Escaping Reality: the Iconography of Vaporwave

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Bandcamp Daily

vaporwave iconography
Every month, Simon Chandler offers insight into the ever expanding and changing genre of vaporwave.

Vaporwave is a strange and singular genre. Not just because many of its most celebrated albums revolve around sampling corporate muzak and aging pop hits, and not just because its practitioners remain mostly anonymous. It’s unique because its music is unusually inextricable from the cover art and imagery that accompanies it. Even more so than, say, metal or rap, vaporwave depends heavily on visuals in order to maintain its individuality as a musical form.

And yet, beyond offering newness and distinction where there are mainly appropriated samples and anonymous producers, the imagery of vaporwave draws upon a variety of themes. Whether it’s depictions of virtual plazas or neon-lit streets, vaporwave cover art doesn’t simply provide a psychedelic backdrop for the music of, say, Floral Shoppe or a Hong Kong Express. It also offers a…

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