식료품groceries – 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open
Come on baby, take a walk on the aisle side.1 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open2 is the debut release from 식료품groceries3 and is one of the earliest releases on the Dream Catalogue label.4 It is literally a soundtrack to the experience of going aisle-by-aisle in a supermarket (hence the tag “aislegaze”): each track is themed after exploring a different section and listing some of the products that one may find. As befits vaporwave, many of these imaginary products are rather surreal: you can find greener grass in Aisle 3, urban skylines in Aisle 5, and sailboats in Aisle 7.5
The two most striking features of 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open are the focus on high-end frequencies and the utilization of fades. They’re two things that seem almost flippantly common with regards to mallsoft (seriously, how many times have you read the phrase “sounds like it’s coming from a PA system” in a mallsoft review?)6 but uniquely executed on this album. For the former quality, 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open reverbs the high-end part of the production to impress a dreamlike affect.7 The result is a swirliness akin to shoegaze music but exceptional in how little the other frequencies are affected, as if the high-end is trying to catch up to itself in each song’s progression. For the latter quality, each track has this pseudo-crossfade where the percussion and high-end frequencies are the first and last parts of each track, with the melody only actually coming into the song after about twenty to thirty seconds. It causes each song to bleed into the other, as if each aisle is playing a different song and the end of the aisle catches the awkward intermediary between them. These qualities facilitate 식료품groceries’ imagery of walking past products, turning the corner to the next row, and achieving the next level on your rewards card.
슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open is a nigh-perfect example of sample curation, whereby tracks are cut from their context and juxtaposed with each other in order to recontextualize them into a new form. 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open finds the listener walking through aisles replete with neo-classical music, funk tracks, instrumental muzak, and kitschy pop music that are just on the verge of being forgettable while still being pretty catchy. The decision of 식료품groceries to keep tracks within the old pop-song run-time standard (two-and-a-half to three minutes) emphasizes the already hyper-commercialized setting and keeps any sample from overstaying its welcome. However, unlike releases such as Hologram Plaza by Disconscious, 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open features little in the way of dystopian over/undertones in its samplism aesthetic; it really just sounds like a normal trip through a supermarket as the muzak tracks switch over during your visit. No fear of commercialization necessary.
There are three interludes in 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open separate from the market aisles. “Intrance (Realities)” provides a friendly greeting to the market along with some neo-classical muzak. “Interlude (Lost in the Freezer Section)” dispenses with the standard mid-tempo samples for a lonely saxophone solo with ambient keyboards – it’s one of the album’s best tracks, and even more effect in context of its placement between the two most muzak-oriented tracks on the album. Final track “Bronze-Level Store Loyalty Card” sounds like a credits-roll to the exciting experience of grocery shopping with an uptempo techno-ish track with just a bit of stuttering glitchiness.
One of the coolest parts of 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open is how un-ironic it sounds in its groundedness despite the overt surrealism. The album truly sounds as if it were made to evoke a Korea-town shopping experience with a variety of questionably-translated products. So many vaporwave albums go for the concept of irony in their exploration of the virtual plaza, but here’s an album that chronicles the plaza for its own interest instead of trying to point out some commentary on it.8 In that regard, 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open is a successful conceptual experience, and it’s recommended for anyone interested in music as a narrative device. The samples are excellently chosen to portray the goofiness of mall music while being engaging listens as well that don’t exist merely for the sake of winks and vaporwave in-jokes. Plus, it’s fun and sounds good.9 What else needs to be said about that?
1. Intrance (Realities) – (1:55)
2. Aisle 1 (Earth Tones, Rectangles and Fake Plants) – (2:45)
3. Aisle 2 (Parallel Lines, Oscillating Fans, and Public-Access Broadcasting) – (2:46)
4. Aisle 3 (Summits, Clouds, and Greener Grass) – (2:46)
5. Aisle 4 (Hairstyles, Power-Ups, and Magnetic Tape) – (3:25)
6. Aisle 5 (Moonlight, Urban Skylines, and Rapid Eye Movement) – (3:19)
7. Interlude (Lost in the Freezer Section) – (2:34)
8. Aisle 6 (Memories, Regrets, and Wishes) – (2:35)
9. Aisle 7 (Sailboats, Forecasts, and Room Keys) – (2:20)
10. Aisle 8 (Drink Specials, Warm Evenings, and Rooftop Views) – (2:34)
11. Aisle 9 (Palm Leaves, Breezes, and Sunset Gradients) – (2:12)
12. Checkout (Have a Nice Day) – (2:28)
13. Bronze-Level Store Loyalty Card – (2:41)
1I’m so sorry.
2Korean translation: “Supermarket (Yes! We’re Open)”
3Korean translation: “Groceries”
4It has since been removed from the official download roster to avoid copyright issues, but it’s still listed on many fan-made mirrors and was a part of the first DREAM_BOX series of cassette issues in late 2016/early 2017.
5Perfect, I was dreading making a run to the sailboat store. Here, I can do all my shopping at once. Thanks, 식료품groceries!
6This website being no exception!
7Yes, “affect”. Fight me, motherfucker.
8If there is commentary, it’s on mallsoft. One could argue that 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open is a stealth parody of the subgenre by taking the shopping experience at literal face value rather than try to make a joke out of it. By the end of its half-hour, you’ve just listened to a shopping soundtrack.
9This isn’t discussed enough in music criticism. An album isn’t good just because it’s challenging, and an album isn’t bad just because it’s an easy listen. Fetishizing difficulty for its own sake is silly. Unless it’s Resident Evil 4, because damn son, Professional Mode is brutal.