Hong Kong Express






Vaporwave killed Hong Kong Express 

Hihihi, hohoho, I'm doing a one-eighty with this review right at the beginning, and I don't feel the least bit stupid, especially so since I'm not physically able to deliver a ten-eighty, but that's beside the point. Instead, I shrug my shoulders and move on, but first things first: when it became clear around April/May 2015 that Dream Catalogue head honcho and vapor/dream luminary Hong Kong Express would kill off his moniker in favor of the short, crisp and no-meaning-attached form HKE, i jumped to premature conclusions, though in my flimsy defense, you cannot spell premature without "mature." Anyway, when the British artist released his four-track EP Zero as Hong Kong Express on DMT Tapes back in May, I acknowledged the fact, but nonetheless used the frilly new moniker HKE time and again. So look at the above headline, and analyze what I've done. Holler!

Now it's definite, final and over, the apotheosis is nigh: the purposefully weirdly titled This is the very final album of Hong Kong Express before he morphs into HKE. An additional single or two might surface with the full moniker, sure, but album-wise, that's it, and this time to everyone's surprise – or rather: not – the album isn't released on DMT Tapes which rests in bile-drenched pieces while Hong Kong Express is still alive. No, the album instead sees the light of night on Toronto, Ontario-based Adhesive Sounds. The original run of 75 tapes has sold out in a ridiculous timeframe, but before a second batch materializes eventually, you can still fetch the digital version at their Bandcamp page as it should be. So what is This all about? Naturally, the latter V rolls like thunder on this tape too, but since this is a good-bye, lots of genres are entwined and juxtaposed. Heard of Hip-Hop? Detroit? Jungle and Sheffield Rave? And what about Mallsoft, a genre that hasn't been linked to Homg Kong Express prior to this release. It's all in here, hear ye hear ye! Five solo tracks are included, with the remaining seven tracks featuring collaborations with close friends and experts in the field of dreamy music. But for now, let's enjoy neon-induced flickering city superstructures as provided by Adhesive Sounds and invented by Hong Kong Express: Analyze This.


Neon-induced flickering city superstructures as provided by Adhesive Sounds.


Hong Kong Express all alone…

Yes, cry me a river, but even in the grand finale, there are paths you have to walk alone, contemplating, absorbing the morphogenesis of the city’s innermost core. The eponymous opener This would be such an instance. A kaleidoscope of zoetropic vitreous wind chimes, verglas gamelan bells, Oriental saffron strings and a medulla-emptying Hip-Hop beat that is less insoluble in water than camphene, the title is aptly chosen, answering the question what Hong Kong Express/HKE will be up to in the future. The answer, obviously is: This. Then there is Station, showcasing the artist’s focus on dreams rather than the V-genre, although he still caters to the Vaporwave crowd in this ethereal speleo-lycopod. High-plasticity vincristine cloudlets flicker through a amicably bustling afternoon atmosphere, accompanied by a field recording of chirping birds. The big bonus, however, comes in the shape of an erinaceous laser interferometry whose glaring immediacy scythes through the cotton candy… in order to ultimately harmonize with the strata of cenobitism.

Dreaming meanwhile elucidates the progressive, shapeshifting epistemology of Vaporwave: gorgeously super-stacked synth sinews ooze around a laid-back breakbeat. Absorbing the British Rave rhizomes of 91/92, Hong Kong Express further pitch-shifts these longitudinal torches and lets them twirl in-between elasticized echoes, Mellotron marimbas and palearctic isospins. The adjacent Romantic Soul offers another change of pace. Believe it or not, but Hong Kong Express gives his salute to Mallsoft in this easygoing peritoneum of consumerism. Bongo grooves, synthetic sun-dappled guitar licks, distant snake charmer magnetotails and stratiform-rotoscoping lounge lozenges are the epigenetic constituents of an arrangement where clandestinity is shown the door while the listening subject is hustling through the marbled polymers. A favorite of mine, because it is so unexpected. The last solo submission is both an auspiciously titled one and the grand finale at once: 2048. It begs for the appearance of t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, but is marked as a solo track. A mildly apoplectic breakbeat made of cautiously exotic Jungle patterns serves as the base frame for multicellular seraphic synth choirs, arpeggiated aurum aurorae and atomic clicks. This is sound-based pectin, the quieter moments are especially noteworthy as one can then fathom the caproic cataracts caulking the faraway darkness. 

