LILLITH双生 – (SEASON_1) Deathpowder
Album: (SEASON_1) Deathpowder
Type: Full-length album (LP)
Release date: 30 July 2016
Label: Crystaltone / OKO Sound
- Black cassette, edition 30 (Crystaltone, 2016)
- Purple cassette, edition 10 (Crystaltone, 2016)
- Blue cassette, edition 1 (Crystaltone, 2016)
- Digital download (Crystaltone, 2016)
- Digital download (OKO Sound; 2017)
In 2016, サイバー ‘98 (also known as Saiba ‘98) began a new project called LILLITH双生,1 which signaled a change from the Japanese artist’s previous experiments with vaporhop and classic-style vaporwave to one more deeply influenced by dreampunk and industrial techno. The first three albums were styled as different “seasons” of work where each track is a different “episode”, beginning with (SEASON_0) Hazard Garden on Dream Catalogue in May 2016. The first album may be interpreted as a proof-of-concept full-length that bridged the gap between the straight-vaporwave and somewhat lo-fi aesthetics of the first project with the aggressive electronica of the second – as demonstrated by track titles such as “E04: death2saiba (Long Live the New Flesh)”.
The second album, (SEASON_1) Deathpowder, was released on Crystaltone two months later in July 2016 on digital download and three limited-edition cassette formats: thirty in black shells, ten in purple shells, and one2 in blue shell. Following the closure of the label in February 2017 due to controversial business practices by the owner E N T I T Y, (SEASON_1) Deathpowder was unavailable on digital or physical formats for several months. This problem was compounded by LILLITH双生 having deleted their Bandcamp accounts prior to Crystaltone’s demise,3 making this album (and サイバー ‘98 release Organic ~ Android) impossible to find outside of YouTube streaming channels and share folders. Seven months later, British label OKO Sound acquired and reissued (SEASON_1) Deathpowder on digital format, once again making it available for purchase and download through the Bandcamp platform.
(SEASON_1) Deathpowder references a variety of Japanese media, especially those with cyberpunk and apocalyptic themes. The album title is a nod to Shigeru Izumiya’s 1986 film Death Powder, which was one of the first films in Japanese cyberpunk cinema and predated Akira by two years. “star of the north fist – E03” inverts Fist of the North Star, a post-apocalyptic manga that ran from 1983 to 1988 and launched several anime and video game series. “genocyber – E05” takes its name directly from Genocyber, another cyberpunk manga situated in the establishment of a singular world government that was noted in the early 90s for its graphic violence alongside Battle Angel Alita. A comparatively recent reference is “at dinner with noriko – E08”, which refers to 2006 psychological horror film Noriko’s Dinner Table that uses a non-linear plot to discuss the lead-up to and aftermath of a streak of teenage suicides in Japan. These allusions to violent and challenging media match the chaotic nature of LILLITH双生’s brand of vaporhop, and it contrasts with the other albums that utilized evocative track titles but far fewer references than those found here.
The primary compositional elements of (SEASON_1) Deathpowder are similar to hardvapour and UK garage music. LILLITH双生 uses spacious, compressed beats at midtempo grooves as the focus of each song where the melody often takes second stage – a technique also used as サイバー ‘98, although that project was more influenced by trap music than techno. In comparison, the percussion on (SEASON_1) Deathpowder is far less snare heavy, with those tracks on which snare rolls do make an appearance (e.g. “a snake of june – E06”) being mixed relatively low and in the background, sounding like a thin layer of static or glitch effects instead of the propeller-triplets common in trap. The melodies themselves are comprised of exceptionally brief fragments of vocals, vaporwave pitch-/tempo-shifting, and non-musical sound effects that are layered over sustained synthesizers mixed deep into the background. These bits are often sporadically inserted into the song like sprinkles on top of icing, which is heard best on “electric dragon 900.000 V – E07” in its ricocheting electronic squelches.
LILLITH双生 opted for a very loud style of production on (SEASON_1) Deathpowder that is almost constantly redlined, which is a double-edged sword regarding sound quality. On one hand, the bass beats on tracks such as “a snake of june – E06” are that much stronger, giving the music the same enveloping atmosphere as being inside of a darkroom underground dance club in downtown. However, there is a sheer lack of dynamic range that will make audiophiles cringe, to the extent where should-be-quiet moments like the ending break on “star of the north fist – E03” are completely drowned out. The loudness also cuts off the peak of bass hits, which castrates the percussive introduction to “hausu – E04”. This could make or break the album for some listeners – especially those who exclusively listen to music on stereo – and it cannot be entirely dismissed as simply an exercise in industrial influences or harsh electronica, since several notable hardvapour albums around this time (e.g. There Is Truth in Fiction by Chungking Mansions) had averted the production pitfalls of the Loudness War entirely while retaining their forceful sound.
Despite its production flaws, (SEASON_1) Deathpowder is a compelling vaporhop release. Its spoken word elements may appeal to fans of broken transmission and signalwave music, and its glitchy aspects recall those of I’ll Try Living Like This by death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, except taken one step further. The industrial influence successfully demonstrates elements of hardvapour, which is notable considering that hardvapour producers were notoriously antagonistic toward vaporwave in 2016. (SEASON_1) Deathpowder is recommended to fans of progressive percussive-based cyberpunk music, especially those for whom ghost tech is too introverted.
1. sponsored by _____ – E00 – (0:37)
2. princess doom – E01 – (4:44)
3. make (rubber’s lover) – E02 – (3:11)
4. star of the north fist – E03 – (3:08)
5. hausu – E04 – (3:05)
6. genocyber – E05 – (4:01)
7. a snake of june – E06 – (3:53)
8. electric dragon 900.000 V – E07 – (4:33)
9. at dinner with noriko – E08 – (3:29)
10. guilty of romance – E09 – (4:03)
11. deathpowder. – E10 – (4:12)
12. ode to the club – E11 – (3:11)
Total length – (42:07)
1Following the release of (SEASON_2) LIMB, LILLITH双生 changed their moniker to LILLITH twin, replacing the kanji with their English equivalents.
2… excepting one given to LILLITH双生 and one to the label owner.
3… through no relation to Crystaltone. The artist has since stated that they “take no pride on taking away ownership from listeners, but digital distribution isn’t always reliable.” The deleted albums have since become available through other labels and formats.