Metro City





While Vaporwave can somewhat be linked to the Ambient genre as it is simply too zoetropic a field to be pinpointed and clearly defined, the same cannot necessarily be said about a certain congruous sped-up flavor of the night called Future Funk. Taking the base of the 70’s fad and marrying it with long-lost Disco flumes as well as contemporary postmillennial samples, lots of productions, even slick ones, lack an inherent soul and that desirable Ambient-oid nexus. This is a sad assessment to make, as Future Funk and Vaporwave, while greatly compatible with each other, face the same circadian threat of becoming mocked and ridiculed.


And who can blame the illustrious internet mob? There is a lot of soulless Vaporwave trash out there, and many a producer is still reliant on the old formula of slowing down an 80’s track in order to limewash the cymbals and hi-hats and ridicule the – now masculine – vocals of the original’s once-proud Disco queen. Future Funk shares the sentiment, but in lieu of slowing down tracks, they are sped-up, easy peasy. But don’t get apoplectic, I’m just playing the nihilistic spoilsport for the moment, as I am otherwise way too fond of the aforementioned styles and subgenres to truly despise them. And besides, Metro City is here for the rescue, a purple ten-plus-two-tracks epitome of a tape by French artist Vantage. Released on the Night Club Collection label and available to fetch at Bandcamp, Vantage is keen to resurrect the lilting incandescence of Funk. Metro City is a glowing artifact alright, but how futuristic is it, and what are the artist’s alter(n)ations and amendments to the formula? I’ve visited Metro City everyday for several weeks in order to find possible answers.


You know you've made it as a musician once there are stickers enclosed. Way to go, Night Club Collection!


The tape launches with the aural partition treaty of 50//50, with its twofold division sign in the title both hinting at Vantage’s stylized custom as depicted on his many artworks, and as a further imprint of diagonally longitudinal tokens of glory. Whether it is the electric piano glints in tandem with the annealed bass guitar, the da-ba-daing Disco coquettes or the oscillation between blurred AM frequency filters and a sudden high-plasticity directness in varying tempo segues, this 4/4 stomper is the perfect example of the artist’s approach: taking material from that place called somewhere else and carefully adjusting it to the needs as given by the phylum of Funk.


Meanwhile, Happiness Deluxe is the benchmark Vantage will be known for in Vaporwave circles for sears to come, a mercilessly luring tropopause that is so close to becoming abhorrently cheesy, yet so far away from any perihelic tackiness that it is a minor miracle. In short: Happiness Deluxe is the Funk tune with Mario and Peach samples. It has been done before. And ever since. But not with this ultramafic amount of soul. The first portion of the track enchants the listener with electric glockenspiels, super-sinewed isospin synths and amethystine guitar riffs amidst Peach’s baked goods, but it is the second part that ties the loose knots together via R’n’B gluons and polyphonic amplifications by the backing choir. Track title and attached soundscape form a symbiotic suntrap, the ventiduct delivers scents of perianths, and if one thinks that the Ambassadors Of Funk delivered the ultimate Mario tune back in the early 90’s, Happiness Deluxe might offer the estuary’s much needed U-turn.


While Metro City thus kicks off with two showstoppers that are genuinely enthralling with their playful lariats, the album doesn’t photodissociate – nor vaporize – after these amniotic aureoles. In fact, 99th Street revs up the tempo and surprises with its punctilio puissance and moxie mica, approximating a stop-and-go motion which leaves as much room for the purple darkness in the distance as it is keen on medulla-emptying bass drums, opalescent licks and funky jitters. As was the case in the second half of Happiness Deluxe, there is a similar vocal-laden revelation taking place in 99th Street too. The adjacent Snow Jam meanwhile is a purified instrumental of the euphonious order, first appearing in a flittering hoarfrost complexion which never wanes throughout the track, but is nonetheless pushed to the backdrop by synth guitar fermions in-between arpeggiated galactosamines. There is a hibernal feel to the track, but the melodies are anything but fragile, making this gelid avulsion a viscoelastic one.


