Review Summary: Welcome to the virtual plaza
Within the vast cosmos of cyberspace, deep within obscure music databases, forums, and threads, exists a micro-genre called "Vaporwave". It is essentially a sample-based genre characterized by heavily synthesized and processed manipulation of corporate mood and background music (infomercials, menu screens, instructional videos, office lobbies, hotel reception areas, shopping malls, etc.). Yes, it sounds like an absolutely ridiculous concept, and it is; which is why it’s created a lot of interesting, creative, and unique music within the past couple of years (see: Mediafired, Luxury Elite, James Ferraro). Anybody with an affinity for VHS tapes, 80s kitsch, in-door shopping malls, early computer graphics, and/or '90s video game soundtracks can find solace in the sounds of Vaporwave (or if your helplessly regressive mindset towards life has kept you socially inadequate after years of insomnia-ridden late nights of web surfing, or if you feel spiritually connected to inanimate objects such as your Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, or MS-DOS era computer).
There are different takes on Vaporwave. Some take heavy inspiration from DJ Screw's aesthetic of physically slowing down music to a syrupy, psychedelic trance ; trading Houston G-Funk for Top 40 FM radio, splicing samples down to 3-4 second intervals and looping them throughout the entire duration of a song to create an "eccojam" (appropriately named after the subaquatic Sega Genesis classic Ecco: The Dolphin). These consist of mysterious bedroom auteurs such as Computer Dreams, Macintosh Plus, and Mediafired; operating under Kansas-based net label Beer on the Rug. Some take their cues from 80s synth funk and late-night television to create a more lo-fi, psychedelic presentation (Luxury Elite, Midnight Television, Saint Pepsi, Kodak Cameo). And others hail to 80s kitsch, MIDI-sequencing, Windows 95 jingles, modern metropolis, and crystalline iPads (James Ferraro, New Dreams Ltd, Internet Club). PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises (the latest from the mysterious mind behind Vektroid, Macintosh Plus, New Dreams Ltd, and many more) lounges comfortably within the hi-fi futurism of the latter.
Home™ is Vaporwave stripped to its barest essentials. Few albums have taken the infomercial, menu screen, instructional video aesthetic so literally. Immediately we're greeted by what sounds like a backing track on a Home Improvement SNES game on the opener "Impressions", guided by ultra-cheesy MIDI instruments and 80s-era SynthAxe stadium soloing. It's followed by the apply titled interlude "Loading" which could very literally work as a waiting jingle for in-coming callers. Things relax as a bit as you take small sips from your polished coffee mug during "Pure", a loungy travel agent interlude perfect for browsing through a tropical brochure. "Beauty Plus" boasts an exotic take on early Sonic the Hedgehog casino levels, ideal for an ice-cold margarita and a night on at the slots. Harmonic pseudo-jazz scores your picture-esque day of relaxation on "Neo Spa & Salon", while a sparkling "Newsgroup" informs you of the daily news. Afterwards a commercial for advanced new studies in wind powered technology plays, brought to life by "Sol Air" and its Pilotwings esque melody.
The songs documenting Home™ (though perhaps "jingles" would be a better word) evoke florescent and easy-going imagery throughout. The spawns of heavenly corporate smoke and mirrors; each of these 18 jingles represents life at its most ideal. Sun shining, culturally diverse, beautiful and smiling faces grace photoshopped Caribbean landscapes; alluring sirens to jaws of capitalism. So that begs a question; is there an alliterative motive here? Could Home™ be a comment on the kind of artificial lifestyle dominated by synthetic pleasures (technology as a whole) and institution our society has come to embrace? Possibly, though I'd like to think otherwise. Home™ seems more like a representation of nostalgia, embracing past-technology through innocent eyes and the all-encompassing, easy-going guise of childhood. Days when the world was full of wonder wherever you looked; movies, television screens, the neighborhood, the city, the sky, and everybody you saw. Blissfully ignorant to an otherwise cold and unforgiving world.
Though ultimately what counts here is the music, and where Home™ strives in concept, it falls short in sound and originality. Similar ideas have been executed better in the past. Not even James Ferraro himself took the idea of sonics from infomercials, menu screens, instructional videos, hotel lobbies, and shopping malls this literally. Whether or not that's worthy of applause is up for debate. Ferraro was smart enough to take the familiar synthetic sounds of MIDI and MS-DOS presented here, and warp them into dreamy, hyper-real sonic applications obscured by electronic unclassifibility on his album Far Side Virtual; creating something inherently familiar, but at the same time completely unique. Instead PrismCorp takes that foundation of synthetic nostalgia sounds, slaps on an aesthetically pleasing project name/album cover/track titles, and adds nothing particularly new to it. It's inoffensive and easy to listen to, but considering the subject matter this is to be expected. What's kept Vaporwave particularly interesting is how it manages to manipulate its source material, and there's so little manipulation and creativity of that kind to be found here. With a legion of new artists expanding upon (whether or not they realize it) the idea of dead technology as source of creativity and spirituality through subtly and creative shape-shifting (Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro, ADR, Co La, Jam City, Autre Ne Veut, d'Eon) Home™ remains a charming, but forgettable affair.