Secret Of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star, Terranigma… teary-eyed gamers – or whatever they’re called tomorrow – bathe in recollections and sweet memories when they think of these pastel-colored glucan-filled worlds of orthogonal originality, and if I have forgotten your favorite RPG of the 90’s and dare to not even mention the spectacular sixth entry of Final Fantasy in order to keep the above list short and crisp, chances are that you are in for a treat, even though this is definitely not a feat of mine. Enter あるR23Xエク or R23X in short with his ten-track perianth called OSV which stands for Original Sound Version. Hailing from the Mist Continent, R23X pours his heart and soul into a noble task: An emulation of a non-existent RPG soundtrack. Given the omnipresent and ever-growing surge of video game memorabilia, it comes to the attention of even the most obdurate-stubborn journalist of the much slated old media that there must be something of a diversified trend of celebrating the vintage years of the 80’s and 90’s and their various cultural breakthroughs, among them: video games. The oneiric Vaporwave spirit skyrockets within the aural boundaries of OSV, that’s why the genre-trendsetting behemoth Dream Catalogue picked up the viridian work and offers it over at Bandcamp as usual. Expect cherubic synth choirs, lucent sapphires (they do make a distinct sound in games of course!), bit-crushed incandescence and truckloads of well-known stereotyped locales that are warmheartedly taken into account by R23X.


Cross The Ocean is R23X’s first outdoor installment, a heartfelt pulsatile opus fluidium about the mandatory waste of wasters that has to be crossed during an RPG’s duration. Photodissociated winds, verglas temple bells and isothermal cymbals profuse and iterate in a cautiously glitchy area; the maintenance of the melodies and their textural characteristics remain the guiding light though. Follow-up Human Race addresses the bleep-driven chiptune aesthetics via a chopped punctilio of girly vocals, bursts of diamantine effulgence and a rural plateau placenta amidst the bubbles, whereas the adjacent City is the expected melting pot of perihelic puissance, a tropopause oscillating between gorgeously emerald-colored high-rise synths and benignant flute florets. With the arrival of Exposition, the 16-bit physiognomy is widened and now seems to absorb the third generation of consoles, endemically speaking: the aqueous shape of the droplets increases, and the interplay between reverberation and punchiness unfolds more prominently in-between the virile public service announcements. With the advent of Metropolis, another cosmopolitan destination is reached. Ultramafic cloudlets of chlorotic hue flicker within parallax layers of muffled Hip-Hop helixes and portentously pre-apocalyptic rubicund flares.


The second half of OSV kicks off with Menu, a cheekily short interlude of eleven seconds trying to approximate a gamer’s agitation in a non-existing in-game menu complete with scroll sounds and amniotic glints when an offered selection is chosen. Afterwards, R23X points leeway again with the Ambient sparkler Realm Of Eternal Rain [VHS] which comprises deliciously wonky tape simulations of snarled up reels, mid-plasticity field recordings and panchromatic memory sinews embroidered in those square syringa shells. The majestic Friendship follows suit with its pompous harbor-esque steelification of metallic clangs, carbonaceous synth protuberances and curiously fragile thiazide strata, with the upcoming Journey 2 [VHS] being the most vivid and partially exotic destination. Cryovolcanic sparks are deeply embedded in a wondrously fir-green, seemingly Roland-driven bass epithelium of semi-ligneous fermions, synth choir-filled ventiducts and square lead flutes of the powerfully incisive kinds. Shuttling between esoteric landmarks and amethystine micas on a subcellular level, it serves as both the nutritious and caustic cauldron in the wake of the finale Airship, and with its inclusion, the album encounters a satisfying closure: after gaining access to a boat or galleon right in the opener, the 16-bit world opens up yet again. Being in the air now, the synthetic strings, celestial glissando of the harps and glacial piano molecules paint the respective weightlessness. That the album abruptly ends just when the presented BGM track seems to reveal itself as a loop is another fitting boon.


R23X’s OSV depicts an unusually honest string of prospects by transforming its precise description into nearly tangible locales: it is an emulation of a non-existent RPG soundtrack, with the basic distinction between an emulation and a simulation being a greater hardware-focused approach in the former model of (re)creation. Indeed, OSV is supercharged with memorabilia, flashbacks, wonder and awe… even though it only exists in one’s head. All these strikingly crucial emotions are channeled through the specific treatment of the synths and delightfully apocryphal patterns. The target audience is twofold: gamers of the 80’s who became teens in the 90’s – against all odds – on the one hand, and the ever-growing bedroom producers who had yet to be born in the middle of the 90’s but who are able to feel the aesthetic prowess of these soundtracks even better, what with the flood of mobile games and essentials being reissued day by day. Video game soundtracks have experienced a blazing resurgence, and R23X caters to the autochthonous audience of these fluvial fissures by evocatively ennobling presumably parochial setups with polyfoil ingredients, setups, colors and textures. This is Vaporwave alright, a docilely erudite and studious attempt at that, spawning cavalcades of retrospective remembrances and tidbits of digital keepsake of the presumably golden era of videogaming. A masterfully precise yet soulful case study.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 422: R23X – OSV: Original Sound Version (2015). Originally published on Mar. 25, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.