Phoenix #2772
The Sunset






Politics and honesty don’t go well together. Cry me a river. But there’s another wisdom manifesting itself as this decade reaches its apex: Vaporwave and transparency don’t go well together. Here, however, there’s no need to unfurl the saltier bodily fluids one the Chanel carpet, as it is commonplace – almost mandatory even – to come up with two or three different monikers as an artist once the occasion arises. Bedroom musicians all over the world unite in order to pour their bit-crushed memorabilia into cautiously altered syringa synths. And then, some artists do it differently. Enter Chris Candelario from Miami, Florida who is better known under his alias Phoenix #2772. Inspired by the almost eponymous sci-fi anime of the 80’s, the artist comes up with a roster of 20+ tracks which altogether form a rufescent blaze known as The Sunset. Released on the technodrome of oneiric erudition aka Dream Catalogue, it can be fetched and streamed at Bandcamp as always. The first half of the album is comprised of rather speedy and uptempo material, whereas the latter half increasingly winds down as the end is nigh. Phoenix #2772’s approach meanwhile is most refreshing: the listener does not only accidentally spot the source material, it is literally thrown in one’s face, only cautiously slowed down, retaining all of its original characteristics. One knows the original by heart and might feel the sting of guilt. Or was that the guild of Sting? I wouldn’t be surprised to encounter him in this firecracker too, goddammit!


Call them hit-and-run songs, cloak-and-dagger ditties or hush-hush operations, it is songs where one feels followed at best or hounded at worst that push the listening subject around. They make great companions for workout and jogging purposes, and such a thingie is presented by Phoenix #2772 right on the opening spot: Miami Outrun launches with a faux-slapped keyboard guitar punctilio, four-note synth protuberances and an overall feeling of ecstasy. It’s a run where everything is under control, be it the uplifting vocals, scintillating brass stabs or the chintzy harmonica segue. Add female proto 80’s vocals to the shore, and you’ve got yourself a hit. And a hit it is, only halfheartedly camouflaged by the bedroom artist, pitched down just a tiny bit in order to make the chords a tad dreamier and the reverberation hollower; the original still shimmers ubiquitously through. I won’t give this or any other inspiring blueprint away. Let’s just say that the band’s original name rhymes with a phenomenon of the 90’s, the Shaq Attack. Allow me one more lame pun to circumscribe the second song, please, and lame it is for a reason, since Phoenix #2772 eruditely elasticizes and sternly stretches the original in his… su-su-studio. There. Drink a philistine Tom (?) Collins to the three-note technicolor vivacity, bathe in the towering horn fusillade, absorb the nebulous cymbal reticulation, but by all means, don’t ever turn the volume down.


The Sunset continues to draw from the orange hue of the big ball in the sky, convulses, twitches and pulsates ad infinitum, always awash with flamboyant harmonies and fluorescent flashes. No compunction, no quandary, no cry. Rhythm is your R’n’B B & B hymn with helicoidal Rhodes rhizomes and encouraging horological flowerage while Miami Love returns to the opener’s – and Vaporwave artist’s – home zone via splotchy electric guitar riffs that are almost tangible. The counting enchantress meanwhile sings gimcrack whose relevance is buried under mountains of potassium, but as usual, this is to be expected and greatly veneered by the scrimshaw chromaticity of magnificent hooks. In other news, the best bits of a soulful voice are presented in the epiphany called I’ll Bring My Love, comprising of two differently temperated loops, one for coruscating daylight activities, the other for softly illumined sleepovers in a megacity, but both chock-full of saccharified quiltings. Cue the harps in the centerpiece Broken Heart, which is a bit of a letdown, running a tad too long due to its stretched physiognomy of over five and a half minutes. This isn’t a problem per se, but by decelerating the hexangular kaleidoscope by means of deepened polyphonies, lamenting backing choirs and meek color ranges, the glaring bursts are put to a halt, and tempo is, at least up to this point, the actual forte of The Sunset. Once it is taken away from the listener, an incredulous bewilderment materializes.


Luckily enough, this clammy state is not meant for the endemic world for too long as the listener adjusts to the slowness, and the adjacent superfluid Drop Of Love, while still prolonged, shows signs of improvement, be it the pointillistic Roland prongs, glistening polar lights or the iridescent glissando of the lead synth. Caribbean Love is the like-minded next of kin, and the transmogrification into an aureate guitar granuloma is somewhat insular indeed, making this a laid-back but nonetheless nutritious hydrazine hymn whose slow state still emits a natural feeling. The following New Dreams and its cherubic ambience meanwhile reminds me of the Dream Catalogue label’s catchy phrase “please stand by for new dreams…,” and so does the archetypically diluted viscoelasticity of the cymbals and hi-hats as their pristine frequency range becomes a benthic cesspool that unites with the steamy background keys, auroral patterns and wishful pleas by Mr. Loverman. In addition, New Dreams also captures the promised sunset phase that runs through the album time and again.


Whereas Towards The Horizon is a wonderfully echoey reverie segue of an AM radio frequency circumambience made for elevators, Control (Pt. I & Pt. II) revvvvs up the tempo and spawns clattering drums, apocryphal basslines, and 80’s wakeup calls aplenty before the second part tones down the tachycardiac catalepsy into a moony mellifluousness with no sound crossing the threshold of 3000 hertz, or so it seems. I’m Not Dreaming is worth mentioning for being a pandemonium. The strange Rhodes arabesques remain stuck in one’s head, their tawny luminosity adding esoteric exoticism to the fast-paced to the eponymous chorus. Phoenix #2772 uses quite a bit of phasing here, but this works to the (original) track’s advantage and simulates the conflictive sources of fitness versus languidness. Standing ovations are also reserved for the closing track Athena, Your Embrace…, and for entirely different reasons: it is true that this endpoint is slow and beatless while I begged for tempo and quick vibes, but here the mediterranean guitar globs, snake charmer spheres and prismatic legato flares work as a majestic counterpart and splendid way to fade out the orange humid viscidity known as… The Sunset.


In recent interviews, Dream Catalogue’s runner and head scientist Hong Kong Express clarified the vision he has regarding Vaporwave in general and his label in particular. One can interpret an answer in many different ways, but I think that bog-standard Vaporwave aesthetics and timbres don’t have that much of a chance anymore, for it is these cheesy bits that – unfortunately so – remain stuck in the public sphere and become the genre trademark. Don’t be mistaken (that’s what grandma is there for): Phoenix #2772’s The Sunset is the rubicund cornerstone of a true-spirited Vaporwave artifact. It is an anthem made of 20+ hymns, exudes the two major tricks genre aficionados have in store, namely slowing a track down by plasticizing its high frequencies on the one hand, and adding shedloads of reverb on the other hand. But while we have the umpteenth case here that I am reviewing the album of a Vaporwave curator instead of a creator, the crimson vibes of Miami’s Chris Candelario lead a life of their own and make me revisit – and review them – against all odds. Despite The Sunset being a clear cut retrogressively classic V-sparkler with no connections whatsoever to adjacent niches such as Glitch or even Seapunk, the nutritious radiation of its molten chords enchant severely. Phoenix #2772 doesn’t hide anything from the listener: important lines of the chorus are transformed into perfectly readable English track titles, no stylized witticisms are attached. It is the music that counts, hear ye hear ye, but here on The Sunset, this is especially true an adage for fans of the 80’s.


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 383: Phoenix #2772 – The Sunset (2014). Originally published on Oct. 22, 2014 at