MIDSTYLE – WITHIN
Type: Full-length (LP)
Release date: 30 November 2017
Label: Online Records
- Digital download (Online Records, 2017)
From its founding in fall 2016, Online Records was primarily known for highly experimental works in vaporwave that were heavily influenced by tape music, sound collage, and musique concrète. Works like U N T I T L E D by email@example.com and Our Children’s Future by Painter pushed long-form vaporwave art to an extent that surpassed even the extraordinary experiments released through the now-defunct Acid Medical label, often incorporating extremely lo-fi production that gave music a “live in-studio” feeling. The label certainly had released comparatively conservative vaporwave albums – e.g. Loss Suite by Reef Frequent – but its focus was certainly on pushing the genre’s boundaries as far as they could go.
WITHIN by MIDSTYLE was one of several albums released starting in mid-2016 that injected old-school vaporwave into Online Records’ discography. Conceived as an hour-long release in thirteen tracks, WITHIN is best defined as a survey of classic vaporwave subgenres, especially those popular in 2012 and 2013. The album’s thirteen tracks cycle through ECCOJAMS, hypnagogic drift, classic-style vaporwave, and ambient vaporwave, with each track changing up the previous one’s tropes while retaining the old line milieu. The track titles are meta and on-the-nose interpretations of early vaporwave song titles, where many tracks would be in all caps (e.g. INTERNET CLUB), no caps (e.g. fuji grid tv), or alternating between the two (e.g. General Translator).
The production offers substantial dynamic range compared to the vast majority of early vaporwave releases, especially in the subgenre of classic-style vaporwave. Although purists might consider that a fault (with the lo-fi/brickwalled aesthetic of vaporwave being a prominent part of its decrepitude), it facilitates the goal of MIDSTYLE, which is to provide windows into different aspects of vaporwave subgenres. Quiet ambient vaporwave akin to Amun Dragoon can only be properly represented if it is quiet ambient vaporwave, which is demonstrated by “AMBIENT DEATH ON LOCATION”. Similarly, the twisted, semi-slushwave ECCOJAMS of “PowerDynamics” incorporates significant panning along with volume changes, which makes the follow-up pure-slushwave “RADIOSIGNAL” stronger by juxtaposition. In this sense, WITHIN is not only aptly produced but aptly sequenced, whereby each track logically follows the rest and ends up stronger than if the release were played on shuffle.
Each of the songs on WITHIN could have its own write-up describing their influences, their sound, and their place in context of old-school vaporwave aesthetics – but that would be somewhat missing the point of the album. WITHIN is exceptionally unironic in its straightforward depiction of the early scene, almost sounding a bit like a love letter to simple times and simple music where exploring each new sound in the context of vaporwave felt like an exciting experiment in sound. It is recommended both for fans of old-school vaporwave and as a solid addition to the Online Records discography.
1. METADATA – (7:19)
2. MY EVERYTHING – (2:03)
3. medication – (3:07)
4. i will get to you – (3:54)
5. DEDICATED TO – (4:28)
6. AMBIENT DEATH ON LOCATION – (3:09)
7. PowerDynamics – (6:13)
8. RADIOSIGNAL – (5:33)
9. dreaming – (7:48)
10. BEFORE WE GOT HERE – (3:16)
11. pressure and distance – (6:22)
12. Replacement – (3:01)
13. GONE IN BODY, HERE IN SPIRIT – (2:05)