Disconscious – Hologram Plaza
There are two albums of required listening for the burgeoning mallsoft fan: 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open by 식료품groceries and Hologram Plaza by Disconscious. Whether or not the former album is a humorous parody is debatable, but that’s certainly not the case for the latter: like computer slime’s ミスト, Hologram Plaza is some of the emptiest music ever put to tape.
The origins of mallsoft lie in the earliest explorations of vaporwave, where the concept of malls as large, soulless spaces of consumerism were evoked in some practitioner’s utilization of vaporwave as a means for exploring the social ramifications of capitalism and globalization. While that approach has largely petered out in the last few years in favor of pure sonic exploration/expression, mallsoft is one of the few subgenres where such a concept is intrinsic to its being. The purpose of mallsoft is to evoke the feeling of walking through an abandoned (or hyper-populated) mall, with the PA speakers playing the same poorly-mixed tunes that haven’t been updated since whatshisface put them to corporate tape in the eighties. Much of the music has some of the worst abuse of reverb since Martin Hannet worked with Joy Division, made to evoke the cavernous spaces within a three-story shopping plaza – skylight be damned.
“Elevator Up” is an excellent album opener. The short track length and crackling speakers perfectly arouse the zone-out of standing in a slow elevator, looking upward and counting the floors. “Mattress Store” has an unsettling easy listening/muzak score that makes one wonder what The Shining would have been like had it taken place in the Mall of America. That underlying claustrophobic creepiness is everywhere in Hologram Plaza; the goofy, cliché album artwork belies the album’s inherent a-human atmosphere, to which the track title “Shopping Delirium” just barely alludes. “Fountain Plaza” is mind-numbing, with a gentle pan that enhances the dazed milieu. It’s not hard to imagine listening to any of these tracks while standing on a moving elevator with one’s silent peers, detached to the world after a day at the office.1
Sure, some of these comparisons are probably a bit dramatic, but Hologram Plaza stands out among the glut of narcotic muzak that is mallsoft and classic-style vaporwave because it doesn’t try to be funny. So many early vaporwave albums go for the “ha ha irony” approach, and they end up losing their appeal by wrapping themselves up in their own attempts at self-awareness that end up not being self-aware at all. Hologram Plaza focuses its attention on trying to create a world of abandoned spaces, not make the audience giggle at faux-nostalgia, and for that reason, it is successful. This isn’t the vaporwave album you’ll put on in the background at work; it’s too soul-sucking for that.
There might be people around you as you’re shopping, but that doesn’t make you any less alone.
(Puedes leer esto artículo en español aquí.)
1. Elevator Up – (0:51)
2. Enter through the Lobby – (4:47)
3. Mattress Store – (3:01)
4. Endless Escalation – (2:32)
5. Lunar Food Court – (3:18)
6. Shopping Delirium – (2:10)
7. Fountain Plaza – (4:50)
8. Absent Interlude – (1:15)
9. Midnight Specimen – (4:15)
10. Elevator Down – (3:15)
1Just typing that sentence makes me glad that I don’t have a standard office job.