Synthetic Virtue – The Virtual Heaven
The Virtual Heaven tricks you in the beginning by sounding like it’s going to rip apart classic-style vaporwave tropes. “Welcome” welcomes you with a goofy and obviously affected high-pitched voice that says one of the most cliché, stock sayings in vaporwave history: “Welcome to the virtual plaza, enjoy your stay”. Immediately following this introduction is a heavily pitch-/tempo-shifted sample of the instrumental lead to Vektroid’s “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー” from FLORAL SHOPPE.1 Right then, it sounds like Synthetic Virtue2 is going to tear into classic-style vaporwave for schlock. Having come out in 2016 in the midst of reactionary hardvapor, it’s fair to assume so, and it’s even tagged as “softvapour” by Void21’s label site with a blurb that reads “***Your nostalgia is dead***”.
It’s not just tropes for dopes though: The Virtual Heaven subverts expectations by being so damn groovy, with its lean on the fourth wall being an extra bonus. After “Welcome” ends, the listener is taken through six tracks of heavily affected samplism and basso profundo vocals. Each track has a drifty production style akin to ambient vaporwave from artists such as telepath, 懐かし２００２津波, and midnight王朝. “80s Redux” features simple lo-fi melodies and mid-tempo hip-hop percussion, with the former quality being comparable to “NTSC Testing” from NTSC Memories by Virtual Dream Plaza. “Blaze” and “Dream” are basically a slow jams with some extra lo-fi electronic flourishes. “Digital Succubus” has kitschy, uncanny valley vocals with a minor instrumental lead. “Beach Relaxer” features more deep vocals with downtempo Vaperror percussion and airy synthesizers. Finally, “In Limbo” is an ambient vaporwave repetition on a theme with a simple kick-snare drumbeat and languid keyboards.
The Virtual Heaven is not adverse to humor, and the humor is goofy where other albums would lean toward mordant. “Digital Succubus” starts of with a creepily-affected vocal sample that tells the listener “Do you like me? I know you want me, I can see it”, then going into a smooth electronic jam with similarly artificial vocals sliding in like is used by チェスマスター on I Am Chesumasuta. The heavily pitch-/tempo-shifted deep vocals are pretty melodramatic, which also makes them rather funny. The Virtual Heaven doesn’t take vaporwave all that seriously, and it doesn’t take “not taking it seriously” seriously, allowing its humor to be more subtle and nuanced than its acerbic contemporaries.
Some of the best parody vaporwave albums (if this may be called such) are so because they both celebrate vaporwave techniques and tease them while still providing enjoyable listening experiences. The Virtual Heaven affectionately parodies the tropes of vaporwave without being ostentatious in the “haha vaporwave is so dumb right guys” tropes that blew up in a post-Vaporwave Is Dead world. Overall: surprisingly playful and demonstrating the power of irony sans cynicism, while sounding good in its own right.
1. Welcome – (2:14)
2. 80s Redux (feat. Virtual Digital) – (2:51)
3. Blaze – (3:18)
4. Dream – (4:27)
5. Digital Succubus – (3:29)
6. Beach Relaxer – (3:29)
7. In Limbo – (4:20)
1… or should I say, “It’s Your Move” by Diana Ross?
2Nice pun on itself.