Cobalt Road & STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ
Remembrance Through Preservation
When STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ, the druid of that portentous place called Aokigahara Forest, hinted some time in 2015 that his proclivity for benthic gluons and glistening melodies in Vaportrap style might be picked up by OSCOB's Bedlam Tapes label, I was immediately hooked. A frequently featured artist here at AmbientExotica, there was no way I would neglect this release. Now, however, the already calorific river turns into hydrazine with the aid of Cobalt Road aka Jared Clark, trained pianist and Ambient aficionado, equally featured here throughout the year. Biosphere is their thirteen-track collaboration, available to fetch and stream at Bedlam Tapes' Bandcamp page. The breathtakingly beautiful limited tapes were gone after an hour or so, but the digital version remains available, to anyone's surprise. Rounded off by the ecomorphous shangri la scenery based on a concept of Ireland-based designer MARCUS32X whose own Vaporwave tracks — you've guessed it — are also turning up on this website more often than not, Biosphere is set to enchant.
"Engineered by Cobalt Road & STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ in an effort to replicate and preserve real biomes from Earth so that we may remember our home," the press blurb states, and this very concept is translucently reflected by the soundscapes themselves, all of them created from scratch, featuring textures, colors and patterns that range from deep-mauve Detroit winds over viridian liquids to fir-green forests. The nature-oriented approach of Biosphere has competition in Vaporwave circles, no less so from its creators themselves: STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ so far hasn't even looked at a city and comes up with wood-focused iterations all day, with SΛCRED GRƟVE ƟNLINE and FLƟWER being but two recent works (both 2015), while Cobalt Road has succumbed to the New Age spirits through his mildly gamelan-accentuated 経路 (2016). The setup: auspicious. The setting: pristine. Here, then, is a closer look at Biosphere's auroral constituents and tendencies.
As with all cyan-colored items: worshippers of the 80's are crazy about them. Photograph by Maxfield.
Aquatic Occident // Adiabatic Orient
If there is one particular — maybe even peculiar, but in a good way — main gradient that is running through Biosphere's rhizomatic tentacles and lacustrine reticulation, it has to be the oscillation between the Occident and the Orient. Both terms are outdated now; we're entering dangerous territory. The contrastive depiction of Occident/Orient is not to be used in an academic-historical context, as it lacks accuracy and enforces a white man's worldview. But in the Vaporwave context, the schism turns into an exciting polysemy wherever you look, especially so when it is coupled with the gyration between water and heat! Whether it is the auroral nomenclature of Oasis with its MIDI marimbas, crystalline chimes, phylogenetic bongos and lacunar overall structure, the faraway yet epic prayer in أَذَان which places an alienating sermon amidst petrochemical didgeridoos and alabaster arabesques of the acidic kind, or the fluvial Terranova, a track that — despite its clastic/solid title — sees the Orient watered down in favor of a Technicolor mysticism where no harm is ever done, Biosphere is a prospering, blooming effort. Vestiges become vehicles.
Helixes and Corkscrews
The above paragraph enshrines more of a conceptual idea than a sound-based arc(h) that can be physically pinpointed. The intrinsic temperature of the textures helps in terms of delineating the atmosphere, mood or aura. When it comes to the primary melodic constituent, however, both Cobalt Road and STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ rely heavily on helicoidal tones and arpeggios. These molecules and muons are open to scrutiny and can be distilled from each and every tune. I am of the opinion that this kind of Vaportrap-ism has likely been injected by Mr. ƟVERFLƟ, whereas Jared revs up the circumambience with droning percolations. It might as well be vice versa, but one thing is certain: salubrious droplets and colloidal helixes are openly inscribed in the genetic code of Biosphere. Take Cascade, for instance, which sees the perfect order of its Trinidadian steelpans and jungular flutes ennobled via parallax arpeggios rotating through the locale. And that's comparatively tame in contrast with the supra-luring Paradise, a gorgeous standout track whose different rhythms and layers fuel and nurture a magnificent ice floe in the desert. Harboring globs of Detroit, soothing hi-hats and handclaps as well as distant birdcalls, there's laidback languorousness and easygoing erethism in the contrasting but ultimately working layers.
The collaborating Producers: Cinctulan and HELLCOM
In what seems to be a clear nod towards OVERGROWTH, certainly one of the most buzz-worthy Vaporwave albums as concocted by OSCOB and Digital Sex and released on DREAM Catalogue during that year's summer, Cobalt Road & STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ invite two artists to join the biosphere: Cinctulan and HELLCOM. Both serve as producers of their respective tracks, which presumably means that these are songs created from scratch, showcasing the artists' own style within the bosky medium of this nomological tape. They fit perfectly. Cinctulan's contribution is called Canopy, and it fully embraces, absorbs and exudes the Western/Eastern polymorphous linkage flawlessly: clicking claves straight out of E.Honda's bathroom, saffron-colored rubicund Egyptian synth choirs and uplifting afterglows altogether create a viscoelastic steppe of hectacombic pyramids of one's mind. HELLCOM, on the other hand, brings in LANDMASS, a pulsatile lanthanum-alloyed shapeshifting juggernaut transmuting from the shape of vuvuzela-esque bee stings over the gestalt of panpipe cannelures to a Glitch-infested rain forest vista.
Vitreous Vapor, Coruscating Caper
Biosphere precisely triggers every Vaporwave fan's synapses, provided that one is willed to exchange the neon-lit asphalt-paved high rise-scattered concrete jungles of the 80's with the purified soul cleansing and innocence of the tropics, presented here by Cobalt Road & STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ in a substyle whose chaparrals, glades and palm trees are decidedly nature-driven… against all odds. Said odds are based on the mere existence of synths, keyboards, software-aided stems and all those glitters. The flutes, guitars and steelpans are emulated, the field recordings, while based on real surroundings, remain apocryphal. But all these should be considered highlights! Considering the fact that most — if not all — tone sequences and timbrical tercets have been built anew and from the ground make Biosphere an ennobled epitome. Consistency and coherence are deliciously entangled, the soft cerulean synth washes in the distance merge well with the alkaloidal punctilio and its serpent chloroderivatives. Low poly wire frames meet a complex biocentrism, vitreous vapor leads to a coruscating caper. This morphogenesis has a fitting name, no spoiler: it's Biosphere.
Further listening and reading:
- Stream or fetch Biosphere at Bedlam Tapes' Bandcamp page.
- Artists and Label on Twitter: @CobaltRoadMusic @StaqqOverflo @BedlamTapes
- Features on AmbientExotica: Cobalt Road and STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ
Vaporwave Review 151: Cobalt Road & STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ – Biosphere (2016). Originally published on Feb. 10, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.