So…vaporwave. It is (was?) one of those Internet-spawned genres that sounds interesting written down…accelerationists! Trash music! Capitalism!…but gets confusing fast when you start trying to figure out what vaporwave actually sounds like. Even if you settle on a sonic definition of what it is…to me, I consider it music built out samples taken mostly from cheesy sources, like old Japanese commercials or corporate videos…oftentimes the actual songs just aren’t that good. Take an old disk ad, distort the vocals a bit and…song. There are good pieces of music constructed out of this idea, but also a lot of bad ones.
Tokyo’s Shortcake Collage Tape is similar to a lot of vaporwave, but he sets his music apart on his first full-length collection Spirited Summer by creating actual songs out of his samples. Save for the song “Meet Me In Your Dreams” – which takes a sample of a commercial that was inescapable if you used YouTube in Japan last summer and manipulates it (and is great in a different way if you hated that ad, like I did) – the music on this album isn’t content to rest on its samples. Instead, the voices, taken from commercials and also anime, are reconstructed into hazy new songs that recall the past without being a slave to them. Shortcake’s best track remains “Polaroid Full Of Kisses,” which is present here and continues to wow with its woozy memories, anchored by a cartoon sample in the song’s second half. As the title hints at, Spirited Summer is an album obsessed with memories of the warmest season, and cuts like “Summer School” and “Waiting In The Afterlife” create a blurry, sun-drenched sound that Shortcake writes “is ideal for midsummer chillouts” yet sound appropriate for chillouts already past. His warmest moments come on the early one-two punch of “Empire Beach” and “Painted Ocean” which generate images of the coast via breezy synth and horn samples. And, importantly, a beat that pushes everything forward. Spirited Summer generates nostalgia, but never forgets to also squeeze emotion out of his sounds…or to make it more than a showcase of a cool sample. It’s 2013’s first great Japanese album (which, yeah, is a technicality given we are a week into it). Get it here for free.