In a recent liberal hit piece, fashwave was called “the suicidal retro-futurist art of the alt-right.” We are warned that this fringe art movement is proselytizing young people into a racist movement full of “hate.” The article presents the fashwave phenomenon as another mischievous creation of the far-Right, hijacking a popular genre, vaporwave, for its political aims. As Jack Smith writes, “vaporwave is set up perfectly for a right-wing heist, just as the far right has stolen leftist youth culture for decades, from Hitler to heavy metal.”
As if the only type of art we will ever have comes from the Left.
It is only natural for popular art to filter into all forms of intellectual discourse. And when chan culture, ruled by an order of isolated and socially inept young people, creates memes and clashes with the normie class, one such result is fashwave.
But a better understanding of fashwave should not come from why and what makes it popular, but where all this original art is coming from.
Vaporwave is one of the most significant and influential artistic movements of the last decade. You’ve seen memes where “A E S E T H I C” is spelled out as if written by a Japanese person. And you might have seen Greek busts of Helios and bubblegum pink tiles too. It’s all a function of the outsize influence of a “micro-genre” of music: vaporwave.
Music genres propagate and ramify like internet memes. But such micro-genres as seapunk, chillwave, witch house, and cloud rap all come from one original source, and that is vaporwave.
Vaporwave is a genre of electronic music that pays tribute to the music of the 1980s, 1990s, and earlier decades of nostalgic-tech and media.
Smith declares that fashwave is problematic for the globalist project: “Vaporwave and fashwave both play in the ruins of modern consumerism. And both genres force us to consider how much we have lost so quickly.”
Why is there such an End-of-the-World slant to vaporwave?
The first ever vaporwave release was Daniel Lopatin’s Chuck Pearson’s Eccojams Vol. 1. This was a humorous release of cut-up or “plunderphonic” samples of cheesy pop songs. “Ecco” was a reference to the Sega Genesis game of the same name (many millennials grew up playing the game or knowing about it).
Lopatin’s ethnic background is Russian and Jewish. He cites Deleuze, DeLanda, and Heidegger as philosophical influences. Typical of his postmodern upbringing, often Lopatin creates avant-garde, “guggenheim” style of electronic music under the name Oneohtrix Point Never. Eccojams has since became an early magnum opus in his career and in vaporwave. As Lopatin has stated in an interview:
“I remember reading this great philosopher named Julia Kristeva, a French feminist philosopher, and she says — generally, she says a lot of amazing things — but in this essay called “Powers of Horror” she talks about the abject things that come out that we have desire to see. So the things that we try to contain within us is like this pre-semiotic reality and society is the way we want to present ourselves. Like, we wear clothes, and things are not coming out, there’s no excrement or whatever.”
Lopatin feels a certain attitude of deracination towards everything (a term of praise for a postmodern philosopher). It is very common in the vaporwave genre to express feelings of consumer nihilism. And often this flirtation with so-called cutting-edge postmodern philosophy makes everything more pretentious.
Another important release to come out of the vaporwave canon was Mactintosh Plus’s Floral Shoppe. Its iconic album art, featuring that Greek bust, has become staple for all jokes about vaporwave. It was also the primary influence on the emergence of fashwave.
However, the album’s creator goes by the name “Ramona Andra Xavier,” a non-cisgendered person of color. Xavier was also in email contact with Lopatin, making this social connection all too conspiratorial.
In a popular YouTube documentary about the history of vaporwave, the narrator, Wolfenstien OS X, defines the fall of vaporwave after the adoption of the Floral Shoppe consumer ideology it promoted (6:40):
“This ideal for the genre continue to dominate the tone of most vaporwave releases… This gave the genre a bad rap as it seemed to be stagnant in its development and was doomed to be an awkward phase of music, which was shallow in meaning and production quality. Eventually most releases were horribly put together messes just to undermine the true essence of what of the genre was about.”
Traditionally, vaporwave was “hyponagogic,” meaning that the music was to evoke a dreamlike state and certain feelings of nostalgia in the listener. This is why often vaporwave releases are slowed-down versions popular songs, creating an otherworldly muzak. The genre took other names like “mall-soft,” or the rave style of “hardvapour.” This is what retro-wave music also does, as it feeds into nostalgia for 1980s synthpop.
It is very popular for vaporwave to be exclusively released on cassette tapes. Bandcamp.com has outsourced the entire genre through their website. Cassette runs are often limited to 30-60 copies and fetch high prices on Discogs and Ebay. Vaporwave dared to challenge the market of cassette culture by creating a genre of music that resembles nostalgic artifacts. Rather, as Wolfenstein OS X explains, it is “post-music,” and the genre is not to be casually listened to like “music,” but to be enjoyed for the fact of its own existence. Popular vaporwave cassettes are judged and sold on the fact that it gives the listener feelings of escapism.
There is even an essential guide to vaporwave, which is a good introduction to the genre. Not all of the music is good. In fact, most of it is bad. There are probably two or three albums you will admire from the list. I strongly believe the purpose of this guide and Wolfenstein OS X’s vaporwave documentary was to sell more cassettes from the Dream Catalogue label.
