lives up to the Vaporwave fan’s insistance on the 80’s and ennobles these synth patterns with jazzy alloys, New Age titrations and a possibly portentous concept that occasionally reappears along the neon-colored ride into the rubicund sunset.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 373: Fatal Memory Error – Cherished (2014). Originally published on Sep. 10, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.