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Brief Published: 29 Jan 2014

Vaporwave: Soundtrack to Austerity

Vaporwave is a micro-genre of electronic music that draws on the corporate sonic ephemera of the 80s and 90s – such as lift muzak, ad soundtracks, ‘hold’ music and cocktail jazz – to satirise the emptiness of a hyper-capitalist society.

Vaporwave is a play on ‘vaporware’ – a term from the software industry referring to a product that is announced to the public, but never released. The music reflects this soulless techno-corporatism, with accompanying videos that draw on early internet imagery: glitch graphics, late-90s web design, and cyberpunk aesthetics.

The genre taps into themes we’ve explored in Synthetic Aesthetics and Hyperreal Design. Since emerging in 2012, vaporwave has slowly bubbled up to the mainstream via individuals such as US artist and composer Holly Herndon, whose new track Chorus was released this month.

Other notable artists associated with vaporwave include US producer James Ferraro, and Brooklyn-based artist Oneohtrix Point Never.