Vektroid – Color Ocean Road
Color Ocean Road may not be vaporwave in the strictest sense, but as a part of the Vektroid project by Ramona Xavier, it’s one that would not be fair to skip in the discussion of the genre and its evolution. This was the final album released under Vektroid, before the mid-2016 triple-release of Big Danger, RE•SET, and Vektroid Texture Maps brought the name back.
In contrast to its sample-heavy (almost exclusively so) predecessors, Color Ocean Road fuses original and sampled instrumentation into the same songs, often to the point where the latter is entirely unrecognizable. In this sense, Color Ocean Road is somewhat of a precursor to the Shader album released by Xavier as Sacred Tapestry just a few months later, in that both feature excerpts from extraordinarily well-known song that are contorted, twisted, and wrung-out in addition to adding layers and layers of Xavier’s own compositions to create entirely new works.1 For example, “Color Ocean” prominently samples Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” but you’d never hear it unless you knew exactly for what you were looking.2
Broadly speaking, Color Ocean Road utilizes tropes from the chillwave subgenre of electronic music, which feature moderate-to-low-BPM, filtered instrumentation, and a focus on the relaxing/serene through a retro-pop sound. There are bird sounds, nature imagery, and that wonderful pink/blue/purple that apparently comes to mind when Millennials imagine what the eighties looked like.3 The best tracks have plenty of time to grow and develop: closer “Om Namo Ocean Road” is straight progressive, beginning with five minutes of low synth washes before gradually evolving into polyrhythmic ambient dub and some indistinct vocal samples. It’s an excellent foreshadowing to the artist’s future explorations in experimental electronic music.
Color Ocean Road may be interpreted as Xavier’s club album. This is – by far – the most upbeat, consistently mixed album out of anything she has ever put out, even including the hip-hop/vaporwave collaboration with Siddiq that is 2016’s Midnight Run, and it rewards complete run-throughs best of all. Many of Xavier’s releases are cerebral listens – e.g. prism genesis, Shader, Sleepline – but Color Ocean Road is just a good time. It demonstrates Xavier’s playful side sans the ironic discomfit that so many indie producers elicit when they let loose, as if genuinely enjoying oneself isn’t cool.
Xavier is too self-assured for that nonsense. Listen to this album for the proof.
1. Shalom – (1:17)
2. Color Ocean – (8:51)
3. Seafoam Island – (4:37)
4. Sushi Plaza – (5:45)
5. Mango / Fuji – (3:41)
6. Om Namo Ocean Road – (11:42)
1… and in the case of Shader, literally sampling/reworking a track from Color Ocean Road – in this case, “Sushi Plaza” by way of “ドリーミー.”
2The only reason I know this is because getting into vaporwave has led me onto “Who Sampled?” quite a few times.
3… which, admittedly, the eighties didn’t do too good of a job trying to dissuade.