J Λ V Λ . E X E
ロスト カセット






Ever since the Beatles – and presumably The Monkees, but this reference could also be meant as a joke – music lovers know that a band’s or artist’s most valuable treasures, doubloons and belters are hidden away from the respective album of one’s choice in order to clandestinely find their way onto the B-side of a single. If you’re especially lucky, they appear as the otherwise unwanted children or esoteric stylebreakers on an EP, but that’s about it. As a result, that pesky internet culture has spawned adoration, enshrinement and unhealthy devotion regarding all things B-sides, including presumably lost things found in the archives, alternative acoustic versions of an otherwise well-known synth arrangement and deleted tracks that magically resurfaced. In this surroundings, Neo-Japanistans vaporwaver J Λ V Λ . E X E appears, unexpectedly so. I’m playing the spoilsport here for a moment: what does the artist have to lose? How can the Vaporwave community decide to withhold – let alone withdraw – tracks when storage space is so cheap and available everywhere? A possible eight-track answer is given in ロスト カセット (translatable into lost cassettes or lost tapes), released in September 2015: they can’t! Ha! Everything resurfaces eventually, and in the case of J Λ V Λ . E X E whose work is available on his Bandcamp page as always, I for one am incredibly lucky, for there are tunes on this here collection of lost and quasi-deleted tracks I wouldn’t want to miss any longer. Granted, there are also less vanillarific artifacts on there, but they plasticized their way into my heart regardless. 

Can you feel the flangered vincristine running through your veins? The channels and cannelures are filled with the washed-out synths of the 80’s, and J Λ V Λ . E X E is our coxswain. Since the attached soundscape of the opener psuedo通信 (psuedo communications) is so mellow and sylphlike, the harshness is ostracized and brought to extramusical spheres: the in-your-face typo in the title. Everything is peachy in the soundscape itself and magnanimously vapor-veiled, be it the slowed-down vocals, the added Vaportrap oomph of the bassline or the slowed-down magnetotail of the cautiously pondering veneer. The adjacent デジタルhaze (digital haze) meanwhile is a surprisingly tropical and strikingly retrogressive corker, embedding moonlit orchestra string washes with a syringa reticulation of stylophone-like MiDI brass helixes and gyring beeswax halides. Vaporwave has all the horns and pianos in the world, but I am of the opinion that strings can amend to the phylogenetic charm quite a bit, so thank you for their – otherwise unlikely – conclusion, J Λ V Λ . E X E! 

With the following walkmanストラット (walkman strut), the artist returns to the state of reflectiveness, although the silkened electric piano is now sun-lit, the loop open to scrutiny, the synth slides alkaloidal and lacustrine. リフレッシュpage (refresh page) then impresses with mightily vitreous emerald corkscrew coils whose luminosity and twinkling carries the whole track. Their dual state and composition is so alluring, held together by a sweeping sustain/glissando alloy that allows each sparkle to melt into the next glitter. Why this hasn’t been released before or – presumably – didn’t even find its way to the artist’s SoundCloud account before is beyond me… as is pretty much anything else for that matter. Moving along to the molten 120 seconds of LUVx2, warmth and passion are in the air and (con)sequentially doubled, as you would expect from the title. But the thermal immersion really is impassable, the elasticized vox of the soulful singer thickly wadded in gluey viscidity. Less synthy than bass guitar-based and with plenty of short recesses firmly in place, it is the Lovers Rock centriole of J Λ V Λ . E X E’s formerly lost sounds.

The eldritch alley cat lounge locale of 90 seconds that is 闇360 (dark 360) has also been stashed away and is now presented to the limelight, and granted, it is a comparatively recondite and murky affair, what with its glacial electric piano paraquat and only the tawniest of flashing lights as emitted by the hi-hats and handclaps. Minimalism par excellence, this shady helictite reminds much more of Replica Federation’s darker cyberpunk-flavored vapor ambience, but stays away from malevolent showdowns or epiphanies and rather paints a gloomy night with a rising full moon. And yes, the stereo-panned hi-hats allow a panoramic view that lives up to the title. Afterwards, no痛み (no pain) returns to the cathexis of suffering that is thankfully endemic to this track only, or what else to think of the slowed-down woeful wordless vocals of the weathered veteran? An acoustic guitar is also on board, and no synth in sight, making this track the mis-chromosomed uncle of the salubrious bunch. The finale comes in the shape of remember私達 (remember ourselves) where the staggering self-pity is luckily revved up, with the tempo increasing, the amount of silica pearls prospering and the cheeky cuts and breaks serving as hermeneutic actants.

That any of these eight tracks could be getting lost is quite possible in the wake of Vaporwave’s output-heavy schedules and ever-changing arrays of kaleidoscopic songs. I give J Λ V Λ . E X E that. However, that there are, according to the quick explanatory note, deleted tracks on here either make ロスト カセット a mythical release to cherish… or a prime example of artificial scarcity and hence one of the oldest tricks in the book of every home shopping television network, shady preacher and ultimately Vaporwave’s heritage which encapsulates these oddities among many others. In the end, ロスト カセット rightfully oozes between differing states of quality, or else the tracks would have been considered prior to this collection of faux B-sides, right? Truth be told, it isn’t that easy, especially not when pectiniform retinues in the crystalline shape of  リフレッシュpage or the prototropical oneiric puissance of デジタルhaze are considered, both of which are most certainly the cornerstones and strongest pillars of this release. Incidentally, these are also the ones that target the timbrical titration and principal physiognomy J Λ V Λ . E X E is primarily known for, but not reducible to: 80’s synths ever-stacked in order to form towers of adaxial bliss. The guitar-centric pieces such as LUVx2 and no痛み are the oddball inhabitants due to the lack of everything kinetic and molybdenized, but still welcome – and lovestoned – additions to a syncytium that time would have otherwise forgot. 

Further listening and reading:
  • Move over to J Λ V Λ . E X E’s Bandcamp page – you know why!
  • Twitter runs on Java over here: @JAVAEXE


Vaporwave Review 124: J Λ V Λ . E X E – ロスト カセット (2015). Originally published on Sep. 28, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.