I believe that vaporwave is inherently reactionary, because it is nostalgic. But there is also something decadent about vaporwave. Music is being solely created as pretty pieces of artwork. Everything is alienated, and nothing meaningful is being established. Postmodern philosophy is running rampant, while SWPL hipsters use its logic to justify the genre. And ever since Eccojams, this formula has been regurgitating in the Bandcamp marketplace. It is an anonymous 4chan culture of “post-music” that has no greater meaning. This is the globalist agenda of vaporwave. It only wants you to buy more cassettes from Bandcamp while pretending you are an expert on Deleuze.
The genre of vaporwave has become a tool for chan culture, and thus it was only natural for The Daily Stormer trolls to take advantage of it. Thus, fashwave was created to instill meaning back into the vaporwave movement.
Fashwave’s most important acts are Xurious and Cybernazi. Both Xurious and Cybernazi typically create retro-futuristic, italo-disco-style music that differs from the hypnogogic style of releases of Eccojams and Floral Shoppe.
Xurious has played at NPI and conceives his target audience as the Alt Right. Cybernazi does the same thing, but remains anonymous over the internet. Fashwave is stuck in the Right-wing ghetto, as it became solely a vaporwave “cultural appropriation” for the Alt Right. I understand Right-wing genres of music can embrace everyone from Death In June and Peste Noire to Taylor Swift. The similarity is that these acts all openly or implicitly touch upon our people and our interests.
Since most of the Alt Right movement listens to Xurious, Cybernazi, and horrible “Weird Al” Yankovic neo-nazi dubs of pop songs, it’s a mistake to think fashwave is an up and coming music genre. It will soon die in its right-wing ghetto, until a new popular music genre will appear. And then the far-Right will appropriate that new genre for its audience, leading to another liberal hit piece.
But fashwave is just too good to confine itself to the Right-wing ghetto. To make a real impact on the culture, fashwave must adopt a “today the Alt Right, tomorrow the world” ethos. We have to make fashwave global.
The way forward has been blazed by Blank Banshee. If there is one major vaporwave act that is influencing music today that a healthy Right-wing person could like, my suggestion is Blank Banshee.
Blank Banshee is targeting inner-city hipsters and a majority of people who are just discovering vaporwave. Blank Banshee, or Patrick Driscoll, is an authoritative figure of post-vaporwave. Oneohtrix Point Never is too busy creating globalist friendly artsy music, and Vektroid is too arrogant, chasing after “scene” credibility.
Blank Banshee came into the genre as the first “vapor trap” act. That is a mix between vaporwave and trap music. His debut album, 0, was a viral meme and snowballed the success of his music career.
But perhaps Blank Banshee’s most loved album is 1, his second album. On the album, “Ecozones” is a tribute to Donkey Kong Country’s Aquatic Ambience. “Anxiety Online,” “LSD Polyphony,” “Big Gulp,” and “Cyber Slums” are some of the best vaporwave dance songs ever released. But tracks like “Doldrum Corp,” “Realization,” and “Paradise Disc,” bring about a certain aesthetic dream vision, more than what fashwave has tried to impose. What makes this album stand out are the CGI visuals that accompany the songs during live performance. It is very difficult for any artist to create such a Gesamtkunstwerk.
It is assumed that Blank Banshee created all the visuals to go along with the release. He is also said to have released some CD-Rs in the Chinese black market (this might be a joke). He shares a penchant for anonymity with another electronic act, Boards of Canada. Boards of Canada is known for avoiding all interviews and giving little information about their releases, yet they have a giant fan base, including a Fox News reporter. Blank Banshee wears a mask like Death in June and hides from all public interviews. His live performances include a giant movie projector of his animations, as he triggers samples from his MPC controller. His music ranges from sample snippets of video games to anime, from Super Mario 64to Akira, with lush and atmospheric hip-hop beats and textures. It supersedes the boring mall muzak of Eccojams and approaches a new form of pop music that truly envisions a new future.
Blank Banshee has released all of his albums on cassette, which quickly sold out during the Christmas season of 2017. His debut 2017 tour was very promising as it was the first major “vaporwave” act to tour the United States and Canada.
Blank Banshee does not align his music with any political ideology and is quite playful with his art. It is hard to admire something that is egalitarian and Marxist or the creeping postmodern message that is trying to latch onto vaporwave. But listening to fashwave, just because it is “fashy,” is stubborn and self-defeating.
At its core, the vaporwave genre nostalgically admires the past: VHS tapes, electronic synthesizers, retro-futuristic cars, vector grids, vintage arcade games, bad consumer products, Japanese culture, etc. Subverting it with fascist imagery is not enough. Death in June is a master at this collage art. Let’s just leave it to him.
Vaporwave is the music of the future. If vaporwave is inherently reactionary, nostalgic, and retro-futurist, it is already Right-wing. The whole thing is Right-wing. Not just the fashwave secession. What I would like to see is a critical discourse that accompanies and interprets the vaporwave genre as an essentially anti-liberal art form sprung from a sincere longing for the future we were promised but denied, without cutting itself on edgy National Socialist and Evola memes. Sure, people will try to trot out Capitalism and Schizophrenia, but it’s up to us to call out such errors in thinking. It is up to us to construct a dominant anti-liberal paradigm to eventually turn vaporwave discourse, and the music itself, against the globalist nihilism and transhumanist philosophy of Eccojams and Floral Shoppe.
Fashwave is dead! Long live fashwave!