500 Word Review: Azuresands 大麻 “Inner Journey”

inner journey

A few weeks ago, versatile vaporwave artist, Azuresands 大麻, released his latest project, “Inner Journey”.  For those who might not be familiar with the prominent electronic composer, Azuresands 大麻 has established a reputation of being one of the most innovative artists in the genre’s fairly brief history.  With the release of varying projects that not only directly contrast one another in theme, aesthetic, sound, composition, and influence, but also push the limits of vaporwave itself by creating new subgenres and concepts only imaginable by Azuresands 大麻 himself, Azuresands 大麻 continues to impress the rest of the vaporwave community while simultaneously leaving them on the edge of their seats in anticipation with what he will release next.  That being said, it’s no surprise to see “Inner Journey” recognized as one of the most significant albums in the genre to be released this year.

For this project, Azuresands 大麻 is working alone to create an ambient, atmospheric album.  Despite his recent success with collaborative projects like “Compass Rose” and “American Truck Songs 8”, Azuresands 大麻 is returning to writing solo work, and being a huge fan of not just vaporwave, but Azuresands 大麻 specifically, I was very excited to see how the accomplished artist would approach the album as far as composition goes.

For starters, I really enjoyed the diversity of this project. Every single song is distinct and can be recognized within the first few seconds of its playing time.  For example, in the first few measures of the project “Inner Journey” itself, an ominous, nearly inaudible bass is the foundation of a space, and of course, meditation themed ambient track, as the album slowly fades in, making this first track, “Waveswell”, instantly significant and recognizable. From here, the prominent project by Azuresands 大麻 will quickly change and transform as each track takes on a different sound, influence, and even persona, leaving the listener completely clueless as to what is about to come next.  In fact, the sound of the album constantly jumps around from the more traditional ambient vaporwave sound, to multi-layered synths and soundscapes in the form of atmospheric tracks, to even tracks that feature just percussion or vocal samples, which results in a fairly interesting project.  However, while this is fascinating to say the least, I believe that if Azuresands 大麻 narrowed down the core sound of the album itself and shortened the project to only feature the most memorable and well composed tracks heard, the entire project would strengthen as a whole, easily making “Inner Journey” one of the best vaporwave releases of the year.  What is consistent, however, is the integration of prominent altered samples featuring edited tempos and pitch changes, heavy use of reverb, often heard soundscapes that are a staple for this project, and the slight addition of echo effects that give these songs the distinct vaporwave sound and influence.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the spoken samples, like those heard on “Tacoshimi” and “Bummerman”.  The overwhelmingly loud samples distract the listener from the superb instrumental tracks through the use of slow, nonsensical ramblings that the album really does not need to be successful.  However, where these songs fail, tracks like “Heartglow” easily exemplify excellence and redeem the previous, underachieving songs.  After “Tacoshimi” finally comes to a close, “Heartglow” enters with utterly captivating and mesmerizing internationally influenced instrumental tracks.  This use of complex composition combined with inspiration from South American culture and music creates an overall sound that is not only catchy but also unlike anything I’ve ever heard in vaporwave before.  Intricate layering of numerous percussion instruments to the point where it sounds like an entire village is recording the track live in one take with simple, unique instruments makes “Heartglow” one of the most memorable Azuresands 大麻 songs in his discography.

Overall, this is definitely a must listen to Azuresands 大麻 project.  While it’s unlike any of his recent material, his experimentation with ambient vaporwave, while also adding in aspects unique to his personal sound, results in a very solid release.  With a track list featuring everything from songs that are unique compared to one another and sound nothing like their album counterparts to a heavy layering of soundscapes, synths, and the occasional light and pleasant arpeggiator heard from the first few measures of “Waveswell” until the last few moment of “Charismaring”, it’s clear that every prominent aspect heard works together collectively to truly make this a relaxing and interesting album.  I will say that the sound quality is pretty low on this project (and not because I listened to the album primarily on cassette tape) compared to my favorite vaporwave releases.  Although, after seeing the aesthetic on the album cover, the muddy recording that features a lack of clarity in sound quality seems to fit the overall theme of the project and doesn’t deteriorate my overall enjoyment of the release.  I give “Inner Journey” an 8.1/10 and highly suggest you listen to the tracks “Waveswell”, “Brookwhisperer”, “Halo Cubed”, “Heartglow”, “Barkcloth Tapestry”, “Many Hands of Fate”, “WishWash”, and “Wholeing”, as these make up the vast majority of the highlights heard throughout the album.  Also, be sure to pick up a copy of “Inner Journey” on cassette (seen below), especially since the tracks “Heartglow”, Osmosis”, “A Dusty Vhial”, and “Many Hands of Fate” have only been released on the cassette format and cannot be heard anywhere else!  Listen to the digital version of the Azuresands 大麻 record below, pick up a copy on cassette, and stay tuned for more vaporwave reviews out soon!

