Monday, May 1, 2017

Strawberry Illuminati- Hilton Fountains Review

The album that I'll review today is Hilton Fountains by Strawberry Illuminati.  While I don't find all aspects of this album particularly appealing, I suppose that that's part of the interesting thing about vaporwave as a genre of music.  It's not all supposed to be appealing.  The genre takes the unappealing aspects of music, specifically corporate music from the 80s and 90s and further expounds upon the visual and auditory qualities that come with such stimuli.  I hesitate to use the word aesthetic to attribute any part of this music to, as it may sound rather contrived, but as a whole, the genre of music certainly has many fundamental aspects that define it and boundaries which it often works within while sometimes breaking.  Anyway, now that that short introduction is over, here's the actual review of the music.

1.  Fountain Shimmers
This is a rather creepy introduction.  I can hear pretty faintly in the background some sad almost classical piano music.  However, overlain over it is a kind of ambient drone.  This gives off a kind of eery effect.  The piano music is very sad sounding and nostalgic, while the ambient drone sounds familiar, perhaps reminiscent of some Aphex Twin ambient track or something.

2.  Spotlights
This is a sort of sad vaporwave song.  It's very downtempo kind of and just sounds like a sad wandering song.  It's not incredibly appealing to me, but I do think that it does a great job of setting up a very specific atmosphere.

3.  Walk
This song probably has the most interesting chord changes.  It has a very cool bassline and interesting synth kind of keyboard parts in the background.  It's songs like this that make me wish that I better understood the instruments used in songs like this.  The background keyboards sound so interesting and fluid.  However, unlike the DX-7 electric pianos, they don't have a huge famous context with which to identify.  In the end, it's just another forgotten sound relevant to only a few select corporate mall tunes.  The vibe melody on this seems kind of out of place, but I think that brings out the strange and misplaced nature of this whole album.

4.  Touch
This song feels a bit cinematic to be a vaporwave song.  It consists of one looped sample of a piano, a choir sound, and a few drum sounds, ending with a short melody of a clarinet or saxophone or some other instrument.  This seems more like it would be a video game theme or something that would play during a cutscene than actual muzak.  However, I also think that this is part of the appeal of this and of vaporwave in general.  It's an outsider perspective of a trend which never manifested itself in any kind of community during its prime of societal use.

5.  Moonlight Rendezvous
This one of the shortest songs on the album.  It sounds very dark though, somewhat like something that would be heard exclusively at night.  While a lot of songs- not specifically on this album- give off the image, to me, of streetlights, this song is most reminiscent of the absence of such light.

6.  Cold
This one is very interesting to be honest.  More so than lobby or hotel music, this one has a very fitness club kind of feel.  I think that this associative connection is mainly because of wii sports.  The sine wave bleeps and bloops combined with muzak elements, tr-606 drum beats, and DX-7 pianos give off a particularly Japanese fitness club vibe.

7.  Haze
This track probably gives off the most classical vaporwave sound of any of the tracks on the album.  It's dissonant horn melody that loops and winds over lush, forbidding strings, almost gives off an atmosphere similar to something from Blade Runner.  I think this is one of the most atmospheric pieces on the album and definitely one of my favorites.

8.  Silk Sheets
This song also sounds a bit like wii music.  It definitely has a very building kind of crescendo to it that sounds very nice.  It's honestly one of the more uplifting pieces of vaporwave that I've heard.  While I feel that many of the vaporwave songs that I hear have an almost apocalyptic foreboding nature to them, this one seems rather hopeful.

9.  Romance and Love Flowers
This songs starts off with a very cool sounding electric piano sound.  After that, piano and drum parts get introduced.  I think that these are pretty defining features of the album as a whole.  This songs is atmospheric and has a rather nice feel to it.

Overall, I like this album a good amount.  While there are definitely aspects of it that I really enjoy, it's not something that I find very appealing, which is no fault of the album.  It's simply a subjective matter.  The overall image this album has is a cross somewhere between traditional mall music and Nintendo wii sports music.  Overall, I think that this album, while it might not appeal me personally, definitely accomplishes its goals and is probably one of the most well-put together pieces of vaporwave I've ever heard.  I'm glad this album exists.zfvao

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