Virtual High End™





After a hiatus of more than a year, Virginia Beach resident Rez teams up again with his old buddy OSCOB who started to run Bedlam Tapes in 2015 while still causing mayhem of all sorts in the southern parts of Germany. And indeed, Virtual High End™ is densely charged with allusions and yearning, but most of all it is densely layered with a surprising flow and coherence that was amiss in the prominent predecessors Virtual High Five™ and Virtual High Rise™, both released in 2014 and reissued in early 2016 as Virtual High Double Feature on Riverside, California-based Midnight Moon Tapes.


These first Virtual High endeavors should not be dismissed as mere single collections rather than albums from the get-go, but it is true: the tracks are the actual stars in these instances and even set comparatively long-lived trends in the scene, be it the duo's infamous AOL Song, the cheeky concept of silly — or was that silky — Aloewave in the eponymous 永遠aloewave, or the Rez-driven continuation of corporate samplefests called Brøderbund™ which appears on the second album and is prominently backed and amended by ArtFluids, himself an artist that is to be subsequently featured on Bedlam Tapes with his album Proteus (2015).


With Virtual High End™, things are channeled differently, if only for the fact that it feels like an endpoint (no shit, considering its title) and then annihilates that bittersweet notion time and again. On this album, the settings of elation and benignancy are more important than a kaleidoscope of corkers, and it is up to the reader to decide whether it is an insult when the reviewer cherry-picks singles of the first two albums or whether the lack of doing just that in terms of the final part of the triplet harms the overall aurora of the gouache explosion that is Virtual High End™.


Released in January 2016 on Bedlam Tapes in a limited run of 55 multicolored tapes, the gentlemen start the year by ending their collaborative efforts. R-r… right? When Rez announces on an OSCAST interview with his partner in crime (hint: it's, er, Max) mid-2015 that he is willed to slowly move away from the Vaporwave scene, I interpreted this as a definite goodbye, and maybe Virtual High End™ is his plan coming to fruition. It would indeed be a profound exit. The journey would then have tentatively ended – until a future reboot is nigh, but let's not get ahead of ourselves yet.


There are collectors who have ordered a tape of each color. Photograph by Maxfield.


One luring aspect of Virtual High End™ is the amicability and friendliness that oozes through the sample-based cracks and frequency-altered interstices of the 20+ tunes. This is certainly not a given; after all, OSCOB is (also) fond of darker, more mysterious and crestfallen tropes of Vaporwave. Here, however, the timbre and expressionist sound waves are almost exclusively awash with light. From the 7+ minutes long opener The Beginning Of The End onwards with its polycrystalline swooshes, perpendicular hi-hats and multiple hitech service announcements, the duo remains in blotchy territory: Plaza Jamz enchants with its BGM menu morphogenesis, Japanese guitars and lactic hooks, while Daytimer is almost too transparent an ode to a famous Funk/Fusion fusillade, with the bedazzling Pipedreams providing the wonkiest yet most lenticular airflow of the whole album – a brilliant liftoff!


This is not an exclusively bright happy tape though, as darker shades are tantamount molecules to the intrinsic atmosphere after all. While OSCOB is not a German herr and Rez no foundling of a Wisconsinite community full of Germans, both artists weave quite a few Central European classics into their magic web, from Courage which features Babylon Zoo's preposterous Spaceman skank in slowed down form till the dualistic Null / Void which lets Henry Mancini’s spy theme alloy frenchkiss Cappella's sexy vixen in a successful clash between Peter Gunn and the Eurodance act's U Got 2 Know. Further ingredients shall not be spoiled by the reviewer. Maybe one is still shaken-up once Rez x OSCOB's Golgotha rolls along like thunder due to its bumpy sawtooth Psy-EDM scheme full of cavernous hall effects and rubicund faunae. And speaking of the latter: what the heck could the swampy pianorama called UNDERGROWTH possibly refer to? (Here's an answer of 6,000+ words, with a tl;dr headline.)


A possible downside – though not in regard to the old saying of "receiving the most bang for one's buck" – is manifested in the runtime and quantitative eclecticism. Virtual High End™ is a long album and offers more of everything: tracks, durations, scenarios, shifts and samples. It doesn't cross the threshold to epic scales length-wise, that's still the forte of t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者. And these things considered, Rez x OSCOB's album still doesn't overstay its welcome, as it is a goodbye of many sorts, so if the producers don't fire on all cylinders right here and now, there are not too many chances left on the horizon, be it due to the self-chosen endgame or the gravitational redshift that Vaporwave is currently going through.


Speaking of that particular redshift: Sandtimer's Vaporwave Is Dead (2015) announced more of an overhaul and course correction than a definite cataclysm of the – admittedly universally mocked – Vaporwave genre. A dark and willfully convoluted work, the message of the album is mirrored by its designedly offensive title. Similar things can be said about Rez x OSCOB's Virtual High End™, but here the announced end is panchromatic, a diaphanous superfluid. The actual songs and the album title are yet again building a unity: this is the alternative way to end things. It is therefore the other side of the single coin. The listener can choose the death of Vaporwave. Do it the frightful cutting-edge Hardvapour way, or bask in the fuzzy warmth of sunset colors.


Virtual High End™ love-fucks itself forward in order to provide a superb artifact – albeit not in the form of a delineated answer – concerning the state of a certain V-genre. 2015 sees the genre rise from a mall's marble-coated ashes, overcoming the first destruction around 2013/14 when Vaporwave is considered more of a 9gag/4chan spiteful meme than an artistic vision. In 2015 then, Journalists take note, and positively so, while the nucleic epicenter prospers and the bandwagon remains filled with new artists, old friends and former haters. The beginning of 2016 will likely be about the second destruction as more and more styles and niches float the hypetrain, choo choo. In several OSCAST episodes, OSCOB bemoaned the state of Vaporwave, though not the music per se, but the labeling and public connotation this term causes. 90% of all music journalists don't give a damn, and I would've increased the percentage to 98% if it wasn't so heartbreaking. Or is it? 


That's what 2016 is going to prove. I sense that the term Vaporwave will be used, advertised and embraced less frequently due to the increasing amount of shame-sweating and bitch-slapping, but the inherent feelings and encapsulated nostalgia levels will continue to prosper, regardless of what we might call the genre tomorrow. Portentous signs of genre-related trouble are found aplenty in Virtual High End™. It is all the more important — both within the endemic boundaries of Rez x OSCOB's album and the construction we perceive as the real world — that the negativity is turned upside down and filled with neon-colored splotches and exocarps; a counterpoise to the poison. Now I can't wait for the gentlemen's fourth full-length album. Reunion beats religion anytime.


Further listening and reading:


Vaporwave Review 142: Rez x OSCOB – Virtual High End™ (2016). Originally published on Jan. 4, 2016 at