冬季大会 Winter Games






Shiver me timbers, there is such a thing as a snowy Vaporwave album after all! The most colorful and admittedly ridiculed genre, style or niche of the music industry with a zoetrope of themes, aesthetics and endeavors has all the locales in the world in store, whether it is lush jungles, BGM memorabilia or Jazz-inspired megacities. But winter-related albums are quite rare. This shouldn’t ultimately come as a surprise: such albums are often mistaken for Christmas gimcrack, and schmutz like this usually has a half-life threshold of twenty-something days. However, the following album has been added all too willfully to AmbientExotica’s Winter Ambient Review Cycle of 2014. Enter 人以上VANQUISH組み込ま利益 – or in short: Vanquish – from Syracusa, New York whose digital-only five-track album 冬季大会 Winter Games is self-released in September 2014 and available to fetch and stream at Bandcamp. Vanquish is a curator as most Vaporwave artists are, but he doesn’t shy away from altering, dissecting and pushing the material to its boundaries. The first two tracks are long-form sanctuaries of 14+ and 18+ minutes respectively, but they house several vignettes of prolonged soulful ditties, R’n’B flares and Synth Pop cataracts. The remaining three pieces are bonus tracks and odes to a certain video game soundtrack. So far, so common. The strength of 冬季大会 Winter Games lies in the coherent build-up, the icy mellifluousness, moony veils and blurry drones amidst the vocals and cymbals. Here’s a closer look one of Vaporwave’s very few Winter wonderlands.


The glitziest of all crystalline hoarfrost cloudlets percolates through the glacial interstices right at the beginning of 冬季大会 Winter Games (Side A). The polyhedric diffractions of the Ambient-based synth is like a kaleidoscope, comprising of many arabesques and caulked nuclei. This beautiful array is only running for about 15 seconds, despite the track’s magnanimous runtime of almost 15 minutes. Soon enough, proper Vaporwave pipelines are reached: elasticized male vocals, Synth Pop patterns and mephitic 4/4 beats conflate before the inner eye. However, the wintery theme is undoubtedly maintained by Vanquish who revs up the 80’s mélange with post-processed encroachments and spacy interferences, letting the material pulsate, stumble and coruscate ad infinitum. From Detroit-y doldrums of diffusion over twinkling mica of amethystine color ranges to stacked sinews of alkaloidal arcana, 冬季大会 Winter Games (Side A) resides in the snow at all times. The perennial haze is fittingly nebulous, the apocryphal textures limewashed and hazy. I am not too fond of the short R’n’B trip that starts around the mark of eight minutes, as it lets too much darkness and nothingness into the otherwise lactam-fueled reticulation of gelid melancholy, but this is not a contretemps per se and doesn’t harm the overall mood in the slightest.


Meanwhile, 冬季大会 Winter Games (Side B) is nigh and even runs for 18+ minutes. The kick-off is equally gorgeous, Vanquish almost succumbs to Deep House tonalities with the heavily reverberated synth pads whose slowed down physiognomy spawns thermal heat in lieu of frosty icicles. The amount of reverb is in fact so thickly wadded and oneiric that the bedroom producer has to add arhythmic pitches and simulated scratches in order to break the lilac languor. Once the laser-like stereo-panned swooshes enter the scenery, the whole arrangement is not much more than a decomposed hydrazine of wondrous scrimshaw artifacts, but that’s Vaporwave for you. Once this deeply soothing state is overcome, Side B becomes iridescent again. The material is once more sustained, the vocals pitched down, business as usual, but the cymbals and hi-hats are comparatively glacial. Add a few bit crushers to the scenery, and you have a polygonal pericarp whose backing synths function as aeriform ice floes drifting in the glaucous sky. Whether it is Trip Hop trysts, hexangular technicolor Glam Pop helixes retrojected onto fibrillar illuminants, or the circumambience of the grand finale with its vocoded polyphony, 冬季大会 Winter Games (Side B) is as great an epiphany as Side A.


This would have been the endpoint, were it not for the three bonus tracks that Vanquish adds as appendices to the priorly presented long-form material. They are quite a bit detached from the hibernal lavabo, but nonetheless nice-to-have additions to the viridian veil. These three bonus tracks do have something in common and are actually well-known in the Vaporwave scene, for they are based on Richard JacquesSonic R soundtrack. No surprise, the front artwork gives a good hint after all. The triptych is still notably modified and revised. 市内で In The City is therefore presented in elasticized form as well, Vanquish carves out the greatest hooks, repeats them time and again and then augments the lead vocals with fusillades of staccato punctilio, distortions and other upbeat ingredients. あなたはそれを感じることができます Can You Feel It does the same thing and points out sunnier times far away from Winter, whereas それほど高く感じるMakes Me Feel So High marks the end and worships diamonds and other shiny objects. Sure, you’ve heard these tracks before and ever since, and whatever it is that makes this particular soundtrack – in tandem with Pilotwings 64, I might add – so poised to succeed in the Vaporwave community is anyone’s guess.


冬季大会 Winter Games is a great little Vaporwave album which is close to my heart because it features a cohesive winter-related scheme; its focal point is eminently frosty. The bonus tracks are really just that: ostracized addenda that don’t ennoble the snow-covered panoramas at all, but feature the same tricks and aesthetic values of the curating artist. No synthetic vestibule to the past is presented as is, Vanquish always makes the foreign material his own, adds bent frequencies and plasticizers in order to present autochthonous sparklers that are endemic to this album. Maybe the right opportunity to listen to this album is tied to a narrower, more restricted time frame, as I cannot imagine listening to this during Summer, the bonus tracks notwithstanding. But during Winter, whether it’s day- or nighttime, 冬季大会 Winter Games seriously shines as it is pristine and lightweight on the one hand and deeply fir-green and chlorotic on the other. Not verdured at all, the synths and crystals still prosper, and the backing drones become a wonderful glaze and bokeh to the melodies, the latter of which are unsurprisingly catchy, but outdone by the overall atmosphere. The soothing emanation and blurry radiation carry the album, the temperature levels and viridian vortexes round off a great Vaporwave album. Yes, it is just that, nothing more, nothing less: Vaporwave. But the focus on Winter and the many alterations make it a luring coup de main… will there be a Summer Games edition?


Further listening:

冬季大会 Winter Games can be fetched and streamed at Bandcamp.


Ambient Review 400: 人以上Vanquish組み込ま利益 – 冬季大会 Winter Games (2014). Originally published on Dec. 17, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.