Dan Mason ダン·メイソン
Miami Virtual 2.0
What about a "tl;dr" right here, right now? Okay: Dan Mason ダン·メイソン's Miami Virtual 2.0 is a filter feast even for those listeners who despise Future Funk and would rather have the artist use his bosky side moniker Aokigahara Forest much more frequently. And indeed, the glades of his self-titled EP provide almost too lush a setting, merging Ambient with New Age, sampled material with unique hooks, and synth sybaritism with elevator erethism.
Mind you, the name Dan Mason ダン·メイソン embodies the principal starting point of Dan Mason's career, a moniker that is usually reserved for his upbeat, four-to-the-floor-oriented material. This truth turns into a truism though when Miami Virtual 2.0 rolls along. Digitally released at the very end of January 2016 on Vito's Florida-based [DMT]REC headquarters and available to fetch and stream at Bandcamp, the label's 250th (!) release and its ten tracks are loaded with paraphyletic textures, sun-dried sequences and heavily filtered lenticular lariats. This is not a Future Funk album, at least not one whose style can be easily pinpointed. In fact, I'd say that this is the vaporwaviest Funk album in a long time, similar to many a Vaporwave work that unites the weathered Ambient aficionado with that polysemous genre. After having featured the official single お帰りなさい!! in a recent Vapor Vertebrae writeup, the full-length album deserves a closer look as well.
The Translucency/Filter Fallacy
Two-dimensional party mannerisms are probably the most critical thing to adhere to any Future Funk album, but not when the artist is called Dan Mason and the object of desire is Miami Virtual 2.0. Basically, the above tendency comprises of the well-known formula that is so firmly agglutinated to Funk fusillades and House heliotropes: you get the basic 4/4 baseframe which is then ornamentally elevated via mucous intermissions where beats, hi-hats and whatnot turn into a blurry titration of suave sand. Then the beat comes back, the listener leaves the treasure chamber and the party continues as if the short-lived pipe dream never happened. It is, however, these very instances that fans of Vaporwave so desire, and they find these filtered truths throughout Miami Virtual 2.0. The results are remarkable! Since translucency shimmers through and creates a crystalline cannelure, the just mentioned tendency turns into a fallacy, with Dan Mason throning above the scenery. Whether it is the upbeat sunset-colored laissez-faire reverie of My 恋人 with its gorgeous Mellotron emeralds plus corkscrew ear wigs, the sandy beach suntrap that is So Sexy which is mentioned later on once more, or the Vaporwave (!) hypanthium Night Drive that fully absorbs the cascadian piano prongs and pours them into a cymbal-and-clave chaparral both blurred and crystal-clear, Miami Virtual 2.0 and its inventor have you covered.
No shit: Future Funk-related material contains beats. True that! But in the hands of Dan Mason, these oft-staggering beats turn into lactic blebs of foam. While it might be true that the oomph degrades exponentially, the remaining puissance is vivified enough to get the movement started. Let's take the second track Don't Be フールド for instance which sees its already softened slower midtempo beat accentuated by filters, bokeh peritoneums and an electric guitar, hence advertising the laid-back kind of Funk much more prolifically than the quasi-aggressive colder technodrome-infested steel alloy of the more futuristic anthologies. Or what about So Sexy and Miami 夜, the former an archetypal but no less euphonious glitterball made of staccatofied breakbeat interstices and velveteen vermillion vesicles, the latter a supra-Balearic four-to-the-floor faux-Merengue with basketball beats and romantic superfluids of the aural kind. These 4/4 critters are covered by slower material in the latter half of the album which is mightily luring, making it easy not to name a favorite.
A strange question to ask, a rightful answer to give when the time is nigh and Miami Virtual 2.0 oozes along. Be it the filter techniques, the silkened harmonies or stacked backing vocals, Dan Mason aurally paints a luxurious gradient that shimmers across, amidst and along each technicolor thiazide. And drowsy cocktails there are aplenty. Say what you will, but it is during the album's second half when the more soulful soundscapes materialize that the dreaminess is superimposed and the lacunar cavities caulked with colorful paste. Deep Sea ダイビング for example has quite the coldish-blue title alright but enshrines mightily magenta-colored waves of adiabatic aqueoles and similarly liquedous sensations. The mood is much more diaphanous and Caribbean than it is remote or even crestfallen. Sayonara Sunshine meanwhile oscillates between nocturnal sax serenades, midnight piano icicles and prolonged Rhodes crystal fields shimmering in sunlight… these things happen simultaneously, making this piece a gorgeously ambivalent piece of — what the heck — languorous Vaporfunk.
What many Future Funk centrioles do deliciously right and delicately wrong at the same time is the focus on a more or less known Funk/House gemstone produced by a famous producer or combo which is then sped up and filtered, gaining a beefier bassline, BPM values south of Yorkshire and witty anime samples few and far between. This atmosphere is not meant for everyone, with many a listener reclaiming Future Funk to be a dumbed down, party-compatible scenario that is inferior to Vaporwave. I won't deny that at all. I just know that Future Funk has its place in my life during workout, jogging and running, all of them being instances where a good beat and easier messages are delightful companions. I don't want to get lost in the real woods while pondering about a true Vaporwave song's timbre of a hidden rain pad or sophisticated transoceanic stem exchange, eh?
This is where Miami Virtual 2.0 comes into play, severely crushing the stereotyped trope, hurting the inner eye in order to build it anew. Dan Mason ダン·メイソン has come up with a work that sits between the different parties without being torn apart. The dreaminess, tasteful remoteness, even the occasional doldrums make it feel like an organic sea breeze. The front artwork cannot properly translate this tropical hydrazine which becomes ever-more surreal during the latter stages. Something's got to give, of course: Miami Virtual 2.0 is keen on melodious intercourses and retrogressive trysts; abstract helixes and alienating vignettes are not the artist's primary forte in these moments. Rest assured, though, that neither the glacial harshness of Coldwave nor the arpeggiated prong shrapnel of the adjacent Outrun style comes even close to the endemic boundaries. Miami Virtual 2.0 bursts at the seams with colors, the songs float into each other, the intrinsic palette feels cohesive, transparent, just right. I have a hunch: it will be the various Vaporwave fans that might be happier with this release than the Future Funk guys. It wouldn't surprise me, for this LP is released on [DMT]REC after all.
Further listening and reading:
- You can fetch and stream Miami Virtual 2.0 at Bandcamp.
- The artist on Twitter: @DanMasonVapor
- All reviews & writeups about Dan Mason on AmbientExotica are listed here.
Vaporwave Review 149: Dan Mason ダン·メイソン – Miami Virtual 2.0 (2016). Originally published on Feb. 3, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.