Polyhedric Pool House Ltd. Powers Polyfoil Perla Blue
What is your favorite kind of Vaporwave? The vintage fluvial analogue introverted hue of yesteryear with its slowed down soulful vocals, washed out synthesizers and muffled hi-hats, or the post-anything approach that unites jittered Juke juice with malleable mall marbles and coruscating centrifugal coils? I for one cannot answer that question: I adore the V-genre and all of its zoetropic subgenres, styles and niches. Perla Blue's Sleepless doesn't make a definite answer any easier; only an approximation thereof is possible due to its partially beatless but equally percussion-underlined, soulful aura. Based in Southern California, the artist, video producer and runner of the aesthetically colloidal Instagram account vaporwavedaily offers the next and quite stringently focused effort after 2015's telenovela-inspired eponymous テレノベラ.
Sleepless offers 14 tracks — including the Vapor Vertebrae highlight Late Night Forecast — that are plasmatic, euphonious, proselytizing. Released in June 2016 on the Middlesbrough, UK-based label Pool House Ltd. in a limited, and sold out, run of purple tapes, the album is still indefinitely available on the label's Bandcamp page. The hapticity (or kineticism) of Sleepless is strongly exhilarative, featuring romantic overtones, concrete-cubic architecture, solemn moments of astral pondering and stupefyingly polished loops. Fuchsia, lilac, magenta and mauve are your friends, as are the following three constituents mentioned in each paragraph that form the alluvial base of Perla Blue's hamlet of skyscrapers, its lascivious love and lakes of axonometric camphor.
One thing can be said in advance: with a roster of 14 tracks, one might presume that there are a few dobs — or even duds — within the cavalcade of gems, but both the artist and especially so the listener have plenty of good old luck on their side: Sleepless cautiously glimmers and glints through the night at worst… and powerfully radiates and emanates panchromatic fusillades of colors during when it hits the spot, ubiquitously so. Perla Blue's tape is made of crepuscular crystals if you will, glowing in softer pastel colors in lieu of eye-popping neon, but this mark is the congruent forte that unites all tracks. There is so much to include in this here section, I could mention any track as an example that would suitably explain the translucent allure of the Mellotron mica and Rhodes rhizomes with their different temperatures and soothing breezes.
The slightly Far Eastern VHS Garden, for instance, is a rather up front Ambient aureole made possible with the aid of a benthic piano helix that is simultaneously tangible and close while remaining distant and foggy. It silkily moves like a curtain above a window sill, functioning as an aesthetically pleasing sine wave… without even a single sine tone. Then there is Moonbeam which augments its tawny silver solanum with deliciously tick-tocking boobams and conga-esque drums. The lead melody on the synths is more of a showstopper due to its surfaces and textures rather than its lack of eclecticism, but its downwards-spiraling sequence is so susurrant and benignantly mystical that it brings joy to the cochleae. A stronger Vaporwave flavor is spawned by Night Shade which features every aesthetic element the genre has to offer, making this the purest crystal of them all: soothing oooh-oooh male vox, lactic guitar backing chords, ultramafic hi-hat echoes, upbeat emerald slides on the synths and a slowed-down appendix of the whole construction make Night Shade a strong — albeit calculated — heirloom.
Sleepless isn't exclusively about the occasionally reclusive life in a big city, it is also fond of the more insightful moments with your loved ones, regardless of whether these moments are actually shared or simply cross the minds of the besotted, love-stoned individual. The track titles reflect these occurrences — that is (being in) love in the city — time and again, but it is Perla Blue's carefully crafted/curated sources that bring these visions to life. It so happens that the synths, percussive clicks and magnetotails are the slightest bit more diaphanous, blissful, delighted.
