Throwaway Style: Vektroid is Bigger Than Vaporwave on Seed & Synthetic Earth

Vektroid

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.


Creating a genre-defining work must be a blessing and a curse. How many interviews with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl do we have to sit through where they get asked, “When you made Nevermind, did you know it was going to CHANGE EVERYTHING?” They always say some polite, tactful version of “no.” We already know the answer to the question, yet those dudes are gonna be asked about that for eternity, even more so than any of their other work in and outside of the band. It doesn’t take being a giant, ubiquitous act to get relegated to this media purgatory where your name gets associated with one idea or project. Portland-based producer Ramona Andra Xavier has been releasing music under a variety of aliases, primarily as Vektroid, since 2009. But if you know one of her works, it’s most likely Macintosh Plus‘ 2011 album Floral Shoppe — aka the “definitive vaporwave album.”

 

To be clear, “originator of vaporwave” is never a title that Xavier sought out. In an interview with Bandcamp, she “half-jokes” that Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto invented the genre 30 years prior (she’s not wrong). But Floral Shoppe, much like Nevermind, is a rallying point for the musical movement. To this day if you asked me to define vaporwave, I’d point you to that record. It’s like shopping mall music via the dark web, converting the placid tones of consumer muzak into slightly twisted versions of themselves. Listening to that record was the first time I felt old hearing a record, not really “getting it.” I was eventually won over, coming to admire how Xavier was able to take musical ideas that I literally never thought about and transforming them into a screwed mirror of themselves. But more than just a sound, vaporwave as an ~ a e s t h e t i c ~. Greek sculptures, Japanese characters, and 80s cassette design are crucial to the experience. Xavier’s strength as a producer is matched by her taste in design. Just going through Vektroid’s Instagram, you get a clear idea of her style.

Floral Shoppe‘s legacy continues to grow and dominate the conversation around vaporwave. But that’s not where Xavier’s story ends. It’s easy for casual fans of the genre to stop their search at Floral Shoppe and move on, but Xavier’s continued to explore new territory. She’s continued to put out something like 15 or more releases since that record — it’s honestly hard to keep track with the different names she’s used over the years. Her latest album under the Vektroid moniker, Seed & Synthetic Earth, is maybe the best entry (or re-entry) point for anyone curious about what she’s been up to.

 

While many of the same elements are still there, I hesitate to even call Seed vaporwave. Xavier hasn’t so much grown as a producer — she was already great to begin with — but has found new ways to explore her muses. Instead of treading back into muzak and vibe, she’s giddily throwing out synthesizer eruptions like the jubilant opener, “We Need to Talk.” Her saxophone patch keeps a familiar sound, but filled with life and excess. It sets the tone right away. Where she might in the past have locked into screwed pitches, now she’s bursting out and letting vibrancy fill the room like fluorescence on a blue light special. The rhythmic punches of “(Don’t Chase) Fake Rabbits” calls to mind caffeine-fueled nights playing Sonic The Hedgehog on a Sega Genesis until your eyes feel like they’re melting. Your body tells you it’s time to stop, but the soundtrack keeps you going. Frequent collaborator Siddiq shows up on “Hard Toys,” cooly rhyming over exuberant guitar solos and jazzy future beats.

The last three songs coalesce into one of the smoothest and most rewarding movements of her career, embracing her most soulful tendencies. It’s easy for outsiders to look at vaporwave (or whatever you want to classify Xavier’s music) as steeped in irony, but in these three songs, you can really feel her genuine love for these sounds. She’s pouring out her soul through these haunting, vintage sounds. “Blood From A Stone” aches with the humanity of its title, even if the music sounds less-than-human on the surface, before lifting up on “Endless Jump.” As the final bass notes trickle out at the end of “Moebius Blue,” you can’t help but feel sentimental. It’s a disservice to both Xavier and the listener to relegate her music to just one thing. Floral Shoppe is definitive, but Vektroid can’t be defined.

Seed & Synthetic Earth is out now and available via Vektroid’s Bandcamp.

 

New and News

Posse Releases Final Album, Horse Blanket, and Accompanying Comic Book

It’s weird to imagine a post-Posse Seattle, but sadly that time has come. The indie rock trio is calling it quits after two stunning albums, an EP of Smog covers, and a couple great singles. Before they go, the band is giving us one last offering with a six-track album called Horse Blanket. It’s incredible, giving us some of the most thoughtful and lush music of their career. Alongside the release, the band has also put out a comic book with lyrics to each song. You can buy a limited edition copy or download it for free via their website. Stream/buy the album below.

 

Taylar Elizza Beth Debuts New Song, “Light On,” Prod. by Brakebill

Taylar Elizza Beth has had a landmark year, still riding the wave of her stunning Fresh Cut Flowers EP. She’s showing no signs of stopping either, constantly hinting on social media about a new album in the works. Last night we got our first taste of what we might be in store for with a new track, “Light On,” produced by stellar Seattle producer Brakebill. The two are a perfect pairing, with Elizza Beth sounding positively tranquil rapping over the languid, delicately paced beat. They both sound like they could erupt at any moment, practicing restraint throughout the track. When Elizza Beth sings “I’ve been lying to my loved ones” on the chorus, it’s simultaneously heartbreaking and haunting. Stream it below.

 

MoPOP Celebrates Jimi Hendrix’s 75th Birthday on Nov. 25

This year, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix would have celebrated his 75th birthday. To honor his momentous life and the music he created, MoPOP will host “Jimi Hendrix 75″ on November 25 — a day full of special programs, rare footage, oral histories, and Hendrix memorabilia. Learn more about the event and get your tickets here.

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

November 16: Jenn Champion (playing Cool Choices in full), Childbirth, and Mirrorgloss at Chop Suey

 

 

November 17-18: Freakout Fest featuring Magic Sword, Acid Tongue, Charms, JusMoni, Guantanamo Baywatch, and more

 

 

 

 

 

November 17: Karl Blau Album Release In-Store at Easy Street Records

 

November 17: The Peacers, Flat Worms, Feed (Tape Release), Tissue at LoFi

 

 

November 18: Cataldo, iji, ings, and Emma Lee Toyoda at Neumos

 

 

 

 

November 19: BlkSknn at The Crocodile

 

November 20: Hibou, Sloucher, and Close Encounter at Neumos

 

 

 

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