Lukewarm Takes (in Pairs): Alternative Neo-Internet Electronica
This is a companion article, meant to go hand-in-hand with a video posted on my YouTube channel. Said video can be found at the end of this article, in the form of both an internal embedded video player and an external YouTube link. Thank you, sit back, and fall deep into the network!
The internet is a vast network of communication, art, and small little civilizations that, in the past 30 years, has evolved from a box on some dude's desk that let him send faxes easier, into a spider's web that powers the very society we live in. People my age had the strange privilege to have grown up side-by-side with the internet. As we developed from drooling little masses of flesh and viscera into indescribable, cynical creatures fueled by alcohol and saturated fats, the internet made advances from the 5x5 inch screen by which you could be lied to by every major news media outlet, into the glaring 30x20 inch screen by which you are lied to by every major news media outlet and also have your reprehensible sexual fantasies fulfilled on a variety of websites.
Rejoice, however, for not everything the internet has produced in its lifetime has been some hyperbolic parody of the outside world's societal functions. Sometimes the cyber world having created a monopoly on our zeitgeist for the past couple of decades gives way to things you can't help but see the beauty in. My favorite example of which is, of course, this website. Cheers, bro!
Just kidding. I'm talking about something that people really haven't put a name on. It's the group of genres of art, be it audio, visual, or - if you really want to get wild - audiovisual, that comprises of Vaporwave and the surrounding families. Future funk, synthwave, seapunk, lo-fi, and all the branches of the branches of the branches. When you try to put a name on every possible flavor of ice cream at the parlor, you start needing more paper for your label maker. Is that a valid analogy?
The closest to an overarching description I could find is on Wikipedia. How convenient! Thanks, Wikipedia!
Loose description, indeed.
It's awesome, though, to see this complicated phenomenon taken seriously by an outlet like Wikipedia. It only makes sense that an encyclopedia born from the possibilities opened up by the internet should feature a modern art culture born from the same possibilities. My favorite thing about an artistic movement like this is that it exists purely in your perception. How you view these individual genres, styles, art pieces, is the only perspective that should matter to you! Art is always subjective; the more abstract, the more room for viewer interpretation. The idea that the trivialization of 1980's and 90's consumer culture and a glamorized neo-utopian lie that was relentlessly fed to the people too blissfully lost in their pop culture renaissance to care, means that viewer interpretation is essential to these aesthetics having any sort of meaning or value at all in 2020!
Do I sound pretentious enough yet? Is that the point? Who knows!? That's up to your interpretation, too! Woohoo, VHS filters! Grainy, high-pass, low-fidelity major-key notes slowed down so much that they're in minor-key! Jovial sounds of beach babes on the boardwalk as the sun bears down on the people of Daytona Beach, 1988! Sensation overload!
The phrase I came up with as a descriptive term for the movement that resulted in all these different music genres, art styles, and aesthetic pleasure is perhaps equally as pretentious: Alternative Neo-Internet Electronica.
Was this because I didn't know there was already an agreed-upon term for this art movement, as shown above? Or because my choice is clearly snappier, sounds more appropriate as a title, and more definitive? Both, of course.
In my YouTube video I discuss - in a poor diction and stunted voiceover work - the feelings and emotions that the music that falls under Alternative Neo-Internet Electronica tend to conjure up for me. Different scenarios, different moods, tones. Like scented candles. One future funk artist can smell different than another. No vaporwave producer smells the same. Sure, they smell similar. Like the quiet food court in an abandoned metro mall. But it's never the same scent. Never the same candle. Again, the strength of these genres is the power of individual comprehension.
I think this, among many other things, is what breathes life into a movement that treads the thin line between a parody of and a tribute of American postmodernism. That and the amazing creativity that injected so much more variety in what the movement paid respect toward. Things like anime, Imperialism, Japanese city pop, millennial existentialism and depression. Aspects that were relevant in some way to the themes already present in "Post-internet" art.
For so many years the cyber realm was a forum, a point of cultivation for subcultures, communities and interests that were already existent in the outside world. And to the art community, the mainstream media, and the average Joe Whatshisname, that was the express, functional purpose of the internet! For looking at pictures of Jennifer Connelly, or talking with other people about how wicked awesome Dave Grohl's guitar playing is on a community fansite called "Foo Forums".
And then at some point, as everything does, the attitudes became self-referential. It's human nature, probably. And the art space slowly grew to reflect this. This isn't meant to be some historical chronicling of events, I'm not smart or inspired enough for that. These are just words I'm forcing myself to write because otherwise I shame myself aggressively.
When I discovered Alternative Neo-Internet Electronica, I called it all "vaporwave". Not because I wanted to be ignorant, but because I could barely comprehend the implications of any kind of art movement that didn't happen 200 years ago. I was 18 and unhappy, and I worked in an office where nobody cared and the apathy was overwhelming and intrusive. My friends didn't understand or care, or take it seriously enough. I was in a constant state of self-doubt, wondering if these feelings were valid, or just coming from some kind of dramatic angst.
When you're 18, you can't even format a résumé correctly. How are you expected to comprehend a budding and previously unknown sense of existentialism? It's like a second puberty, almost. A much longer coming of age period, to be sure. In all of this, I found a sound that gave validation to all of these feelings. Themes deriving from millennial sentiments; aggravation at having been lied to by authority, the despair of wanting something more but lacking the capacity or broadened worldview to comprehend what "something more" means to you. That was the place I found myself in, endless and adrift in some kind of mild, unexplained and nonsensical despondency. And suddenly I had a voice for it, a soundtrack, an unspoken community.
It meant more to me in those times than I ever realized back then, more than I could put into words right now. Symbolized a kind of self-justification. It's something I'm eternally and indescribably thankful for.
My companion video almost comes off as me listing off all of the artists who made a significant impact on me during my initial wave of exploration into this art movement. It really is my way of paying a kind of tribute to the music and music videos that got me through those times. The music I'd put on when everyone else left the office for the day, and I'd be alone to find my own kind of solace in the environment and timeline I found myself in. The files, the folders, the mp3's tucked away in a special corner of my hard drive, like mementos you keep in a trunk in your closet. Mementos I'll carry with me for a long time. Spiritually, if not physically. Well, it's all virtual, so there's nothing really physical about it to begin with. I-it's a metaphor. Or an aesop, or a sentimentality. I don't know.
Everything about Alternative Neo-Internet Electronica, surface-level and beyond, is remarkably unique and praiseworthy in the vastly different ways these aesthetics can be captured and employed. And to even begin to dissect the purpose of this movement is a humbling task. Postmodern consumerism in its relations to existentialism shown through symbolism of television commercials, shopping malls, busy cities and bright, hypnotizing colors. Empowering and droning soundtracks that conjure all kinds of different pop culture imagery. Calm, relaxing tones meant to sooth your mind after a day of overstimulation, brought on by societal repetitions and the nagging thought that these repetitions might someday lead you all the way to oblivion.
As for how in the hell Fiji water factors into the aesthetic, you'll have to read some smarter person's article, because you'll get no answers from me. Only wistfulness.
Thank you very much for taking some time out of your day and reading some millennial trash. I mean, how can you be nostalgic for something four years ago? Who knows? All I know is that you, the mollusk, bothering to come to my website and take part in my creative endeavors is very meaningful to me. So, again, thanks! Below you'll find the embedded companion video, and the external link to view it on YouTube if you prefer. Have a Put It on My Bill day! Actually, don't, that would be a pretty bleak day.