Getting Retro with Vaporwave Part 1

If you’ve not heard of vaporwave, then maybe you don’t spend enough time in internet forums or listening to electronic subgenres. Vaporwave began as ironic fun but has spiralled out of control and into a whole new level of aestheticism that nobody could have anticipated. Utilising some of the most important elements of retro styles this throwback sound now has accompanying visuals that have turned it into something noteworthy. If you love the 80s and early 90s for their style, flair and questionable futuristic sensibilities then joining the vaporwave movement may be perfect for you, here are some of the key points that make up the odd and still very tongue in cheek style.

Getting Retro with Vaporwave
Getting Retro with Vaporwave

Colour Palette

Colour is a common and truly effect way to stick on theme, as you may notice with vintage clothing and styles the colours are often subtle earth tones, calm, natural and almost monochrome. After the psychedelic 70s hit and the 80s brought in fresh technology the capabilities to create blinding colours increased and they were not used sparingly. From vivid fluorescent jackets to laser everything the 80s brought in a vision of a space themed future that moved well into the 90s. This could be seen on movie posters, tracksuits and the covers of early video games too. What vaporwave has done well is harness this and whittle it down to colours that scream retro namely Cyan and Magenta. That’s sky blue and hot pink to anyone who doesn’t know, often blending the two time to time to settle on a terrific purple. Along with this commonly used two colour style, garish colours are frequently used, simulating once again a retro style and visuals that look out of date.

Colour Palette
Colour Palette

Low Quality

In music when this is done on purpose it is called lo-fi as in low fidelity meaning bad quality. This is used in the look and sound of vaporwave almost universally to aid the idea that the images or songs could be from the past. Much of the music used in the genre uses sampled sounds of older tracks, warping them (often just slowing them down quite a degree) to create an even slower and more relaxed feel. Modern sampling usually uses small snippets of old tracks to avoid exposing the tired and dated sound quality of yesteryear, vaporwave however embraces this. From pixelized images and fonts to terrible renderings made in early computer graphics programs, vaporwave loves everything that looks bad today but was once celebrated. This is essentially the backbone of retro culture as a whole, getting a burst of loving nostalgia for something that has no real application today. Many vaporwave images and videos utilise the flawed but adored look of VHS tapes, purposely applying distortion and noise to imitate the lower quality of the bygone medium. It is also common for vapor creators to add distortion in other ways, as the more modern styles of glitch art are mixed with retro images to create broken looking pieces, that although they are more recent still reek of that late 80s style.

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