Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza – NTSC Memories
The best sampling has a concept. Not just thrown-together pop and rock samples, but something that evokes more than its constituent parts.1 A purpose behind the music can give it meaning that resonates with the listeners and the artist themselves, making it a gestalt in both composition and psychology. That dogma might seem obvious with regards to other genres, but it’s something that vaporwave has trouble figuring out, what with its constant in-references to in-references and focus on irony without truly having a picture of what there is to be ironic about. This ability to create a defining concept is what makes NTSC Memories by Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza one of the greatest vaporwave albums made thus far.
NTSC Memories is about exactly that – memories and references back to old public broadcasting and documentaries, viewed through eyes of a child who doesn’t quite yet understand what they are seeing. It begins with a resolving progression that recalls a seventies introductory jingle, whereby the simple keyboard melody introduces the newest topic for discussion on this late-night network. Tracks are of moderate tempo and gently repeat their samples, adding to the album’s non-intrusiveness. Generally speaking, each song leads with a minor melody that isn’t quite peppy but not unhappy either; perhaps “ruminative” is the best descriptor.
The production is exceptionally lo-fi, but here necessitates a distinction between “lo-fi” and “low quality.” NTSC Memories is lo-fi; every track has obvious snap and crackle2 as if the television speakers blew out years ago – see “Busan Sunset” for audible redlining – but this is not the same as low-quality. On the contrary: it’s easy to hear every bass line, swirl of the keyboard, and drum hit. There are no moments of inaudibility and the listener does not have to strain to hear where songs are going. This is different than simple poor production. Take black metal for another example, a genre entirely different then vaporwave but with somewhat similar production aesthetics: Filosofem by Burzum is lo-fi but not low quality. In the case of NTSC Memories, the lo-fi aesthetic amplifies the concept of memory: these recollections are imperfect, but those parts that are remembered are still vibrant.
As with signalwave – and NTSC Memories may be considered an early example of such – the majority of the tracks consist of a simple microsample repetition throughout the song’s length, with the exception of ones such as “Weather Scanning”3 and “Webmod”. Unlike signalwave, there are no jump cuts where the samples end: each track is seamlessly stitched together so that the samples naturally cycle into each other as if that’s how the songs were made all along – similar to ECCOJAMS, but not quite on the same level. There are no CD-skipping effects or glitches, except for those which facilitate the busted-speaker aesthetic. Unique among classic-style albums, NTSC Memories utilizes trip-hop percussion that adds to its non-intrusive character, as used most effectively on “Pungmul Forecast”.
NTSC Memories ends its programming with “Local Stopping”, a short and muzak-influenced track that sharply contrasts with the misty “Webmod” right before it. It’s not hard to imagine the credits rolling with the track’s uptempo melody and relatively hard-hitting percussion, saying good-bye and see you next week. Circle the date in your TV Guide; this is an album far worth coming back for more.
1. NTSC Testing – (2:11)
2. Weather Scanning – (4:21)
3. Busan Sunset – (2:34)
4. Way 13 – (2:41)
5. Installation Zone – (2:57)
6. LXK Entrance – (2:18)
7. Ash Haze I – (2:55)
8. NTSC Forever – (3:07)
9. Ash Haze II – (1:34)
10. Pungmul Forecast – (1:32)
11. Webmod – (5:19)
12. Local Stopping – (3:34)
1Sure, the fact that it’s thrown-together could be your concept, but don’t you think that’s a bit played out?
2… and pop!
3One of the best songs I’ve heard up until now. It’s part of my “six stars” playlist. That’s an Amy Winehouse sample, by the way.