Sunday, March 12, 2017

猫 シ Corp's Vaporwave, Mallsoft: Nostalgia for a pre-9/11 World

Having read, The Mall, Nostalgia, and the Loss of Innocence: An Interview With 猫 シ Corp., what's most fascinating for me is an exploration of the reason for using a sound that's so reminiscent of the 1980s/1990s - and how that connects more broadly to western music's obsession with those decades:
"[猫 シ Corp'] cryptically tells us [his work] provides “an image of a (past) world that we love to escape to because our old world died in 2001.” 
"[...], it becomes much clearer when we consider another recent album—NEWS AT 11—and realize  that his records share in the same intriguing worldview, one which partly involves blocking out the troubling turn world history took after a certain catastrophic event.  As hinted at by the album’s release on September 11, 2016, this event was the 9/11 terrorist attack, which the producer confirms “was indeed the subtle, but yet very obvious, theme of the album.” He explains, “When the Twin Towers were hit on that day in September the old world died. It’s like the whole planet suddenly opened up and changed, [and] not for the better. Gone were the peaceful days.” 
“Vaporwave relies heavily on 80’s consumerism, fashion, stylish malls with palm trees and late night drives on neon lit streets,” since these tropes help artists such as himself — and perhaps society as a whole — to deny that history has branched off in the way it actually has, and to act as if things have continued as their nostalgia reconstructs it.
[...]  it’s the memory of simpler and more innocent times that plays a big part here in 猫 シ Corp.’s artistic vision. He also thinks it plays a big part in the vision that drives much vaporwave, describing the genre as “a glorification of a past that never was."

This really strikes at why I think so much music and culture of the past decade has been so focused on the "long 80s" (~1979-1992), and the visual trappings of it: the world changed with the advent of faster internet and culturally as we became less monolithic as a society.  猫 シ Corp argues that these changes were held in check until 9/11 forced the whole world to awaken from the mindset it once held. 

There's a difference between what the 1980s/90s are, and what we feel they were: With a limited amount of media outlets in that era, the mindless consumerism pushed by advertising and the (western) idea of infinite wealth/prosperity was an easier sell than it is today. However, what makes it our generations "Golden Age" for cultural reference and longing is that it was the mid-point before the perceived change and decline: in some ways, there was a sense of comfort in these monolithic symbols of the era. A sense of a shared culture that doesn't exist in the west any longer.

It took reading the article about CORP for me to realize that we idolize the 80s/90s for the same reasons past generations referred to other eras 20-30 years before their own. It's a cyclical pattern it seems to idolize a bygone era - not unlike the "Pepperidge Farm Remembers" commercial that Family Guy parodied - be it the turn of the century during the 1920's, or the post-war era during the 1980's themselves: on a subconscious level, we always look backward - in our own lives and from a larger societal point of view. Perhaps out of fear or anxiety, but also because we take comfort from the trappings of our recent past. 
In memory, the hazy glow is set and understood in a way the future never can be. 

There will always music and culture that pushes forward toward new horizons, but I feel there will always be reminders of what was because of the comfort and happiness they provide. Nostalga, saudade, or hiraeth: a longing for a past that never actually was.

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