DIY▲PYЯΛMID – ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘
Album: ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘
Type: Full-length (LP)
Release date: 13 August 2013
Label: Ailanthus Recordings
- Digital download (Ailanthus Recordings, 2013)
By 2013, the scene was becoming saturated with sample curation and classic-style vaporwave that was – rightly or wrongly – accused of being derivative and of having little to offer other than slowed-down samples of old music. Vaporwave was no longer the purvey of image boards and the digital equivalent of tape-trading: sites like Bandcamp and Tiny Mix Tapes began covering vaporwave artists. For many in the scene, it was that moment of seeing whether or not vaporwave was a real genre open to experimentation or a meme bust – but even this dichotomy wasn’t universally recognized. Artists like HKE, telepath, and chris††† were just getting their start, and HKE stated upon founding Dream Catalogue in the beginning of 2014 that vaporwave was one of the most exciting and open-to-experimentation genres that he had ever experienced. Amun Dragoon, Infinity Frequencies, and Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza all released landmark albums, but vaporwave still had tension between those who questioned whether the genre was dead and those who didn’t think there was any need to ask such a question.
This was a strange period for vaporwave, and it gave rise to an impassioned group of highly meta releases. These albums sought to examine vaporwave’s place in context not only of its increasing popularity but as it related to the community and producers. Despite fears and accusations of stagnancy, this transition period1 became one of the most creatively and thematically diverse period in the genre’s history. The term “post-vaporwave” was floated by artists and the still-limited press, and it was applied to artists as diverse as waterfront dining, wosX (then Wolfenstein OS X), and Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza. The “post-” dogma became the particular interest of DIY▲PYЯΛMID, a Portlandian artist from the same area as Vektroid who released several albums between 2013 and 2015, placing them square in the center of the genre’s biggest turning points.
DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s career began at the start of 2013 with a mix of vaporwave and drone music called “vapordrone”, an underground style even by contemporary vaporwave standards. January’s §ychic❖Pha§e§ was recorded and mixed “in a three day period without food and with heavy meditation” to elicit a “psychic phase of [a] voyage”, featuring “crystallized drones” and “purifying soft synths”.2 This was followed-up a month later with Yoga – the “holistic phase” of the voyage.3 June’s Silver♂♀Babies was DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s debut for the Ailanthus Recordings label, a Pennsylvania label that released a variety of influential vaporwave works like NTSC Memories by Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza and III by luxury elite. It was three hours and fifteen minutes of “environmental head drones and metallic landscapes”.4
For their fourth album and second on Ailanthus, DIY▲PYЯΛMID changed up the format entirely with the release of ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘ – that’s “post-photoshop” – which tackled the dichotomous nature of vaporwave’s transitory nature head-on. Coinciding with the album’s release, DIY▲PYЯΛMID wrote an essay5 stating that “we are living in a time of posts” where everything seems to be “after” everything else, and that the “ever-increasing pace” of information transfer makes it difficult, if not impossible, for one to make sense of their surroundings. DIY▲PYЯΛMID acknowledges that in a “post-” world based on “personaliz[ing] one’s interests”, “recycling the past and reforming into another angle was all that was left to do”, which perfectly applied to the philosophical and creative foundations of vaporwave at-large. The album artwork is a redux of “Liquid Crystal” by Jennifer Mehigan, showing what appears to be organelles pasted onto a DVD-R to display DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s perspective on “likes and […] shares” per an individual “gene” of the cultural meme.
With music like a “decomposed jpeg”, ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘ is DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s shortest work at nine tracks and thirty-one minutes. DIY▲PYЯΛMID completely forsook their earlier drone leanings for a mix of classic-style vaporwave and vapornoise, predating Virtual Campus™ by Universitat de Barcelona by four months. Many of the samples and ideas utilized were directly inspired by DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s interactions with other artists through the Facebook platform, and tracks like “p r i v a c y f o l d e r” and “e n c r y p t i o n” reference data mining and surveillance that speaks to DIY▲PYЯΛMID’s simultaneous fascination with and skepticism toward the ubiquity of data in social media. Airy synthesizers appear on “s i r i u s” and “e x p l o r e r r 0) r”, recalling Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica. Songs incorporate the ever-present slowed-down samples that are synonymous with classic-style vaporwave but with substantial static, glitch, and digital artifacts that speak to the specific digital nature of the album. “p a n t h e o n” specifically calls-out the community perception of memetic vaporwave being obsessed with Roman/Greek figures and iconography, with DIY▲PYЯΛMID admitting that they “don’t even understand [it], and that is [in] 2013”. DIY▲PYЯΛMID claims that the track “e x p l o r e r” was finished only six hours before the album’s release, adding a rare sense of temporality.
With its extraordinarily meta outlook on and disparate musical influences, ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘ is one of the best representative albums of vaporwave’s continuous state of transition. Perhaps there’s some truth to the idea that great works of art are born in periods of strife. ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘ isn’t “Guernica” – instead, it is a celebration of absurdities at a time where the only permanent thing was change. ℘ ◌ ṧ⊥➸℘♄ø⊥☮﹩ℌø℘ is an entrancing piece of chaos in a “world that the hyperreal has left behind”.
1. s i r i u s – (4:48)
2. e x p l o r e r r 0) r- (2:32)
3. p r i v a c y f o l d e r – (3:24)
4. i n s t a l l a t i o n – (3:58)
5. c o n n e c t – (2:00)
6. w e l c 0) m e u s e r – (2:48)
7. p a n t h e o n -(3:04)
8. e n c r y p t i o n – (3:10)
9. s e r i e s f i n a l e – (5:36)
1… which no shortage of producers saw as a make-or-break period for the genre, ironically a charge that’s been leveled at vaporwave every year since.
2Source is the Bandcamp page: https://diypyramid.bandcamp.com/album/p-ychic-pha-e
5Accessible with the album download through Ailanthus Recordings.