… and among friends

Show your fellow vaporwaver that you care: fraternize and collaborate! Without further ado, here's what you can expect, split up in two paragraphs. The first "expected surprise" would be the inclusion of a vocalist who is both haunting and skilled: V I R T U E. Represented and included in a whopping three tracks, Hong Kong Express seems to enjoy the virtual meetings, as her vocals were also included in a track of the artist's recent EP Zero. On This, the good omen continues: 6AM features a club-compatible midtempo placenta and dubby basslines which remind of The Orb's millenial adventures coupled with proto-Faithless fibers. Glacial emanations, granular torches and benthic-cerulean panpipes waft around V I R T U E, with her echo-alloyed vocals hailing back from orographic protuberances and lavabo plateaus. How different Neon City is by comparison! Here, Hong Kong Express establishes an arpeggiated helicoidal salvo of mellow tropical synths and rounds them off with vanillarific drone washes and square specks. Even handclaps find their way into the song. Bustling and busy, V I R T U E gyres between hopefulness, vicissitudes and elation. Broken Hearts puts the finishing touches on the triptych with a rather mucoid, dreamlike coppice with lofty lacunae, hollow ventricles and cinematic climaxes. There is no real beat, just a sizzling percussion layer, but despite this omission, the wideness and density – coupled with the occasional recess and decreased amount of layers – surround the chantress and influence the serenity of her voice.

The remaining collaborations are enormously versatile style- and texture-wise, Hong Kong Express wants this final tape to end with a bang, spanning as many niches, alcoves and complete planetesimals as possible. Future Funk fellow and vapor wizard Shima33 joins the ride on Island Side Drift, a synergetic Rave/Jungle rain forest that eventually finds its pace in a Hip-Hop hypanthium. The principal melodies are all comparatively scything but nonetheless benignant, with the Rhodes bokeh serving as the parallax background to the amethystine sunset. The following Basement features Chungking Mansions in a sound-based chlorotic metalization of steamy nebulae and bit-crushed static noise hi-hats. An alto saxophone holds the mechanical-municipal mass production reel together. With the appearance of the aforementioned t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 (this time for real) on Aftermath, the duo called 2 8 1 4 is united again and gives in to deep Detroit funnels and fluvio-lacustrine halides. The beat accentuates the ethereality and offers an earthbound anchor in an unreal troposphere where photoevaporation and ultramafic galactosamines simmer in endless depths. And finally, there's some newcomer called OSCOB who collaborates the living daylights out of the scene, always for good. While the US-expatriate from Germany is also known for his planned diffusion and limewashed treble-less thiazides, Exit HK is a more sizzling affair, sporting a dark-purple photometry made of rhombohedric Hip-Hop sentiments, four-note marimba coils and supernal layers of city lights, hidden pianos and pressure chamber superstructures. A glorious collabo-endpoint.

Goodbye Hong Kong Express, Hallo HKE

With the realization of the quirkily titled This behind, Hong Kong Express is history, even though it is a moniker that always inherited the pulse of the megacity, the sanctuary called megacity, the reflecting steel mills near the harbor side, the neon-lit smog-filled air and pixellated wisdoms of mega panels advertising a better tomorrow by means of retrogressive/retrosternal arabesques. This was the place of Hong Kong Express, this will be one possible destination for HKE as well. Even if he decided to leave Vaporwave and related dream-inducing genres behind, t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 would likely serve as a contrapuntal aggressor – in a playful way – and make technocracy-oriented Ambientscapes together with HKE as 2 8 1 4. Now that the remote and forlorn metropolis (!) of Hong Kong Express has been exposed to the limelight and found many fans, founded a label and funded the credibility of the genre, it is time to move on. If a look back is allowed, and it forever will be due to the free availability of Hong Kong Express material, one can safely say that This is the epitome – and epitaph? – of the concept behind the moniker, wildly roaming across Hip-Hop, Rave, Jungle, Detroit, Ambient and Vitamin V. Now HKE takes over, and since the artist leaves the meaning of this acronym up to the listener, I take a bow before thee, Holy King Eremite. 

Further listening and reading:
  • You can fetch the digital version of the tape at Adhesive Sounds' Bandcamp page
  • A heartfelt detailed revelation by HKE himself about all things, well, HKE can be read at his blog.
  • Who's the very first follower of @HKEdream? Move over to Twitter and give them a holler.  


Vaporwave Review 120: Hong Kong Express – This (2015). Originally published on Aug. 24, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.