Skeleton is the eponymous debut of New York City electronic music producer 骨架的 (English: Skeleton). Along with James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual, Daniel Lopatin’s1 Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1, and 骨架的’s sophomore release Holograms,2 Skeleton anticipated and influenced the nascent genre of vaporwave. This loosely-defined “proto-vaporwave” subgenre incorporates layered, drawn-out samples of New Age, smooth jazz, and mall muzak in order to celebrate the aesthetics of 90s computer culture and globalization while commenting upon the decade’s excess. 骨架的’s cryptonym3 foresaw the usage of East Asian languages in vaporwave releases, if it is not the first notable4 example within the genre.
At ten tracks in nineteen minutes – only two pass the two-minute mark – Skeleton is an extremely short release, which is somewhat fitting with regards to the ephemeral cultural era that vaporwave seeks to recall. The conscious decision to utilize such short track lengths is simultaneously frustrating as all hell and ingenious: the fifty-five-second “Sunset” and forty-eight-second “Baby” are so short as to be forgettable and flirt with blandness – but again, that’s half the point. Like many of 骨架的’s releases, Skeleton is topically dark: there is little irony or kitsch, and most tracks sound like reject demos from a Vangelis soundtrack – especially “Glowing.” 骨架的 forsakes beat on Skeleton in favor of a highly ambient, occasionally noise-influenced approach. Many early vaporwave releases contained an underlying concept of faux-utopianism5 via hyper-processed, chopped and screwed samples of ultra-saccharine smooth jazz, R&B, and New Age, but 骨架的 laid motives bare by wringing samples to excess.
In terms of sheer listening value, Skeletons falls by the wayside – leave that to Holograms; but in theory and concept, Skeleton is an essential listen for those interested in the critical dogma of vaporwave, whereby retrofuturism serves as commentary on global hyperconnectivity and capitalism.
1. Microwave – (1:47) – ★★★★★
2. Sunset – (0:55) – ★★★★☆
3. Sewer – (3:16) – ★★★★☆
4. Skeleton – (4:54) – ★★★★★
5. Baby – (0:48) – ★★★☆☆
6. Melting – (0:54) – ★★★★☆
7. Cold – (1:43) – ★★☆☆☆
8. Glowing – (2:13) – ★★★★★
9. Foam – (1:38) – ★★★★☆
10. Orange – (1:02) – ★★★★☆
[UPDATE 8 February 2016: Changed the overall rating from three-and-a-half stars to four stars.]
1Most widely known as the creative force behind Oneohtrix Point Never, an electronic/ghost pop project that utilizes aesthetics similar to the ethereal, faux-utopian vibe of darker vaporwave – especially on Replica.
2As compiled by 4chan’s /mu/ board, which is a fantastic – albeit offbeat – resource for the minutiae of music information and cultural history. Check out the easily digestible Guide to Vaporwave Sub-Genres at http://i.imgur.com/K78sYq3.jpg, or dive into the deep end with the Vaporwave Essentials: Ultimate Edition at http://www.pictureshack.us/images/97480_Untitled-8_copy.jpg.
3I did not make this word up. See one of my favorite Wikipedia pages, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-onym.
5So much so that “faux-utopia” may be considered a subgenre of vaporwave. See the first link in footnote two.