Spare me the tears and moosh, but Vaporwave is a particularly uniting genre despite its masses of seemingly isolated bedroom producers. Indeed, these ladies & gentlemen altogether create their current dreams and nostalgia rivers, pouring them into their albums, with rarely a steady collaboration ever taking place. Vaporwave is still the underdog to many, a stoic set of rules rather than a polyfaceted lifestyle, maybe vice versa. Others proclaim its death and coin different terms to describe the genre. It is here where Renjā’s full-length debut Lonesome comes into play, unexpectedly so. What is expected, though, is its appearance on Earth’s primary retro-futuristic “yestermorrow” label Dream Catalogue. It can be streamed and fetched at Bandcamp as usual. While the artist has already come up with his similarly intriguing follow-up Anata (released on Murmurs Collective and available at Bandcamp as well), this review dives deeper into Lonesome's core.


Hailing from Warsaw in the United States where he is known as a civilian with the name of Ezequiel, Renjā meanwhile chooses a title that is occasionally in conflict with the 12 aural rhizomes it is attached to. Here, loneliness is not a looming factor. It loses whatever portent it has. This can be blamed on the gorgeous synth washes, oscillating melodies and many a beat that is dropped over, under and amid the fuzzy dreamscapes. The front artwork is not exaggerating and fits the mood perfectly, meaning that distant darkness surrounds the endemic barriers of the album. However, masses of vivacity, coruscation and incandescence are embroidered here. With the exception of two tracks, Lonesome is nonetheless a more serious work, neglecting the genre’s ubiquitous tongue-in-cheek humor and consumerism escapades. This introvert approach turns out to be most refreshing and is further carved out in this review.


It’s always a redundant remark to make listeners aware of the channeling that takes place in Vaporwave with all of its sub-genres, styles and samples, but the opening portion of Where I Belong certainly offers the most New Age-oid kickoff in Dream Catalogue’s roster. And it is as aglow as it is self-assured. Notice that the track title is not posed in the form of a question. The Ambient equanimity is therefore crystalline, completely euphonious and efficiently underlined by a slow beat which is feisty enough to aurally flex time and again. Through My Window then revs up the phase of contentment with a gorgeous amalgamation of AM frequency-alloyed granular cloudlet pads, majestic key progressions and sweeping chime-underlined maraca shuffles. The longest track of Renjā’s full-length debut is at the same time the most immersive one, curiously enough despite – or because of? – its hazily limewashed aura. How pristine Symphony Of The Heart appears in comparison; making use of emaciated stylophone patches in an exclusively Ambient antrum sans beats, the heterodyned time lag is later rounded off with fibrillar aqua swabs.


Stored Memories is as orderly a track, as Renjā adds an easygoing but medulla-shaking beat over a pastoral pastiche of neon nostalgia awash with seraphic/synthetic synergies. Past is similarly ecclesiastical, but also adores its intrinsic callisthenics. These stretched coils comprise of chopped and arhythmic beat structures – i.e. the exact opposite of the previously running Stored Memories – as well as a warm photometry which exudes thermal heat like an organically spreading mirage. In addition, this piece harbors the least chintzy Mario sample in the history of Vaporwave! Due to the magnanimous thicket of soothingness, even such a seemingly mundane injection is crazily theophoric in lieu of being, say, plain stupid. Like U meanwhile is a two-part capsule with a sanguine rhododendron anacrusis, followed by a processed J Pop-evoking hymn that is merged with the gauze of French Filter House, whereas the upcoming Jona is a smoking-fast, reversely played crystal cannelure loaded with Japanese chit-chat and Eurodance-resembling BPM levels. Mustache ravers of yesteryear might more than willfully bask in its chromaticity while biting that glowstick.


I’m Just Sitting There Wishing marks the temporal counterpoint to the journey, at least title-wise, as a petrified state of contemplation is suggested. In lieu of melancholic rigidity, however, warm guitar catenae vesiculate through a bosky breakbeat pattern. Renjā once more sails around the threatening cheesiness that is always close at hand in such bonfire scenarios. An adamantly aeriform liftoff is included in I Can Never Sleep which offers a splendidly ethereal synth choir reticulation of proteinaceous weightlessness, all the while Discovering Myself is the golden-shimmering earthbound ode to utter happiness. The cycling three-note motif of the plinking faux-piano is embedded deep within a similarly aureate architecture of diaphanous reverberations and choral senescence. The adjacent Dancing Alone is a revelation though: pumping 4/4 beats à la Underworld are fueling the somnolently spheroidal two-tone syringa hue of the track. No insult intended and only dropped for reasons of comparison: if someone wanted me to believe this to be a lost Moby track produced right in the middle of his 90’s Rave origin and more soulful millennial endeavors, I would have believed it alright. And what a coincidence, as the album closes with Anthem, which is the name of an old Moby sparkler as well. Renjā offers a different approach though and presents a lilac string fest of lachrymose fiddles, piano placentas and softened beat protrusions. Again looped and only based on a motif of two basic chords holding together a pattern of more eclectic sequences, this is the electro-acoustic end to an album whose Vaporwave trait is wonderfully enough few and far between.


Renjā’s Lonesome is one of those genre-breaking examples that seem to appear more frequently at the Dream Catalogue label as of late. With the exception of the barest video game snippet and the mandatory yet always delightful announcement of a Japanese girl or two, Lonesome is no Vaporwave release in the strictest sense of the already widely connotative term. And that should be fine with every fan of the label, since Vaporwave may be the strongest signal term to absorb, true that, but the fuzzier description of dream music should not remain unnoticed. Renjā’s full-length debut is definitely orbiting much closer around an oneiric nucleus, a kind of remote nostalgia. It never feels heavy or overly contemplative though, as the wealth of synths, electro-acoustic traits and strong melodies make it a life-affirming technicolor ride. Heck, even tachycardia is included when the BPM rate and the oomph of the beats themselves are magnanimously augmented. It would be wrong to coin these beat structures as the signature element of the album, but they certainly play an important role. They are the lively foil to the pipe dream mélange, a kick in one’s melancholia-driven withdrawal. Somewhat churchly and sermonic in its timbre, the aspect of being lonesome is stupefyingly reversed: synth choir patches, reverberated sinews and bonding frequencies serve as the net that carries the listening subject, intended or not. If one wanted an album of flashing colors, eruptions of insouciance and an appearance of feisty beats more often than not, Lonesome would be a great choice… even – or especially – if one loathes Vaporwave.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 406: Renja – Lonesome (2014). Originally published on Jan. 14, 2015 at