Review by: Nina Anatchkova
Album assigned by: Syd Spence
“A collaboration between Vaporwave producers Hong Kong Express and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, ２８１４ is a project that creates cyberpunk-esque, dystopian yet psychedelic and relaxing ambient soundscapes. Drifting off into a daydream is hard to avoid as each track flawlessly flows into another, each with its own unique atmosphere.” says a description of this record on youtube. Yeah, well…
… Well, let’s look at what we have here. “Birth of a New Day” may be a vapourwave cyberwhatever something but to the untrained ear it basically contains about three varieties of soundscapes. The opening track, Recovery, is more hustly-bustly than most of the others, and I’d go as far as guess that this is not yet the birth of a new day but the conclusion of the old day. And if visions of a late-night timelapse of a busy Asian city play in my mind, it is mostly because this is what is vaguely advertised on the cover. Oh and because of the sirens and traffic noises. Obviously.
The second track is called “Distant Lovers” but it more reminds me of that background music they play in a planetarium while a someone with a pleasant voice and excellent diction asks rhetorically whether we are alone in the universe. So what kind of distance are we talking about here? Is this a metaphor? Are aliens our distant lovers? I don’t know. I also don’t know whether I have accidentally started listening to F♯ A♯ ∞, so this is your second type of soundscape – a F♯ A♯ ∞ urban dreamscape soundalike, possibly with some public transport samples thrown in for good measure.
And already the following track “Shinjuku Golden Street” displays the third type of soundscape we have on this album, which I have decided to call “the sophisticated urban teahouse / art shop background music”. Seriously, the samples are the same. And the percussion. I’ve heard this thing in a fancy teahouse in Sofia around 2005, I am sure of it. Well, okay, maybe the dreamy psychedelic and relaxing ambient soundscape was slightly less layered and therefore less psychedelic but the essence is surely the same.
Halfway through the album I start thinking of a quote from one of Isaac Asimov’s apparently lesser known novels – “The End of Eternity” – in which Noÿs adjusts “the controls of a musical instrument that played soft and complicated strains out of its own creative bowels by striking notes and chords in a random manner: the randomness weighted in favor of pleasant combinations by intricate mathematical formulae. The music could no more repeat itself than could snowflakes, and could no more fail of beauty.” Now obviously this sounds like a bit of an overreach even if we assume that the advanced science of the future can make it possible but it does outline what I feel about the music on this record here: I am sure that this beauty has been arrived at by meticulously planning out and expertly timing sounds and samples, in other words, a considerable artistic effort. But why then is a fleeting moment of human warmth ultimately destroyed in my mind by the following rote sampled sound?
But let me quote another thought I found in the youtube comments (by someone writing as timeparadox888): “The night train back from work. You look at the passengers around you. A man covered head to toe in mechanical body modifications sits to your left, fiddling with a display set into the flesh on his forearm. To your right, an anxious extraterrestrial, its antennae curled back in discomfort at the heavy scent of humanity filling the air. Across the aisle, a wide-eyed child of indeterminate gender watches intensely as the sleek blue android next to them polishes its own detached leg. And holding the child’s hand, an old woman, modestly dressed with an unaltered figure, appearing, in general, out of place in her surroundings. She peers straight ahead at nothing in particular, her face fixed in an expression of longing. You put on your headphones.”
So apparently this music is capable of inducing tumblr-feels in some people. You know how I know? Well, this person used a descriptive sentence without a verb, a ton of superfluous but evocative adjectives, some annoyingly overused keywords, and decided to address some unspecified “you”. I personally give up on any implication that futuristic would have to mean bodies with machine implants and extraterrestrials with antennae.
Meanwhile, the three types of soundscape that I’ve outlined above have flawlessly flowed into each other more than once and we’re back to a hustle-bustlier sound for the birth of a new day, that seems to in this case get born as gradually and in as a gracefully uneventful fashion as the way in which the sun makes its ascent into the sky each morning.
And the reason I quoted other people so much in this review is that I have nothing in particular to say about this predictably pleasant and pleasantly predictable electrofest. Apart from the fact that letterspacing latin lowercase characters and numbers is kinda pretentious.