チェスマスター – 夢に生きます

Chessmaster - We Will Live in a Dream

Japanese electronic music producer チェスマスター (English: Chessmaster) is a recent phenomenon in the 90s-nostalgia subculture. As a member of Dream Catalogue, one of the premiere vaporwave labels, チェスマスター released five albums starting in March 2014. 夢に生きます (English: We Will Live in a Dream) is チェスマスター’s sixth release and first for Tokyo Exchange. The album is appropriately divided into twelve “dreams;” the titles follow the letter of the alphabet from “A” through “K.”

チェスマスター’s modus operandi is the earworm: each song is little more than a microsample that lasts three or four seconds and is constantly looped through the entire song. Through the aural equivalent of semantic saturation, such repetition makes each snippet simultaneously catchy and devoid of context. The microsamples heavily processed like an overuse of the “blur” tool on Photoshop, enhancing 夢に生きます‘s dreamlike atmosphere. Almost all tracks are absent of vocals, and the two that feature them – “Dream C” and “Dream K” – utilize no more than brief spoken fragments.

夢に生きます exhibits the surreal atmosphere manifested in Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica, which sampled television commercials and soundtracks from the early 80s; the beat-less, ethereal “Dream B” has much in common with Replica‘s “Submersible.” John Coxworth (a.k.a. zorgitron), a patron of Tokyo Exchange, described 夢に生きます as embodying the “eerie comfort of falling asleep in front of a loud television,”1 which aptly describes the staticky2 hypnagogia that permeates each track. 夢に生きます is imagination as corrupted by broadcast interference.

While James Ferraro, ECO VIRTUAL, and Blank Banshee celebrate (as well as criticize the excesses of) computer culture through nostalgia and parody, 夢に生きます paints an abject outlook on futurism that eschews light-heartedness for a portent commonly seen in ghost pop. 夢に生きます is downright sinister at points, as seen in the extremely dissonant “Dream G” and cacophonous “Dream I.” Songs are short (with the exceptions of “Dream I” and “Dream K”), but the microsamples are repeated just long enough to become vaguely menacing. 夢に生きます is a somewhat challenging release (as far as the vaporwave genre goes), which makes it all the more excellent.

1. Dream A – (2:00) – ★★★★★
2. Dream B – (3:22) – ★★★★☆
3. Dream C – (2:11) – ★★★★☆
4. Dream D – (2:29) – ★★★★★
5. Dream E – (2:55) – ★★★★☆
6. Dream F – (3:38) – ★★★★★
7. Dream G – (1:40) – ★★★★☆
8. Dream H – (0:42) – ★★★☆☆
9. Dream I – (5:17) – ★★★☆☆
10. Dream J – (2:08) – ★★★★★
11. Dream K – (2:47) – ★★★★★
12. Dream L – (9:38) – ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★☆

1“zorgitron’s collection | Bandcamp,” Bandcamp, accessed 11 October 2015, https://bandcamp.com/zorgitron
2The French word for “static” is “parasite,” from the same root as the identical English word. That’s kind of etymologically cool.

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