New Delhi Express – रोमांटिक सपना
Artist: New Delhi Express
Album: रोमांटिक सपना
Type: Full-length (LP)
Release date: 11 July 2017
Label: TKX Vault
- Digital download (TKX Vault, 2017)
रोमांटिक सपना1 is the “Indian bootleg version” of the music of vaporwave project Hong Kong Express, purported to have been found at a street vendor’s stall in India by the head of TKX Vault while uncovering new music. On paper, this album seems like it’s a straightforward classic-style vaporwave album primarily constructed from plundered samples. However, in stark contrast to the rest of the TKX Vault – and, indeed, all of vaporwave – रोमांटिक सपना samples from traditional Indian music and pop rather than the adult contemporary/muzak and Japanese audio so common in the genre, and it also features a substantial amount of original material performed by the artist – including some of the “Indian-sounding” parts. Hence the publishing moniker “New Delhi Express”.
The basic concept of रोमांटिक सपना teases the preponderance of bootlegs and off-label creations for which East Asian markets (especially in India and China) have become notorious among Western tourists. Oftentimes, these products are typecast – fairly or not, depending on your individual experience – as merely cheaply made, and sometimes they’re interpreted as base imitations instead of just unauthorized contraband, where the actual item sold barely represents the product it’s supposed to be. The latter applies to the New Delhi Express condition, which certainly has the Hong Kong Express vaporwave production but entirely different cultural capital befitting its “bootleg” status. The album artwork depicts a passionate embrace by lovers and Delhi street signs – both tropes used in the Hong Kong Express artworks. The album title and artist name in the lower right-hand corner is ripped straight from the project’s very first album, 浪漫的夢想.
Most songs on रोमांटिक सपना are created with a combination of sample curation incorporating editing and looping with a sustained lo-fi filter (as if the tracks are being heard from an old-school sound system somewhere on a cheap Bollywood set) and original material performed by New Delhi Express. Some songs – such as the second – emphasize additional percussion and bass, giving them a hip-hop-esque punch that can’t help but recall “Ponderosa” from Tricky’s Maxinquaye, which also featured samples from traditional Indian music. This type of production slowly became more of a force in the Hong Kong Express albums, with minor beat-driven elements appearing in the 2016 closure album Hong Kong Express – also released on TKX Vault. New Delhi Express makes some use of looping, which is best heard on the vocal earworm on track four. Incidentally, this is one of the album’s strongest tracks, not least due to the track’s call-and-response nature.
A couple songs are… not ambient, but certainly downtempo. Track six features a relaxed flowing drum beat over a wind instrument and some almost-indistinct voices hidden in the back of the mix. Track eight is almost a drone track, featuring a sustained stringed note throughout its almost entire minute and a half that reeks of psychedelia. These breaks serve the atmosphere well by emphasizing the exotica (not necessarily “exotic”) that characterized many of the Hong Kong Express releases. They also provide a foil to the synthesizer music that makes up many of the ambient portions of Hong Kong Express albums (and those of HKE, the successor project to Hong Kong Express).
Bootleg, parody, or clever utilization of classic-style vaporwave in a whole ‘nother locale, रोमांटिक सपना is a great subversion and celebration of the tropes that Hong Kong Express established within vaporwave. The TKX Vault experience is not complete without it.
1. रात का लेडी – (3:04)2
2. भावुक मुठभेड़ – (2:32)3
3. शराबी स्पर्श – (1:08)4
4. यहाँ मेरे साथ नृत्य करें – (2:36)5
5. निषिद्ध प्यार – (2:46)6
6. हमारा गुप्त स्थान – (2:16)7
7. पारिवारिक मामले – (2:54)8
8. मुझे मत छोड़ो जैसे तुम जाओ – (1:26)9
9. समाप्त – (0:30)10
1Hindi translation: “Romantic dream”
2Hindi translation: “Night lady”
3Hindi translation: “Passionate encounter”
4Hindi translation: “Fluffy touch”
5Hindi translation: “Dance with me here”
6Hindi translation: “Forbidden love”
7Hindi translation: “Our secret place”
8Hindi translation: “Family affairs”
9Hindi translation: “Do not leave me as you go”
10Hindi translation: “Finish”