FLϴWER 2: Encore, encore!
Due to AmbientExotica having been on its usual summer hiatus, this review is composed and published a tad late, but not too late, for beauty and Vaporwave's favorite Class A term called aesthetics are still scintillating concepts in the latter half of 2016 and beyond. Tee designer, videographer and — thank an entity of your choice — synthesist STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ is back with another bosky iteration that connects the stylistic dots ever further. I kid you not: the five-track meadow/forest panorama FLϴWER 2 is the glorious, panchromatic follow-up to the previously released centrifloral FLϴWER EP that blossomed into existence at the very end of 2015. Then in May 2016, FLϴWER 2 started to grow and prosper and has digitally arrived at the artist's Bandcamp page where it is in good company. Not too many V-oriented artists are able to exude and radiate the innocence of gardens, rain forests, verglas ventricles and tundras in such a fun way. Five new tracks are proudly featured on this here EP, with crystal clear links to the forerunner both schematically, synthetically and melody-wise. Here, then, is a closer inspection of STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ's green thumb and the five tracks.
The opener is a comparatively huge and entirely welcome surprise due to STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ blending his fluvial trademark punctilio of blebs, laser pulses and helicoidal glacier chimes with a fresh, entirely laid-back Hip-Hop attitude. In lieu of staggering beats and Windows sounds, Petals remains in softer, unique waters. Percussion is king, caulking and coating the trancendental four-note alteration of the susurrant lead melody. The forest druid is true to form right from the get-go, and willed enough to allow sustained equimolar emptiness amidst the bosky soundscape. Detroit doldrums, if you will, but of the utmost benevolent kind.
Another fantastic corker, this time an iteration of FLϴWER 1's Lilyheart. Everything that is so adorable about the original is cautiously brightened up in this rework called Daisykiss. The main theme is still absorbable, as are the faux-ligneous cowbell centrioles and apocryphal harp pearls, but now these mellow elements are surrounded by the hyperpolished aural iconography of several erinaceous Sonic rings. They are placed ”over” the mix as if their pristine purity is of greater value than the silkened streamlet in the center. Maybe they are a tad too up front indeed, these rings of solace; on the plus side, they allow a reciprocating gyration to take place, as the listening subject is suddenly able to fully grasp the velveteen dualism of Lilyheart/Daisykiss. Kudos to STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ, this one's an extraordinary keeper.
The tag Bubblegaze hasn't been added out of the blue, as its pink allure cross-pollinates the hypanthium of this EP with ease. Lotus Bubble is the third floral gemstone in a row, lasciviously ameliorating the soundwaves with aqueous blobs and malleable pebbles. In the nexus of this chaparral diorama is a splendid eight-note placenta that is played on an electric piano. The glissando effect allows each individual droplet to absorb its neighbor, thereby transmuting the rainy nature into a cannelure of mink. Adjacent to this paradisiac sanctuary: wordless wisps of J-Pop origin. Uniting the 16-bit way of composing with an adaxial high-plasticity chroma bastion, Lotus Bubble's floralcy emanates in front of the inner eye, touching all the right synapses and spermatocystic parts of the body. Such a shelter-giving saprotroph of a track!
Juke and Trap juxtaposed, contrapuntal contraptions exposed, here's Magic Dahlia and its wondrously bewildering simultaneity of two different style conventions. This is no Trap track in the classic sense, since the medulla-emptying bass bursts are amiss, and that's perfectly fine: a sense of easygoing vestiges is still quasi-tangible. On the forefront, however, is the ever-pulsatile cataract catalog of coruscating shards, periglacial prongs and healthily horticultural driblets. As the Vaporwave scene has experienced quite often, here, then, the puissance of Juke breaks the jellified standstill of memory-driven contemplation. Magic Dahlia is a strange but ultimately functioning hybrid whose exocarp is fond of the wilder, glitzier side of life. In its epicenter, almost invisibly so, lies a nucleic cocoon of laissez-faire and benignancy. An extroverted song that shields you from the outside world; this dahlia has you covered. (And you are bewitched anyway.)
There are three possibilities I can think of to describe the endpoint of FLϴWER 2; not all of them have positive connotations, but reflect various viewpoints regardless. The last track, Forever, is the artifact where the EP a) comes full circle, b) becomes formulaic, and c) celebrates its self-referential state. Each of these concepts are observable: Forever lets the EP come full circle because STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ links it to the last track of FLϴWER 1, the similarly titled Always in all possible ways, be it the hissy-piercing FM frequency haze, the male but not malevolent vocals, its looped state or the general Pop attitude of a song that is taken from somewhere else. Forever also lets the second EP become formulaic, as it is now eminent that the artist repeats the superstructure of the first EP. And finally, Forever is a song that is included because of a self-referential mindset, connecting the past (FLϴWER 1) with the present (FLϴWER 2) and a possible future (i.e. a — currently unannounced — FLϴWER 3 setting which could potentially harbor a similar vocal-infused finale, if it ever materializes). Choose your timeline: the seal of quality is definitely omnipresent.
FLϴWER 2: Floralcy toujours
You shouldn't — no: you mustn't — prefer one EP over the other, or else you would miss the ultramafic, richly alluvial soil of STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ's craftsmanship. It is eminently obvious that both the inaugural incarnation and second version remain in the same forest and are highly reliant on each other, taxonomically speaking. FLϴWER 2 offers more of the enchanting underbrushes, ancillary avulsions and nomological scents, while at the same time remaining contingent. The forest druid risks the danger of repeating himself one too many times, one might think, but the opposite is the case: textures, patterns, tendencies and synths remain as strong a factor as ever, and the symbiotic relationship doesn't stop at all. Timbrical nods and even fully fleshed-out remixes grace this central appendix; leptons, puddles of dew and moist particles augment the freshness. Detroit, Trap(-isms) and Ambient mesh within that magical thing called Vaporwave, making FLϴWER 2 run on all figurative cylinders. If you like your V-genre crisp, organic and synthetic at the same time, pick a flower of your choice. Just make sure that your choice involves picking both of them! Which, er, would annihilate your choice in the end, but heck: I'd approve.
Further listening and reading:
- FLƟWER is available at Bandcamp.
- The artist on Twitter: @StaqqOverflo
- AmbientExotica's features of STΛQQ ƟVERFLƟ: this way.
Vaporwave Review 163: Staqq Overflo – Flower 2 (2016). Originally published on Sep. 1, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.