A Blogpost on Post-Vaporwave in 2020

I feel like there is a whole imaginary genre of digital gothic which has become an integral part of how I see my own online activities; a made-up genre, practiced, I believe, by a large number of people, obsessed with the things we leave behind on the Web and their seemingly ghostly nature. An invented aesthetics clinically fixated with the digital debris we forget behind us, which will eventually come back to haunt us and which force us to ask ourselves “why is this here at all?”.

I exasperate the subjective nature of this genre because, while there are some objective examples of these sorts of aesthetics out there, I still believe that most of them are still user apophenia, our capacity to create patterns in our screens and then elaborate, a posteriori, a vision out of them. It is more a mode of listening, seeing and engineering, rather than an actual object unproblematically existing outside of ourselves and grounding our observations.

This distinction is important because it highlights our own pre-conscious and conscious weaving and molding of the cultural artifacts we encounter out there and frees the world from the burden of adhering to our own narrow categories. I find the idea (as hippie as it may sound) that the universe simply does not fit into our own ideal landscape calming and I believe that the analyses which are most gratifying are those which tear down the theaters (and sometimes the useless mazes) of meanings we have constructed around our history and culture.


One example: this recent release by an artist called ░░disease▒▒. This record has been released by Geometric Lullaby, probably the most interesting contemporary vaporwave record label.

After this introduction, one would probably expect a whole comment on hauntology and the problem of lost or deferred futures, the kind of by-now insufferable retromania which was the bread and butter of early vaporwave music production and theorizing. Nonetheless, the record clearly has little to do with the slow cancellation of the future, even though it has a lot to do with haunting and haunts.

The album is an example of what the vaporwave community calls signalwave, a genre that tries to reproduce the experience of zapping from one radio channel to another, letting random bits and pieces of music in our auditory field. It is a brute collage of small auditory objects, devoid of any reference, which tends to underline the eerie character of the snippet of music itself rather than any nostalgia for a future we never had. Leaving behind the depressive character of muzak, it tries to insinuate in our mind the idea that hearing anything at all is already a weird occurrence in and of itself, as if we are coming in contact with something which is not really there. 

Another example of this, but more gothed-out and closer to the very peculiarly ADHD sort of dark ambient which the vaporwave kids seem to be into these days, is  b e g o t t e n 自杀.


The reason why I believe it works and it does not simply deteriorate into a gimmick (even though a lot of the aesthetics utilized are both self-conscious and “ironic”) is that the estrangement actually functions. The cognitive spell which maintains a veil of normalcy on the act of listening anything at all and the neurological process of making out what a sound means or, even more fundamentally, is become a puzzle which we are most likely unable to solve.

After they have beaten us into submission with a lot of random stuff appearing and disappearing into our field of hearing, we will actually start thinking “how did I get here?”. This sort of digital gothic emphasizes the question “why is there something here at all? Where did it come from?”, it presents us with the problem of the debris we leave behind and the traces of guilt, shame or joy they might carry on, unwillingly, for us.


A quote comes to mind when writing about this; a quote from François Bonnet’s Order of sound:

The object of desire as dream object testifies to a superior reality that is constitutive for it: it is always associated with lack. The object is a point of fixation that zeroes in on lack through representation and expression. The object is literally the representative of lack. Yet such lack must not be envisaged as a stable point, but rather as a low-pressure system, an attractor driven by the void.


This whole post on posterity and this supposed genre came to my mind after reading a blood-curdling post, written by a friend of mine on his shitposting page. The post goes like this: “It’s all fun and memes until you wake up in the cathedral of flesh edified by the people you have hurt along the way”.

Screenshot (22)

I think that if we have to learn something from this little genre of mine is that we are all terrified of waking up in our cathedrals of flesh, of being exposed to the underside of our waking life.

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