Listening Post #6

by Alex Brammer

1. 2814 – Inside the Sphere

Vaporwave sure moves quickly, doesn’t it? I remember last year everyone was fighting over whether 2814’s debut album Birth of a New Day was ‘real vaporwave’ or not, and now it’s being treated as one of the all-time greats of vaporwave. In any case, the new 2814 album Rain Temple was another fantastic collection of ambient-infused vaporwave, and “Inside the Sphere” is a wonderful closer – the scale of the dystopian world that 2814 have been building is dizzyingly conveyed by constantly through the listener off the top of what feels like huge concrete tower blocks of sound. It’s noisy, messy and probably the least ambient song on the whole album, but damn it’s good.

2. Mac Miller – Dang! (feat. Anderson .Paak)

From downbeat vaporwave to something which feels like it’ll be sampled by post-vaporwave artists in ten years, “Dang!” is a smooth slice of upbeat yet mildly melancholic hip-hop. Anderson .Paak’s meteoric rise from nobody to Dre collaborator to 2016 album of the year contender has been an absolute joy to watch, and he dominates this track to the point where it doesn’t really feel like a Mac Miller song at all but a .Paak song with Mac Miller featured on it. It’s slightly worrying given that this is the lead single off Miller’s upcoming album The Divine Feminine, but for now it’s easy to find yourself swept along in the ride.

3. Blank Banshee – Frozen Flame (Fragment)

This is difficult to write about because it’s not a finished song, but actually just a random section snatched from an upcoming album. (It should be noted that this song is only regarded as a fragment due to a weird bit of notation lost deep in the Blank Banshee website’s HTML code, because god forbid a vaporwave producer is open about anything, right?) Regardless, this track is a wonderful two-minute teaser of a third classic vaportrap album from the producer who popularised the genre. Luckily the trap elements have faded into the background relative to his earlier work, so this feels fresh despite its definite similarities to other Blank Banshee music – the ethereal, unsettling beats and pitch-lowered snatches of vocal sample are still very much ready to go. Check it out on Blank Banshee’s website.

4. Jon Bap – Ghost In The Wintertime

“I don’t wanna waste time” echoes throughout this song, and you can damn well tell Jon Bap means it. Ghost In The Wintertime is manic from the drums up, and there’s no way that wasn’t an intentional move by the for-now little-known singer and multi-instrumentalist. It’s fascinating how this song is a relatively laid-back soul cut on the top level but so frantic in the instrumental, which you can feel free to do right up until Bap throws you into an extended vocal sample of a guided meditation for an outro. This song’s a masterwork of tonal contrast, and as a little bonus it’s good at just being a great soul song as well.

5. Biosphere – Sweet Dreams Form A Shade

This sounds like something that would be on the soundtrack to a really creepy Spanish psychological horror movie about a convent, but in a good way, honest. Biosphere is a master of the craft when it comes to ambient music, so it’s no surprise that more traditional drones on display here are so expertly mixed with a sample of a female choir that you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. It’s vaguely spooky in a way, but it’s absolutely phenomenal stuff. If you don’t like this track the first time around, give Substrata a listen and come back to it. It’ll definitely click.

Listen to the PearShaped Listening Post #6 Playlist below.