The second track Midnight City immediately paints this dulcet diorama on its alabaster arabesques: whether it is the lanthanum synth protrusions, the glaucous four-note helictite pearls or the prominently placed New Age Navajo flute manifestation, this track pushes the busy life into the far corner and lets nocturnal vibes wash over the listening subject. Je T'Aime meanwhile is a sumptuously matutinal spring affair, what with its wooden clave-underlined vibraphone cave that is utterly enchanting, relaxing and — best of all — audaciously pristine and pure. A strong corker that is less apocraphal and much more real. The latter half of the album comprises of a particularly strong duo of tracks in terms of that sweet tryst: Do I Still Cross Your Mind? supersedes its straightforward question by means of partially gloomy but still well-lit chroma chimes; among their center, liquid harp-like faux-slapped strings vesiculate. The penultimate track I Miss You then is the loopiest-and-catchiest instance on the whole album, as Perla Blue pushes a memorable, quasi-fragile melody into the limelight that is augmented by the wordless yearning of an 80's femme. The presentation is sincere, neither the soundscape nor the overarching topic are degraded. Fancy caustic concupiscence? Sleepless has you covered.
With all the incandescent technicolor particles Perla Blue weaves into this mellow p(a)lace called Sleepless, one might be tempted to call it an almost mercilessly safe sanctuary. However, despite — or ostensibly because of — the constant bliss of Rhodes rays and ancillary rain pad reticulation, there are darker undertones aplenty, often purposefully ablaze with enigmatic timbres, sometimes even warily so. I call this cathodic chirality, and even if you hate buzz words, this one is comparatively apt: the endemic phenomenon found in Perla Blue's tape is cathodic due to the fuzzy, NTSC-adopting art of sounds that wafts throughout the 14 tracks. It is furthermore a chimera, or a chirality: the original thought or mood and its aural image mirrored by the music don't always superimpose. The interim result comprises of cracks, uncertainty, vertigo.
The first short but strong scent of acidic components in Perla Blue's otherwise caproic cannelure is the short apocalyptic burst in the third track About You which is an utterly sun-dappled gemstone, but actually launches with a heavily blurred harbor-evoking asbestus plume made of three notes. Pastoral and clandestine, its blight oozes through the mall. Then there are the two primary examples of the intended mayhem, both of them pure Ambient tracks: Television Haze absorbs the just mentioned apparition of About You and pours it into a titration of cloak-and-dagger antenna afterglows, ghostly service announcements and Tartarean saxophone protrusions, while the album's endpoint Dream Eater (!) is an Angkor Wat-oriented gamelan chimescape with periglacial parallax panoramas added to its background, adding a cerulean counterpoint to the saffron foreground. Suddenly, the album title inherits another meaning: insomnia due to fault lines and vicissitudes of the mind.
To me, the greatest Vaporwave albums are situated right in-between the antediluvian lure (lore?) of Ambient and the always scintillating supernova of contemporary cuts, breaks and percussion, be they influenced by Trap, Rave or downbeat-focused material. Sleepless works so fantastically well due to the balance of the sampled and ameliorated material. This is an enormously coherent, superbalanced album where sound, sustain and silence meet textures, surfaces and patterns in order to invoke the positive kind of isolation and well-being, the short aforementioned contrapuntal apparitions notwithstanding. From start to finish, there is no track that ups the ante, zero ancillary sidestep to a cheeky genre, and any derogatory wisdom or adage. This works to Perla Blue's advantage, as Sleepless grows into an album in lieu of a compilation of a various tricks the California-based artist wants to showcase.
This is no kaleidoscope. It's a well-furnished apartment overlooking a peaceful city at night. The album title's connotation hence evokes positive feelings. It's not that you can't sleep; you simply don't want to. You're drowsy, but fully aware of all senses, mind nodes and your body. As with most Vaporwave releases: the night isn't spent in the club. No company is necessary, though gregarious socializing is implied. Here, the night instead drives and nurtures contemplation and innergy, making Sleepless a superb Vaporwave rose quartz and an album whose omnipresence I don't want to miss anymore.
Further listening and reading:
- Sleepless is available on Pool House Ltd.'s Bandcamp page.
- Artist and label on Twitter: @PrlaBlu @PoolHouseLabel
- All things Perla Blue on AmbientExotica: this way.
Vaporwave Review 162: Perla Blue – Sleepless (2016). Originally published on Aug. 17, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.