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“Inner Journey” cassette:

https://azuresands.bandcamp.com/album/inner-journey

“Inner Journey”:

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Breaking News: Business Casual Announces BIZBOX 5

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Yesterday, one of the most successful record labels in vaporwave, Business Casual, announced that they will be releasing the next installment to their bi-monthly cassette box set release, BIZBOX, this Friday.  In the past, the previous 4 BIZBOX’s included 1-3 known items and at least 1 mystery item was also included.  However, for BIZBOX 5, it appears that this will be the first BIZBOX package without a mystery release.  The reason for this is because the albums featured in March’s BIZBOX package are extremely important.  The next installment will include releases from the notable Youtube artist, FrankJavCee.

If you follow Anthony Fantano’s, “Theneedledrop”, or any prominent figures in the vaporwave community, then I can almost guarantee you’ve heard of Frank and his music.  FrankJavCee focuses more on the comedic aspect of vaporwave, the aesthetic involved in vaporwave and its art and community, and also in meme and internet culture, and this approach to his social media presence directly correlates to his music.  Actually being a very skilled producer and songwriter, FrankJavCee has seen widespread positive feedback for his two most prominent projects “FrankJavCee Collection, Vol. 1” and “FrankJavCee Volume 2”, and now they are both being released on cassette this Friday through the already historic label, Business Casual.

I can guarantee that these tapes will sell ridiculously fast, and I for one will be sure to snag a copy the minute they are released.  Having already picked up BIZBOX 3 and 4 and really enjoying the products I received in the packages, I definitely plan on picking up copies of future BIZBOX releases, and you should too!  Check out Frank’s latest successful album, “FrankJavCee Volume 2”, below through its stream on bandcamp and view the announcement of BIZBOX 5 “Frank”!  Also, if you would like to pick up a copy of the new Business Casual release, you can do so here this Friday.

 

500 Word Review: Blank Banshee “MEGA”

blank-banshee-mega

Recently, vaporwave and experimental electronic artist, Blank Banshee, released his latest album titled “MEGA”.  “MEGA” features a recognizable vaporwave sound that is common througout the fairly new genre, but also has numerous aspects that separate Blank Banshee and his material from anyone else in vaporwave and in the process show the growth in the genre over the last few years.  Personally, I was not too familiar with vaporwave as a genre before this review and actually knew nothing about Blank Banshee himself, so I thought this would be a interesting album to review since I did not have a previous background in either the artist or the genre they write in.

Despite not knowing much about Blank Banshee himself, it was very apparent within the first few tracks that his sound was one that heavily relied on the use of reverb.  Throughout the entire release the high quality production is constantly accompanied by a heavy use of reverb, which enhances the sound and style that Blank Banshee himself is trying to achieve.  However, the use of reverb isn’t the only prominent tool used to capture this desired sound heard on “MEGA”.  The frequent use of soundscapes (that at numerous times even creates an atmospheric vaporwave sound), trap influenced beats, and various altered samples helps encompass the ultimate sound of this project.

In my opinion the strongest feature of Blank Banshee’s unique sound is the numerous soundscapes heard in tracks like “Frozen Flame” and “EXOS”.  These almost entirely soundscape based songs, mixed in with reverb and even some panning like that heard on the more hip-hop influenced “Sandclock”, help show how multi-dimensional “MEGA” is and in return prove that vaporwave as a genre is beginning to evolve and diverge into different subgenres.  These soundscapes and synth pads, created using various pan flutes, string and wind instruments, and other software-generated sounds only help to compliment the trap-like beats heard on virtually every song.  Along with this, the bright yet simplistic album artwork helps to visually describe this sound while fitting the vaporwave aesthetic.

When listening to “MEGA” the use of experimentation is also extremely obvious.  Fitting the style of the genre itself, “MEGA” constantly jumps from section to section, never staying on one riff or part for too long.  The short length in tracks (the longest track on the record is only 2:37) allows for these brief compositions to flow easily from one track to another.  Despite experimentation, there are only a few moments where the record is rough sounding and not melodic.  Usually heard at the beginning of the release, these seemingly unpleasant sections and samples are slightly distracting, but do not last long and ultimately have a small, yet significant negative impact on the release.  Most of the album is actually very relaxed and slow in tempo except for the track “My Machine”, which sounds like a modern version of a notable earlier The Prodigy release.  However, during the melodic moments, this experimental electronic sound pays off and helps incorporate the vaporwave sound in a refreshing style.

In summation, I give “MEGA” by Blank Banshee an 8.3/10.  If you’re new to vaporwave like myself I definitely suggest starting here with this album.  Its high quality production and mix of classic vaporwave influence with modern sounding beats and instrumentals helps bridge the gap between an electronic music fan and a long time vaporwave fan.  Listen to the full album below and if you enjoy it make sure to pick up a copy off Blank Banshee’s bandcamp page!

 

Download “MEGA” here:

https://blankbanshee.bandcamp.com/album/mega