And Hong Kong Express





The music of t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 and Hong Kong Express is frequently analyzed, at least their collaborative project 2 8 1 4 is. Finally the music press takes note of a genre that isn’t even meant to be a genre but is instead seen as your mis-chromosomed alcohol-evaporating uncle who gives you a kiss for christmas and then thankfully vanishes for a year, or better make that two: enter Vaporwave, the buzzword of ‘em all, the vanillarific mutation. Given that both producers are incidentally the runners of the prestigious Dream Catalogue label, chances are that this here split EP of four tracks called 愛慕/悲哀 (love and sorrow), self-released at Bandcamp, is one of those slowed down vapor plasticizers, right? Of course not, and Hong Kong Express himself spoiled the surprise in January 2015 when his zoetropic Ambient ode to the eponymous city HK is self-released. That both this album and 愛慕/悲哀 are not officially connected to the Dream Catalogue roster is still beyond me, but one possible explanation is the focus on another fully fleshed out and generally accepted – albeit likewise ridiculed – genre: the aforementioned Ambient. Indeed, both HK and 愛慕/悲哀 are breathtakingly cinematic visions of futuristic megacities, chock-full of high-quality panoramas, synths, field recordings… and jejune counterpoints when the time is nigh. The first two tracks are by t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, the other duo by Hong Kong Express, so without further ado, here is a closer look at one inconspicuous gem, a possible mediator between the weathered Ambient aficionado and his vaporwaver rapscallion born in ‘96.


While the aura of the split EP may be leading to darker paths emotionally, t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者’s half is awash with tawny lights and make his journey seem more of a cleansing ritual of purity than a serpentine way into the mucoid abyss. Opener あなたの愛への憧れ (yearning for your love) is a pristine Ambient diorama made of elasticized yttrium crystals, a prolonged microlensing of nutritious – that is harmonious – sine tones and a rivulet of wondrously staggering lo-freq superfluids. Everything is aglow, occasionally desiccate and stern, but thankfully the polished surfaces of the synths are close at hand, functioning as panchromatic lavabos and guardian lights that protrude the poignant turbidity of the cesspool called megacity. With a duration of almost 13 minutes, the city's organic metallicity provides an oxymoronic diffeomorphism that severely enchants and remains a volatile sanctuary regardless, even in its sparse fade-out phase.


What a contrapuntal complement 最後にホーム(finally home) is by comparison! It may be a shorter piece of seven and a half minutes, but the vista t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 is painting is much more bustling, yet soothing enough to emit mellowness. The listener is thrown into a hazy cityscape, and although this anacrusis provides a hectic hustle and bustle, one is strangely adrift, feeling narcotic and enclosed in a plasmatic thiazide. Indeed, 最後にホーム becomes a superionic cytoplasm later on once the stage of the city fades out into the distance, making room for the multinucleate circumambience of the synthetic elements. In the barycenter: a blurry lighthouse synth whose misty nostalgia swirls gently around a hauntingly beautiful chord punctilio whose saltatory physiognomy and consistency provide another pulsatile constituent to hold on to. Is this a tragic piece or does the agglutinated title tell the tale of solace and gratitude? I believe that the latter interpretation is justified by the aural epigenetic morphology of this beautiful earthbound planetesimal.


The third song 我的遗憾 (translatable into I regret) leads into the district of Hong Kong Express, and one can already tell that the outlook is much more grim… or is it? At least the song title is yet again prone to ambiguity. What is regretted? The thing that has been done, or the opportunity that has been missed? There’s plenty of time to meditate on this subject, as HKE settles for a runtime of over eleven minutes to build up another umbrageous-ultramafic scenery of the Ambient kind. And granted, his viewpoint of the unnamed city is that of a busy place as usual, but a surprisingly delightful one in view to the attached title. After an oblique fadein, the wealth of the nucleic textures demands – and easily catches – the eye of the listener: glistening gluons, ecstatically bubbling cauldrons and seraphically warped drone halides flicker and swirl, tumble and twirl, but always with majestic grace. Laser pulses flash by, synths sound like accidental sirens; their appearance is neither gimmicky nor plethoric, but always demanded by the progressive chemotaxis and perception of being afloat in a chromophore tropopause. Even the final minute leaves room for fluvio-lacustrine crackles and the sunset phase of the experienced abiogenesis.


With the final 在雨中的悲伤 (rain of sorrow), Hong Kong Express is up to his old trick again: feigning a crepuscular-crestfallen solanum in the title, and thankfully mobbing up its devastating gravitation by a pyroliquid phoresy audio-wise. Naturally, there’s a field recording of pouring rain injected alright, but it is the oscillation between brazen cyberpunk interstices and gorgeously plinking fermions and vesicles that rotoscope around a classic piano. The plasticity is astonishing and makes for a potentially bewildering experience, as the textural wealth gyres between lacunar corners and ventricles of nonentity on the one hand, and salubrious positrons encapsulated in glowing ventidcuts on the other. The afterglow of the vitreous chimes and aquatic aureoles is strong, the magnetotails of the wobbling sirens more amniotic than anathematizing. The comparison to Vangelis and the Blade Runner movie is the laziest one a reviewer can possibly attach to this metropolitan thunderstrom – and as you can see, I did just that in order to stress both the equimolar depth and longitudinal viscidity of this orthorhombically shaped urban ubiquity.


t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 and Hong Kong Express’ 愛慕/悲哀 depicts a pair of contrapuntal themes, but only at the first flimsy sight of course. A more meticulous look reveals that the emotions of love and sadness aren’t antagonistic forces, nor are they two sides of the single coin. They belong together, they are part of the same serrated synapses and hypothalamic fibers, but the Vaporwave fan might forget this tendency when he or she is trapped in the peritoneum of Future Funk or blazing immersion circulators of adjacent genres. It is indeed my intent to mock somebody with that sentence: myself. As everyone else, I consider myself oh so tolerable and open-minded when it comes to the niches and styles of Vaporwave, with the V-genre being indeed that: a kaleidoscopic genre, not a parochial pinpointable substyle of Synth Pop or something like that. So far, so good. The musical adventures of t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 and Hong Kong Express however defy such notions. The following sentence is not meant as an affront, but as good news for the specific clientele of naysayers and shouldershruggers out there: 愛慕/悲哀 is not necessarily Vaporwave, and that’s splendid! It is cinematic Ambient, comprising of New Age molecules, Drone diamonds, and the photometry of cyberpunk arts. It should be celebrated and cherished for these stylistic entities, not for the fact that both artists revitalized a certain genre that was heretofore prone to be mocked ad infinitum. If Vaporwave isn’t healthy for you for whatever reason, 愛慕/悲哀 is adjuvant, antidote and apotheosis at once.


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 435: Telepathテレパシー能力者 & Hong Kong Express – 愛慕/悲哀 (2015). Originally published on May 27, 2015 at