Welcome To
The Vapor Age





A title that serves as both the last fluorescent torch for genre admirers and an ignis fatuus for lost souls who despise its colorful vivacity for moss-covered aka retarded reasons, Welcome To The Vapor Age has the concepts of friendliness, majesty and that V-genre embroidered in its title already. Its creator is Atlanta-based DJ and producer AstroShaman who comes up with eleven unique tunes of the utmost languor. Released in September 2014 on a label that simultaneously serves as a pillar and a pillow, the fluffy factory called Dream Catalogue, the album can be streamed and fetched at Bandcamp as usual. The title might be a tad too pompous, for the constituents offer a streamlined and cohesive effort in lieu of a diffusive variety. Where other artists branch out into sample-laden memorabilia, micro-oscillations of chequered cyber coves and arcane antra full of 8-bit bleeps, AstroShaman worships the contemplative moment. While a lot of the songs are underlined with powerful Hip-Hop beats, the droning basslines are erbaceous and verdured enough to evoke the landscape that is presented on the album’s artwork. But there is one instrument that is truly important, as it establishes and maintains the mauve glow of the sunset-covered island: the Rhodes piano. This is a big deal after all, although it appears on many 80’s vestiges and vestibules. Here, however, AstroShaman plays the synth himself and not only genuflects before that decade, but takes the emerald interstices to a wondrous p(a)lace.


No experiments are realized in the first track which is simply called Intro, a surprisingly readable title in view to Dream Catalogue’s back catalog. Yes, the intro does say it all if you are a fan of Vaporwave, but delineating its enthralling ambience is still worthwhile: dazed hi-hats, granular saxophone layers and a mélange of Rhodes cylinders pour all the genre artifacts into conserving caproic acid. The adjacent Dreams has more oomph behind it, simply because the AM radio frequency haziness wanes, making room for Weather Channel announcements, reverberated MIDI brass coils, apocryphal ocean waves and a peritoneum of wind chimes. My favorite texture has to be the Calypso-evoking synthetic marimba amidst the oneiric chord progressions. This moony hydrazine leads to the centerpiece of almost six minutes called 3D Paradise. Curiously fragile in its infancy stage where it comprises albumin syringa melodies, cajoling Italo House piano backings and heterodyned horn helixes which feign a faraway pentatonicism, the song becomes a rhythm-shifting thiazide later on, moving slow as molasses when its cymbals are wadded in cotton and the aureate piano chords become deliciously wonky. I cannot for the life of me figure out the three-dimensionality… but since this sentence rhymes, all is well, except maybe my lack of comprehension.


It Was Yours sees AstroShaman return to form with laid-back low frequency droplets that are deep decortications reminding of a Detroit daze. The square lead drones feel like solar winds in one’s face, tastefully analogue and retrogressive, and the handclaps and cowbells are fitting scrimshaw artifacts. The peacefulness of this track is gorgeous, the wind gust-like synths exude thermal heat and benignancy. A clear-cut winner! Up next – and I have to emphasize the word up – is the similarly mellow Elevator, an almost clinically sterile artifact of viscoelasticity. The Rhodes rhizomes are retrojected onto boombox bass rivulets, an exotic jungle fife somehow gets rid of all the chintziness and fits perfectly well in this setting. Equanimity is king in this gustatory aura. One of the very few Vaporwave tracks harboring a flute that does not sound cheesy at all. A tad more voltage is dropped in Here We Are, a cosmopolitan midnight serenade with a bluesy tenor saxophone in its epicenter which is itself surrounded by ophidian rattles and hexanedioic glaciers, providing a rather earthbound listening atmosphere. The counterpart comes in the shape of Right Where You Left It which enchants qua its cherubic synth choirs, the easygoing breakbeat cannelure and plinking glockenspiel scintillae. Oscillating between amicability and ghostly permutations, this is another hit in AstroShaman’s book.


Next on the agenda is サイ バ420ー現実, and even though its title masks the dichotomy of cyber-realism, the soundscape of this amalgamation lays out the truth via doleful flute flumes of contemplation in-between an orderly array of argentine shakers and clangs. The moodiness is somehow experiencing another iteration in Nights, but here remoteness comes hued in technicolor: a hyper-polished polar light pad towers above the cross-linkage between benthic bass braidings and sizzling hi-hats. Texture-wise, it is not only the polished synth that illumines AstroShaman’s megacity, but also the magenta-colored static noise-alloyed power line that gyres and bends in close proximity to the moonlit aura, making Nights one of the many tracks on this album that embrace the listener by eluding itself from closer inspections. How warm and saccharified the photometry of Daze is in contrast! An aqueous Hip-Hop rhythm provides the base frame for stacked stylophone sinews whose agglutinating alluvial strata augment the calorific energy of the melody, all the while electric piano globs add a glacial contrapuntal adjuvant to the fibrillar scenery. The album’s endpoint rolls along with Robot Blues, a stuttering-startling superfluid of chopped arpeggio aureoles, fluttering sax interludes, ligneous drum logs and coruscating sparks. Piano icicles round off a superbly coherent effort; AstroShaman shies away from stressing the robotic parts of this tune, as they are only hinted at via the fusillades of rotatory prongs. Since they feel organic and not mechanical, Welcome To The Vapor Age ends on a starkly humanoid tone.


Welcome To The Vapor Age is a Vaporwave album with strong Ambient traits, true, but it is at the same time reliant on Hip-Hop beats and staggering basslines. It is the latter whose charm is oozing out of the speakers due to their viscid physiognomy. One could also say that the equilibrioception between immediacy and immersion is the album’s fuel. AstroShaman’s endemic entity seems to rest in itself… within itself even, completely withdrawn in susurrant streamlets. It is hard to describe the luring effect, but the Atlanta-based producer figuratively encapsulates the listening subject. However, it is no pressure chamber but a sanctuary. The Rhodes backings are awash with light, the electric piano addenda interpolate the luminosity further, and treats such as the marimba-esque synth patches increase the purple glow the front artwork promises. There is anything wrong with AstroShaman’s work, nutritious silk is his forte. This might be a problem for many a listener though, as Welcome To The Vapor Age admittedly promises bold things. I’m not even referring to the vapor part of the title; it is the age thing that catches one’s attention, since an age – be it just a mere decade – can usually only be summarized in hindsight. So if one were to interpret this digital album as a manifesto, a lot of things are amiss: Japanese girls, mall memories, BBC Radiophonic Workshop samples and similar sound libraries. But when the title is detached from the album or is interpreted lightheartedly, AstroShaman’s lift to peninsular pericarps is paradise for those who want their Vaporwave to erect a stasis effect. And this is a given: it’s released on Dream Catalogue after all.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 382: AstroShaman – Welcome To The Vapor Age (2014). Originally published on Oct. 15, 2014 at