Kevin’s Music Reviews; Desuku VIRTUAL Kontenporarī

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Welcome to the virtual information desk. Please refer to the tourist pamphlets on the counter for detailed maps, restaurant and eatery rates and reviews, local news channels, phone numbers, and contact information for transportation. If no one is available to serve you currently, please have a seat in one of our state-of-the-art massage chairs, replete with locale brochures and magazines for your reading pleasure. You can request a song for the lobby’s waiting room with the buttons under the left arm of your chair. Please do enjoy our beautiful and relaxing contemporary music station while you wait for an employee to give you further instructions.
– The staff

Somewhere inside of this incredibly heavy dosage of waiting room kitsch, background melodrama and subtle allusions to psychedelics, there’s a way you could connect Contemporary Sapporo to Second Life, and even see it as a fitting soundtrack to its world. Yes, SL is a vast and expansive realm with too many different cultures and ideologies to accurately summarize with one piece of music (I don’t say “world” lightly).  But this is a considerably bold album with a deep exhibition of understanding of the virtual realm, and almost has the mojo to earn such a lofty title. Almost. And this is only if you look at SL from a visitor’s perspective, rather than a long-term resident who knows there’s more to the online world than meets the eye. If you were to take a tour through SL, though, this wouldn’t make a bad soundtrack to accompany the journey.

Contemporary Sapporo is an album that, despite its constant cherishing of the bygone dawn of computers, has a very modern existence. This is music of the internet era, a testament to people’s open mindedness in today’s music world.  This demonstrates that even the most passive and cheesy of dated background soundtracks can still find an audience (though whether or not they even take it seriously is anyone’s guess), salvaging relics of prototypal ‘virtual worlds’ of the late 20th century and re-plastering it to the front of our minds like a fallen-off sticky note. Virtual conjurations of perfect worlds, alternate realities, escapist resorts, liberation from real life limitations and complications, and the ability to do and be anything your imagination allows, is all fluidly expressed through music with an affinity for synthetic serenity and happiness, almost with a creepily soulless lack of heart or effort. This is music whose goal is to change your mood and alter your mindset.  This is music with an ambition to manipulate your subconscious with notes crafted almost scientifically to cater to your state of mind. That probably sounds a bit like hypnosis, and it kind of is. Corporate music, shopping mall tunes and elevator jazz is the order of the day, with melodramatic smooth jazz, funk and contemporary components making up the aesthetic. This music would play while you shop (for example) with the intent of relaxing you, slowing your mind down so you take your time, and also make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. Potentially evil? Maybe. Some people speculate there is a subtle social commentary on capitalism woven in the framework of this mysterious genre of music, though everything is presented so vaguely that it’s largely up for interpretation.

With the heavy corporate vibe in circulation here, it also calls to mind the abundant advertising that is present in Second Life, or rather, on the internet as a whole. With advertisement comes a conviction that buying their product, visiting their places or hiring their services is the best thing you could do for yourself.  Contemporary Sapporo’s paradise imagery wouldn’t feel out of place accompanying these claims. It’s exaggerated, yet somehow manages to remain coldly in the background, as if music could be an appliance sold at Sears to make life easier for you; its music running in a mechanical, robotic autonomy. Speaking of paradise imagery…if images of lush, sunny gardens, surreal landscapes man-made for optimum living conditions, or tropical resorts and sparkling beaches you can literally escape to with the click of the mouse come to your mind listening to Virtual Information Desk’s music, then look no further than Second Life itself for all these images to take form. It’s all present in Contemporary Sapporo, and it’s also present in SL.

Okay, so it’s intentionally bland, goofy music that happens to fit alongside Second Life. Is it even any good? In a word, it’s not. But if you listen to vaporwave music the same way you listen to other genres, you would think none of it is good. It really is music for the background, made for your casual adventures through SL or your rainy road trips in real life.  Putting the same effort and attention into it as you would other genres is difficult, if not impossible for some listeners.

Contemporary Sapporo is not a small album by any means.  With a whopping 25 tracks clocking in at around 70 minutes, this isn’t something fully explored through just one sitting (or three, for that matter). The music is very sedative too, so it’s easy to fall asleep trying to listen to the whole thing unless you’re already doing something else. It isn’t really the album’s fault, though, because there’s enjoyable songs to be found here throughout the album.  It just happens that they’re easy to miss in such a passive environment. Many tracks take this approach very deliberately (look no further than the album’s surreal fourth and fifth tracks or the sleepy space lullaby, “ MOON FOUNTAIN.”  The middle of the album isn’t bad or anything, but it does get pretty slow around that point, for better or worse. Some songs are more up front than others, and some are downright sexy (looking at you, “PRISM CORP不可能な生き物”), with enough funk to make you melt in your chair and a belting sax that makes sure those hot vibes don’t go unnoticed. You also have your sappy crooning found on “T E S T A R O S S A interLude ~ iNTELLiMAX RELEASE GROUP PRESENTS” and “MARBLE白鳥” that are so painfully overreaching emotionally that you can’t help but be impressed and enjoy them in spite of their gaudy clamoring.

Another aspect of SL that this album touches on is its large variety of different cultures, and it does so with sprinkles of world music, tribal chants and talks of taking flight to various places. You’ll find a legitimately satisfying and adventurous finale track that casts the full horizon of the album’s expanse right in front of you like that of hiking up an impressive hill or mountain that overlooks the beautiful terrain. There’s also an obvious lean toward Japan here, seen through the album’s bombastic (and frankly, ridiculous) inter-lingual titles and through a distinctly Japanese sound at work throughout the album. The album cover alone speaks volumes about the aesthetic content found on Contemporary Sapporo.

Looking at the music at face value will probably make you dislike it because it really is difficult to get past the album’s garish surface if you don’t already have some affinity for the relics that are being salvaged here. It isn’t all nostalgia, though, and part of the fun here is in the way the album kind of forces you to focus on something that is meant for your subconscious, if you choose to listen to it that way. Not only are there genuinely enjoyable songs to be found here, they are some of the best that the vaporwave genre has to offer, with an astounding (but subtle) variety between each of the 25 songs. Contemporary Sapporo is highly inorganic and oozes with a man-made essence, but it’s still possible to get lost in and explore this deceptively rich world, something else that resembles Second Life. There’s also a reference to SL to be found on track 17, which is titled “XX ”RUBY DUSK ON A 2ND LIFE NUDE BEACH” ☯ . . . の生活・・・「ロベルタ」”)

Whether or not you can associate the two together is ultimately irrelevant, because Contemporary Sapporo can be enjoyed in whatever setting you see fit, and it works out surprisingly well as an embellishment for some of life’s more mundane and tedious moments. Perhaps that’s why this is music for waiting rooms?

Take a pamphlet and have a seat.

Stream or purchase the album here for a paltry 50 cents on the Beer on the Rug bandcamp page

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