Chinese Hackers – ░▒▓死▓▒░ [EP]
░▒▓死▓▒░1 is the third release by Chinese Hackers, a New York City artist also known as クルトPropane. Self-described as “vaporgoth,”2, ░▒▓死▓▒░ is a mix of dark ambient, industrial music, and vaporwave. Each track utilizes the extreme digital-corruption aesthetic that is common within the vaporwave scene, but with a funereal tone that is similar to the post-Internet music of 骨架的’s Skeleton and 王阳明’s output. Take a gander at the album artwork: blurred-faced nuns with hands clasped, walking down a hall in what looks to be a hospital ward with VHS/analogue noise at the top. It’s a bit ominous, and totally matches the music.
The highlight track is “Chimes,” the longest track on the album at five minutes in length (almost a third of the total run-time). While ░▒▓死▓▒░ is quite obviously the standard vaporwave affected samplism, that doesn’t make “Chimes” (and the other tracks) any less genuinely haunting, with large periods of low-bass rumbles and ever so distant washes of synthesized sounds – kind of like how those YouTube videos time-stretched pop songs by 500%, resulting in completely unrecognizable dark ambient music.
There’s no kitsch here: ░▒▓死▓▒░ takes its dark atmosphere quite seriously, for which it is all the better. Vaporwave has never tried to hide its low-fidelity aesthetic – in fact, it celebrates such a (lack of) quality – which ░▒▓死▓▒░ aptly synergizes with its dark ambient theme through waveform distortion, especially the second half of “After” due to the extreme tempo-shifting that causes a mark drop in fidelity as the staticky, crackly compression becomes blatant. Closing track “Broken” takes an ECCOJAMS approach to the “vaporgoth” aesthetic, with a repeating microsample of some unintelligible pitch-shifted vocal sample.
Sure, dark ambient in vaporwave is nothing new – the “vaporgoth” tag notwithstanding – but ░▒▓死▓▒░ stands out as a strong extended-play in its dedication to its themes and genuine discomfit without distracting itself with too many ideas at once or playing safe the samplism game.
1. Stairs – (1:23)
2. After – (2:14)
3. Alone – (1:30)
4. Angel – (2:27)
5. Catacombs – (1;46)
6. Chimes – (5:07)
7. Broken – (2:36)
1Japanese translation: “Death”
2As per the artist’s bandcamp page.