And now the point of no return is reached right from the get-go, there’s no denial, it is crystal clear and crimson red at the same time: the bust is burning. The very bust that is the – there’s that word again – aesthetic barycenter of Iacon aka Alexander Graham from Jacksonville, Florida. The constant appearance of that previously chalky bust is a signature move akin to VHS Logos’ skull which graces many of his singles as well. 幽霊GHOSTS is the fourth album of Iacon already, unsurprisingly a force to reckon with, what with its multinucleate synth stabs, apoplectic-soothing vocal oxymorons and merciless fusillades of power drums whose drilling staccato crushes the spine and lets medulla float into the very ocean that is depicted on its front artwork. Self-released in April 2015 and available to fetch and fully stream at Bandcamp as usual, a whopping 21 tracks make up the existence of the album and carve out the intrinsic world. And what a world that is! Everything is aglow, a sentiment 幽霊GHOSTS shares with many a Vaporwave album alright, but here the incandescence has to fight a nihilistic nothingness, an attrition that works as a surfactant by threatening the aural macula of the album. Too weird a verbiage? As usual, this review is not about the truth, not even a possible truth, but an approximation of both the stylistic faculty and aural consequences of the curated and altered material. Enter the gravitational redshift: 幽霊GHOSTS!


That oceanic phototropism, vitreous verglas veils, reverberated guitars and soulful vox: welcome to 情熱Desire, the obvious opener that makes the listener familiar with Jacksonville’s cardinal Vaporwave producer. MIDI trumpets and benignant piano chords round off an elasticized gateway that points leeway and doesn’t let the listener succumb to recondite thoughts. The adjacent 至福Bliss meanwhile revs up the snare-fueled orogeny and silkened polyphony vocal-wise but keeps the pace in shuttling between umbrageous purity and pristine obliquity, balancing out blazing elation and crepuscular gloom. One particular highlight in the album’s first half is the tunnel vision 銀河Starlight which enchants with its jittering punctilio catenae, aliphatic hi-hat helixes and echoey perturbation. The upper tempo does the titration justice, providing a calcareous yet fluid-processed epithelium whose synthetic Angkor Wat bells only augment the anthemic anathema. These are but three tracks that grab the listener with their violent, explosive omnipresence where everything is calcined or annealed at worst and dazzlingly aglow at best. 


There are these moments where Iacon leaves the histrionic-conniptive pre-apocalypse behind in favor of comparatively suave and debonair highlights, and so a successful Synth Pop hymn has to serve as the base frame for 殺害Hearts whose piano polymers, sustained chords in b minor and lavabo Hammond organs provide the parallax flaring for an uptempo blues. Later on, the rotoscoping 放棄Abandon gyres around a nucleus of metallicity that is nurtured by gorgeous hi-hat stabs and holistic kick drums; despite the high energy approach, there is a petrifying, graver mood emitted by the caudal-alkaliphilic synth estuaries and glaucous jungular panpipes. 感情Emotions belongs to the same category of retrosternal superresonance: while it resembles the staggering oomph of the beats that is so typical for the endemic vision, the crestfallen foveae and fasciae amplify the i(r)onic flume that flows through the gravitational center. Square hit synth eruptions round off another highlight.


There’s a third set of important constituents that make up the diffeomorphism of 幽霊GHOSTS, and that is a collaborative triptych with nano神社 (✪㉨✪) whose parts are scattered all over the album as tracks 6, 11 and 21, the latter of which simultaneously serves as the album’s apotheosis. In these tracks, the complexion is widened and sports neon flares, salubrious telomeres and panchromatic scintillae aplenty. 写真Photophenominal is a wondrously hectic-frantic whitewater ride filled with megalomaniac drum progressions, scything metropolitan saxes and electropositive lyrics. The equilibrioception of caulked snare photons and sharp clarity frequency-wise make this one uppercut of a track. 胎動Flash is a darker affair at first sight, residing in bustling midtempo hallways, enchanting with its gridlock guitars, semi-diaphanous syringa syrinxes and zoetropic dark matter accretion. The bubbling drum blebs and vesicular injections, however, spawn so much energy that the darker edge makes room for an ignis fatuus. The finale comes in the shape of the eponymous 幽霊Ghosts which provides a crystalline-diffractive circumambience of emerald arabesques, ratiocinating coils and a tawny effulgence, making this a magnificent, almost New Age-oriented endpoint to a polysemous epitome.


幽霊GHOSTS is one recalcitrant gem of a Vaporwave album, triggering all the right synapses that the versatile genre is able to radiate. The focus is clearly – almost strictly – set on the magic of 80’s synths and a MIDIlicious allure, pitched vocals and aeriform reverb rhizomes become entangled in a fluvio-aqueous polyhedron that shows where the V-genre is at. The big achievement of Iacon and his partner in crime nano神社 (✪㉨✪) is the aptitude to supercharge and overgraft the already existing material from somewhere else and make it their own via cleverly added filters, bent frequencies and a merciless compression of the drums so that their previously rubicund aura now becomes stupefyingly mephitic. Maybe the front artwork guides me more than I am willed to admit, but I definitely feel a marine sentiment, an alluvial sea-level prism whose ophidian tendrils and turbulent braiding causes tachycardia heartbeats more often than not. Wherever the listener or traveler is situated at, whether it is a pluvial portion, vertiginous vignette or saltatory segue, 幽霊GHOSTS lives up to its title via palinopsic fibroblasts and hallucinative afterglows within the pyroxene-filled interstices of every beat. A catchy thermal immersion circulator.


Further listening and reading:


Vaporwave Review 072: Iacon – 幽霊GHOSTS (2015). Originally published on May 3, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.