Back To School
Night School is the sophomore album of Palm Beach, Florida's Stereo Tropic, an outing of producer Faint Waves at the helm that serves as the epicenter of "less vapory, more wavy" gemstones. An amalgamation of Glo(w)-Fi, Trip Hop, Detroitisms and —okay, okay — Vaporwave veils, it is the second self-released full-length album after 2015's debut Corduroy & Silk. 12 tracks are featured, all of them based on the darker times of day and brighter moments of the night, each a stellar luminant driven by life-affirming ancillary tone sequences and contemplative instances, the latter of which are the actual focal point, I tend to believe. Adiabatic heatwaves over asphalt, dark-blue aeriform lariats wafting around palm trees, the city lights always close to the listening subject: welcome to Night School. Its sound-based color-coded passing of time — or is it time shifts? — as well as its song structures are analyzed in the following paragraphs.
Night School doesn't necessarily outline a stringent daytime gradient, it's not one of those concept albums where the atmosphere — whatever this means to the respective listener — is increased, nor does it shift contigently. There's your possible explanation: Anacrusis and endpoint aren't meant to be two different sides of the single coin. And yet is the first set of tracks particularly pyrochromatic, with orange hues and amethystine coils. Feel California, for instance, is a sparkling midtempo Trip Hop track where the glissando afterglow of the rural guitar kisses the coruscation of one funky clavichord. Even though this is a beat-driven track (and album), the interstices within the snares exude sun-dappled contemplation. The following Washed Up is even more of a suntrap, enclosing benthic guitar structures with silkened sax sinews, all the while Sex With You is a cyan-tinted tryst of Mellotron globs and strengthening aqua pads that let the insouciant paradise of BGM tunes off Wave Race come to mind… now spiced with lascivious moaning, because sex.
Twilight in Night School isn't your archetypal David Fincher chirality, nor does it make you question the carefreeness that is evoked around every aural corner. A slight chill here and there cannot be denied though, and once it is attached to hatched, cautiously recondite timbres, the rainbow-colored epithelium only becomes gradually more balanced. The title track Night School, to pinpoint a first specimen, is certainly lit; moonlit, to be precise. Summer vibes are embroidered in its Bolero structure such as liquedous/ligneous hybrid castanets as well as a punctilio of soothing hi-hats entangled amidst matutinal organ beams. But many a playful cloak-and-dagger tone sequence in B-minor as well as the parallax effect of the legato circumambience make for a dreamlike proposition where the perihelia of multitudinous angles conflate. Relatedly, Too Damn Pretty basks in salubrious light, what with its rotoscoping Rhodes rhizomes and mucoid handclaps. Since the ultramafic sustain phases diffuse into a blackness that is surprisingly immediate and omnipresent, the counterbalance is set yet again. Twilight suprème.
As previously stated, Night School doesn't come full circle, for it isn't a circular, circadian affair. You find fully fleshed-out moon mist throughout its runtime, and thankfully enough, it's a Vaporwave-oriented kind of situation that glorifies and romanticizes the night… some less than poetic track titles notwithstanding. Bitches Talkin' may outline exactly where it is situated — can't spell outskirts without skirts — but is actually a gorgeous place to be within the sound-based boundaries of Stereo Tropic's album: due to the cryo-adaxial Detroit lariats and granular cataracts, the drop in temperature takes over, all wordless vocal samples notwithstanding. The closer Madly Involved comes to mind as well when the night is considered, if only for the glacial tendency of the pristine piano. The flangered and stereo-panned synth exocarp, while warm and sumptuous, only boosts this sentiment, presumably due to the melancholic overtones as the city lights become blurry again once dawn is in the hood (this sentence could have been so much more transfiguring).
Night School gives fans of Stereo Tropic the whole package. It is strangely exotic, for it worships Florida's occasional concrete jungle. It is fond of the Vaporwave genre, especially so due to the nostalgic mood where doldrums and standstill are all of a sudden the most exciting elements to encounter. It is also a mélange of Detroit and Trip Hop, as it is beat-oriented and grainy on a textural level. The result causes arousal even if you neglect to mention the two potentially derogatory vignettes about women. There have been flamewars and riots for less lascivious contretemps, but these elements should not be considered as artifacts of misogyny because Night School is fully open to scrutiny, transparently injecting these jittered moans for the purpose of adding human(e) constituents to the architectural façade. All in all, Corduroy & Silk's ideas and tendencies are absorbed, transplanted and amended in this sophomore album, leading to a stringent effort that functions less like a cannelure and is more of a flow. Instead of a collection of singles glued together by a concept, the listener receives the precious thing that is displayed in the artwork: the album.
Further listening and reading:
- Night School can be obtained from Stereo Tropic's Bandcamp page.
- Stereo Tropic on Twitter: @TropicStereo
- AmbientExotica's reviews and references about Stereo Tropic: this way.
Vaporwave Review 158: Stereo Tropic – Night School (2016). Originally published on May 4, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.