?????VIRTUAL
札幌コンテンポラリー


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
May 4th, 2013 | 38 replies | 3,210 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


Vaporwave makes a game of referentials, so I start with Borges and his hybrid essay/story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”. The piece, about a fictional author who re-writes, line by line, Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote, both anticipates and lampoons postmodern literary theory and its obsession with “decentralizing” the text. As in:

“It is a revelation to compare Menard's Don Quixote with Cervantes's. The latter, for example, wrote: . . . truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor.

Written in the seventeenth century by the 'lay genius' Cervantes, this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history. Menard, on the other hand, writes: . . . truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor.

You get the idea. The two excerpts are identical but one is apparently lent gravity by its historical and social context, enter Jacques Derrida, and so forth. This also happens to be the critical process behind vaporwave, which is only like its fellow “hip” subgenres chillwave and witch house in its ostensible “hip”-ness and subgenre-ness. Whereas those two flash-in-the-pan trends drew upon musical motifs of past to create something nonetheless deeply contemporary, vaporwave is often a mirror image of the influences upon which it draws. This is especially true of *幌コンテンポラリー , the fantastic, beguiling debut album by 情*デスクVIRTUAL--it doesn’t just sound “like” early ‘90s video game music and stock hotel lobby jams; it is those things. Anyone who dares praise this zeitgeist-y, 70-minute mess of an album is thus put in the position of Borges’s nameless critic, commending what would have been panned years ago simply because it happened now--because any simulacrum mirroring the cultural motions of the past must come packaged with some sort of biting commentary on its subject, right?

This is what allows Tiny Mix Tapes’s “Mr P” to excoriate the majority of *幌コンテンポラリー for being “cheesy and bad” before blithely slapping a 4-star rating on the thing; he ends his review typically, with rhetorical questions about capitalism and technology. That’s all well and good; this album certainly invites that type of discussion, prodding away at cultural signifiers (Japanese characters everywhere, Windows ‘97, “Shop@Home Network”), the stuff of vaporwave thinkpieces the world over. But *幌コンテンポラリー is only interesting--only worth picking out in a sea of releases with similar titles and album covers--because it is good. I mean that this album is good good, and not good in a sort of distanced, subversive way (i.e., “bad, but rendered good because it is aware of its own badness”). It's undeniably cheesy, yes, but it is also catchy and funny and often weirdly beautiful. Examples abound: “街へSAPPORO NiGHTS BRINGiN IT BACC """ #WEEDBREAK” is funky and fresh; “XX ‘RUBY DUSK ON A 2ND LIFE NUDE BEACH'’ ☯ . . . の"活・・・「*ベルタ」” is a majestic skewering-of-slash-homage-to Kenny G’s smooth jazz; “MARBLE白鳥” is so perfectly evocative of childhood it makes me want to cry.

Let me be clear: to ignore what this and many other albums of its ilk are “saying” about simulation and commercialization and to take this vaporwave trend at its aesthetic face value (“shit just slays, bro”) would be foolish. This is undoubtedly music about something, a something which might be most coherently summed up as the attempt to mirror capitalist culture’s own attempts to mirror reality--to interrogate the space between the real world and its cultural representation, especially within the context of the '90s' commercial environment. All this doesn’t mean, however, that the listener must engage in some artificial mind-game to enjoy an album like this fully; *幌コンテンポラリー is not good because it’s bad. To frame the album as the product of trading off aesthetic and concept would be to completely miss the point. That space marks the difference between Leyland Kirby’s V/Vm and The Caretaker, or between The Hood Internet and The Avalanches. This is not an album that merely laughs at its subject matter but rather one that treats it with the utmost attention and respect. The result is perhaps the defining statement of vaporwave as it exists right now, and a great debut album to boot. Skeptics may scowl, because even the best of this genre’s work still resembles that of a Pierre Menard, “good” only with loads of contextual weight on its shoulders. But for as long as the albums are this satisfying, I’m still listening.



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user ratings (15)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2013



14884 Comments


i honestly wrote this in lieu of studying for ap art history because i'm feeling unproductive as fuck which i know is probably not the m.o. of a piece you want to read. it's late so there are probably mistakes / maybe this is just straight-up unsalvageable. c&c welcome

sixdegrees
May 4th 2013



15777 Comments


oh hey it's that weird album that anything written in japanese characters redirects to

Digging: Tam Tam - Polarize

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2013



14884 Comments


sputnik formatting had a tough time with this one

oltnabrick
May 4th 2013



29282 Comments


this looks scandalous

Digging: Gucci Mane and Young Thug - Young Thugga Mane La Flare

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
May 4th 2013



4196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

big up yourself robert!

Digging: Echo Lane Afterschool Inc. - bikes clouds cranes phones

oltnabrick
May 4th 2013



29282 Comments


just listened



it is scandalous™

Spec
May 4th 2013



26836 Comments


holy hell

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 4th 2013



23652 Comments


oh

oh hey

oh hey sup

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Winesburgohio
May 4th 2013



914 Comments


congratulations on meretriciously name-dropping Borges and Derrida

otherwise good review yo



Digging: Blink-182 - Cheshire Cat

ViperAces
May 4th 2013



12358 Comments


can anyone give me a stream or a download or anything

oltnabrick
May 4th 2013



29282 Comments


http://beerontherug.bandcamp.com/album/-

ViperAces
May 4th 2013



12358 Comments


this is so japanese it hurts

OnlyBants
May 4th 2013



13 Comments


this is vaporwave's the seer

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
May 4th 2013



4196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"this is vaporwave's the seer"

That'd be James Ferraro's Live At Primavera Sound 2012 set

OnlyBants
May 4th 2013



13 Comments


I was thinking more in terms of length, but yeah as a culmination (final boss?) of vaporwave I guess you are right haha

treeqt.
May 4th 2013



7849 Comments


saw this on frontpage
"sweet, a new mrtornado review"


oh


Sweet review though, might check the album out.


Digging: Jason Lescalleet - Much to My Demise

theacademy
May 4th 2013



27698 Comments


lol ap art history

hope that was worth the 80 bucks

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
May 4th 2013



4196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'd take that class real quick, bring in your copy of Far Side Virtual 4 Extra Creditz

idkpokeit
May 5th 2013



411 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

album sux

solongatlast
May 5th 2013



190 Comments


Nice review. Just read "Pierre Menard" and actually lold...such a nerd.

Ima check this out.



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