Pursuing Paradise – Lust and the Downward Spiral
Lust and the Downward Spiral by pseudonymous artist Pursuing Paradise catalogues the turbulence and dissolution of a relationship through vaporwave music. From classical baroque to indie pop, this subject matter is no stranger to music or art; although vaporwave usually does not stray into the personal in favor of the fantastic, artists such as Shima33, HKE, and W¯¯ have attacked this universal experience of the human condition. The album was originally released on digital and cassette formats through Midnight Moon Tapes in March 2017, and a VHS edition was later released through The Basement Labs.
The primary style of music in this release is ECCOJAMS, one of the first subgenres of vaporwave whereby media samples are looped with or without audible cuts with additional production effects to enhance a dreamlike, nostalgic atmosphere. Whereas most ECCOJAMS releases use R&B, pop, and adult contemporary music, Lust and the Downward Spiral goes a quite different route with grunge and hard rock music. The second “Orgasm” track and “ɴeed to fҽҽl something…anything” are ECCOJAMS in the style of Darksleep on Identity Ender, whereby reverb dominates as the loop is sped up and slowed down. The slushwave aesthetic makes several appearances (e.g. “Løng Walk”). All of these styles combine to create a constantly changing, tumultuous experience that reflects emotional highs and lows.
The production changes with almost every track and occasionally within tracks. Lust and the Downward Spiral cycles through various lo-fi elements, running high-pass filters, and even cutting out the stereo to only one ear for a brief moment, as if the music is reflecting the torrid nature of the relationship. Several tracks have the classic-style vaporwave stutter effect that recalls a skipping compact disc, as on “Escape” and “she doesn’t care about u”. The album’s opening track “▄▅▆Running from Ecstasy▆▅▄” is a fast-paced vaporhop edit. Many songs have a stitched-together style that connects disparate samples over a track’s run-time, with the bridges usually made through brief noise or ambient fades – as heard on “another doesn’t dance under the moonlight”. “fuck me until my face becomes a blur” even has a breakbeat moment toward its halfway mark. Despite these multiple production changes, the album is equalized so that the actual volume and overall dynamic range between each track does not change overmuch, which alleviates unnecessary discursiveness.
Lust and the Downward Spiral has quite a bit in common with no lives matter from chris†††, which was released in the first quarter of 2016. no lives matter also utilizes ECCOJAMS music to explore a highly personal subject matter, with some listeners1 interpreting it as describing the death of a loved one or friend. Both of them tell a story through their album titles, with Lust and the Downward Spiral having many frank references toward sexual euphoria, remembrance, and emotional despair; and no lives matter discussing death and missed experiences. The dance-electronic aspect of no lives matter is not present on this album, but Lust and the Downward Spiral does have moments in which it samples from dance music with somber affect, as on “Stranger in My вє∂”.
At twenty-two tracks in fifty minutes, Lust and the Downward Spiral is a fairly long release that attempts to evoke an “odyssey” of emotion. Many of the rock/grunge edits tend to blend together and become rather forgettable as the album progresses, with the first few times sounding more like novelty edits than adding much to the album experience. That being said, its utilization of ECCOJAMS tropes and translation of romantic turmoil to vaporwave is impressive, and Lust and the Downward Spiral is certainly one of the most unique releases of 2017.
1. ▄▅▆Running from Ecstasy▆▅▄ – (1:18)
2. Escape – (1:54)
3. Consort – (2:07)
4. Stranger in My вє∂ – (3:17)
5. another doesn’t dance under the moonlight – (2:27)2
6. 夢 – (2:26)3
7. Orgasm – (1:13)
8. she doesn’t care about u – (2:06)
9. Løng Drive – (1:53)4
10. Løng Walk – (1:28)
11. Orgasm – (1:37)
12. we still have nightmares of our exes – (1:54)
13. Date Under Snow&Stars – (3:16)
14. anot𝓱𝒆𝓻 soul to explore with – (2:12)
15. anot𝓱𝒆𝓻 soul to drink with – (1:39)
16. ɴeed to fҽҽl something…anything – (2:44)
17. Use My Body – (4:08)
18. fuck me until my face becomes a blur – (3:43)
19. 混乱 – (2:05)5
20. hopeless – (1:59)
21. … – (2:15)
22. ▄▅▆Running Towards Ecstasy▆▅▄ – (2:52)
1Yeah, these are weasel words, but if you hang around vaporwave Twitter or the subreddit and this album comes out, then you’ll see that this interpretation is somewhat common.
2I interpret this track title as being the answer to Pursuing Paradise being told “You can always find another”.
3Japanese translation: “Dream”
4A møøse once bit my sister.
5Japanese translation: “Confusion”