Future Lover rolls along with its elasticized state, serving as the Vaporwave vestibule of Metro City, for Casco's debonair-driven post-Atomic Age attrition Cybernetic Love is decelerated. Vocoded bleep lyrics, cylonic robot voices and stacked love listicles make this the mucoid moxie of the tape and one of the few examples of true-to-form Future Funk. The enticement doesn’t so much derive from catchy bridges but the stringency of the frequency multiplex which emanates a supreme cohesion. Barracuda rounds off side A as a tunnel gateway to fast-paced handclap-fueled “I wanna funk” incitements, assembled verifying female ascriptions and last but not least some caproic-caustic convulsions of the synthy kind.


Side B presents another quintet of potassium peritoneums in the name of Funk without neglecting the tastefully chlorotic Ambient core. Whereas the diaphanous follow-up So Right is another mid-tempo cotyledon that summons infra-slippery lavabo slides in the constant presence of feminine words of wisdom, the majestic Rokkaku Dai-Heights is a declaration of love for the Jet Set Radio Future game, but in a toned down fashion, presented in hatched colors, without any trigger that would make the listener aware of the franchise. It offers a maximum of enchantment though, what with its translucently glistening stardust spirals, sweet peep-peep aphorisms and unapologetically coaxing guitar riffs. The track’s apex comprises of staccatofied catenae before Vantage leads to legato lands once again. This one is a strong corker whose panchromatic color range is as close to a theophany as can be.


The penultimate Underwater follows suit: the third mid-tempo artifact of Metro City is a melancholic-benthic nostalgia instrumental with pressure chamber synths, maudlin gazes and spheroidal compensator cannelures. It is the ventricle to the album’s magnificent dénouement Sunset, a tune where Vantage fires on all cylinders. From its smoking-fast MIDI trumpet-infested Disco string-aided conflation over an epicurean Sister Sledge sapience to the nutritious granularity of the scything synths, this is the life-affirming closure of a metropolitan morphogenesis. As bonus appendixes, Il Tenki and Heart are added, the former a bubblicious weather report with sax-laden pentatonicism, the latter a stretched but tone-pitched tryst of faux-Jamaican Lover's Rock.


At the end of the day and the start of the night, Metro City isn’t just a merely futuristic surfactant; if it were, it’d be easier to explain away. Likewise, Vantage isn’t a lackadaisical bedroom producer who takes an original, adds a few samples and spins a decay and attack cog or two. Truth be told: this is exactly what he does, but the result is so mesmerizingly mercurial and the originating flow so superresonant that there is no denial in terms of the tape’s vitalism. Whether you approach Vantage’s music from the viewpoint of a Vaporwave fan or Future Funk aficionado doesn’t make a difference, as the artist is more than able to attend, handle and valet the different yet congruous needs of both groups… they’re not that diversified after all. Whether he adds a few samples, cools down the pace for just a second or two in order to cheekily endure an orthorhombic-arhythmic mirage, or just unequivocally succumbs to the magic of the original by letting its intended luminescence shine through the lacustrine phototropism, Vantage knows what he is doing and creates a benignant flow.


This is a collection of tracks, true, but they somehow do form an album and work from start to finish. And there’s another boon, as Metro City isn’t overloaded with gimcracks and whistles; for example, it’s a neat trick to hold back the vocals in many of the songs, for the listener can then adjust to a track’s chromophore coruscation for a while before the density carefully increases. The Mario & Peach ode Happiness Deluxe might become an anathema and coup de main at the same time, but it simply is one standout track of many, and I for one cherish the whole high-rise package of Metro City. A purple gem for sure. #191970 forever!


Further listening and reading:

  • The tapes are all gone, but a second charge might be possible, and besides, the tape can still be digitally absorbed at Bandcamp. The package also features the two bonus tracks Il Tenki and Heart.
  • Vantage’s Twitter account: @VantageNoise.


Ambient Review 427: Vantage – Metro City (2015). Originally published on Apr. 15, 2015 at