Vaporwave: Techno-nostalgia

example of electronic art
Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus

When I first heard the term vaporwave, I had the same question that basically everybody else did – what the hell is vaporwave? I thought it was just a passing internet fad that some of my weird buddies on Facebook were into for a bit. Maybe some sort of strange post-ironic memery that seems to fly about.

Months after hearing about it, vaporwave kept going strong. And months in internet time is an eternity when some fads only last a couple of days. I decided to do some research and figure out what vaporwave was and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

As a genre, vaporwave is hard to classify – it’s more of a style of art that encompasses music. With themes from the 90s, early technology, strange distorted vocals sampled from Motown hits, vaporwave is characterized by hypnotic, dreamy sounds that put listeners in trances, without being as repetitive and as boring as orthodox electronic trance.

Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus
Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus

Mallsoft is my personal favorite type of vaporwave. Albums harken back to the mall-oriented culture of the 80s and 90s, before the internet, before gaming at home was cool, before smartphones, when teens spent their time wandering through malls, snacking on cookies and Orange Julius with ambient background music piped through the building.

Almost elevator music, mallsoft creates the feeling of being in an old-school mall. There is something truly genius in taking music designed to be background and ambient, adding ethereal distortion and a contemporary twist.

Reminiscent of Brian Eno and the ambient music genre, vaporwave has become highly popular among those suffering from anxiety. More than anything, vaporwave is chill. While themes may involve the opulence and artificial edifices of commercial globalization, nothing is depressing and the music is never a downer.

Hypnotic music that lifts the listener up and floats them down a lazy current of sound, it’s the perfect thing to have on in the background when out and about in the busy city or just relaxing at home.

For a slightly more upbeat and energetic experience, there is more trap-inspired vaporwave. With the addition of trap beats, the ordinarily plain and unassuming sounds have a bit of an edge to them rhythm that keeps the musical part of the brain engaged with complex percussion.

There is also a nostalgic aesthetic to vaporwave. ‘80s pixel art, classical statuary, simple backgrounds and complete randomness from humanity’s first foray into a truly electronic existence are plastered everywhere on album covers.

The most amazing thing about vaporwave is just about all of it is free. It isn’t created by musicians looking to make millions, but just everyday people on their computers. It’s an internet-fueled art movement where creators create for the sheer joy of it. There are internet libraries of vaporwave and tons of YouTube videos of just vaporwave music. Anybody with an internet connection has days of dreamy melodies at their fingertips.

For those who have heard the term and wondered what vaporwave is, especially those who are stressed or suffer from anxiety, I highly recommend going to YouTube and checking out what’s there.