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We Could Die Here - We Could Die Here [Bludhoney records - 2018]

We Could Die Here is an alias of Tokyo based Rob Orme, better known for his dreamy hip-hop and R&B produced under the name Submerse. Bludhoney records - who appear to be taking a hiatus in 2019 - have previously put out a range of material drawn from the Vaporwave fall-out, as well as a couple of editions of Merzbow's old Pulse Demon record. This eponymous debut album takes Orme's 80s inflected chillwave and R&B sound and passes it through Vaporwave's gauzy dissimulator.

Perhaps as a consequence of actually living in Japan, the record is almost entirely free of untranslated Japanese script and the general orientalist aesthetic that continues to plague the vaporwave scene. The exception is one symbol, 零 meaning zero, which is included mysteriously in one track title. Instead, what we have is a collection of diverse and immersive vignettes, that while certainly drawing on vaporwave techniques (in particular the détournement of muzak and other corporate associated sounds) also flirts with influences as wide ranging as shoe-gaze and the hautological electronics of the Caretaker and Ghostbox label.

The record's widescreen vistas are announced immediately on opener Deer as a short blast of radio transmission breaks out onto deep synth drones punctuated with light FM melodies. This opening gesture and the following two tracks Wolves and Death are a world away from Orme's jazzy arrangements for his main project. On the latter he ventures into the elegiac territory of William Basinski or the Caretaker; layering tape distorted piano loops around analogue audio artefacts. There's a good deal more original melody here than the average vaporwave record and the producer clearly has an ear for distilling the uncanny qualities in those muzak edits into original, perfectly poised ambient compositions. Shimmer ventures further into the cosmos with warped brassy synths and big pads, coming across like a commercial for paradise holiday resort filtered through 80s VHS culture.

Every track here has some memorable phrase or emotive content, often the latter is brought about by the combination of effects and the sepia toned atmosphere. At it height the music drifts into the orbit of the likes of Rafael Anton Irisarri's early Miasmah releases or the more melancholic ambient side of the Type label from the mid to late 2000s. It's a sound that capitalises well on vaporwave's 80s pastiche and if anything heightens the feeling of opiated dislocation one gets from records by Telepath or Ramona Andra Xavier. Foreste零 is exemplary in this regard, building up layers of tinkling chimes with tape distended synths and machine drones. Organic, synthetic but also queasy in that unique way that music in an old elevator sounds; as if it were coming in from some other place.

Season of witch and Buried keep up the slightly occult feel to some of these tracks, something which is a pretty unique addition to the post-vaporwave aesthetic. The former is a simply lovely piece of ambient synth music with little four step melodies and scales combining beautifully with discordant percussive and industrial sounds. Orme's use of tape effects also shows a deft touch, comparable to the recent work of Cremation Lily and is a welcome piece of methodological seriousness in a genre that tends towards digital and lo-fi. The final track Nightfall at Twin palms conjures images of balmy nights on the beach, cocktails long drained, the music in the distance floating over the trees, a hazy sense of contentment. But behind the loungy keys and garish colours there's also a feeling of unease which you similarly get throughout Richard Chartier's Pinkcourtesyphone records. Perhaps the looming realisation that none of it is real; a hollow stage-set made tangible by the meds and the fixed smiles leering out of the billboards. It's these ambivalent moments that I think post-vaporwave (when it works) does extremely well, and where it earns the reputation as a form of social commentary on late capitalism. These moments are rare but We Could Die Here has got them nailed.

If anything these compositions would benefit from being longer to allow the melodies and textural elements time to develop. But in any case this is a record full of quality in a field that can be pretty hit and miss.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Duncan Simpson
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