The half-life of anything born in the internet age seems to decay as fast as it apparates into existence; such is the case for the microgenre that could, “Vaporwave”. Though the height of vaporwave (and by extension aesthetics culture) has long since dissipated, the underground scene is still going strong, evolving, and diversifying as ever.
Vaporwave veterans HKE and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 that make up the group known as ２８１４ are well known within circles for their grandiose, dense melodic ambient pieces, capable of generating nostalgia for a future that doesn’t exist. Their past projects up until now have been a steady progression through interpersonal, digital, and retro-futuristic metropolitan spaces – whereas ２８１４’s latest EP conjures a more serene, solitary, and spiritual auditory experience in ‘Voyage/Embrace’.
“Voyage” is a hauntingly beautiful track, dense in the environment it has woven. A slow heartbeat pulses over the call of colossal horns from a distance as the rain pelts the asphalt, with an occasional wail of a siren-song interspersed throughout. There’s a level of scale with this arrangement that makes you feel minuscule and new in a world that is vast, ancient, and eternal in comparison. (Personally, I like to imagine we’re touring an abandoned, overgrown shipyard of the bygone modern era, spelunking through rusty shipping containers and occasionally soaking in the vista of a foggy and overcast morning… that’s just me though!)
After a moment of torrential tranquility, we’re ushered into “Embrace”, the second half of the EP by way of a soft glass harp-like sound-bath; which slips underneath a steady stream of pulled synthetic stretches and accompanying melody. It’s as though we’ve located the source of those distant sirens from the previous piece, and that we’re at the end of a journey we barely even started.
I find it fitting that the EP ends on the drone that the last track started with. Just like the purpose of a standing bell (or singing bowl) is to facilitate meditation, I believe the project was meant to act as a short detour into introspection:
That the Voyage was to be aware of yourself in your external surroundings – that whatever structures reside for you right now will be (like that done to death Blade Runner monologue) “…lost in time, like tears in rain”.
And that Embrace was an auditory example and subsequently a guide to self-reflection.
I’ve seen some criticism towards this EP that it was simplistic and underwhelming compared to ２８１４’s larger body of work. For me, I see it as refinement in minimalism – and just what we need as we start the autumnal season, and a standby remedy for the upcoming winter quarantine blues.
２８１４’s ‘Voyage/Embrace’ is available through Bandcamp, Deezer, Spotify, YouTube Music.