Sound+Vision Brings You Trumpwave: The Stomach-churning Soundtrack to Your Red Pill Fever Dream
I’ll be honest, I was going to write a column about recontextualizing fragments of past pop culture, the tension between recycling and reusing, and the microgenres that grow like fungus from the decaying flesh of prior civilization.
I was excited to talk about finally, FINALLY answering the question that’s been plaguing scientists for decades:
What is the sound of a Lamborghini Countach hurtling through a dystopic neon future-past?
It seemed like a good place to start if I was going to discuss the fine-grain differences between repurposing the iconography, sounds, and feel of a previous era, and simple drag. First off, I don’t have any specific beef with revivalism–it can often be exhilarating, even when it veers closer to outright mimicry. But, you know, it’s a fine line. “Zoot Suit Riot” is execrable.
Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in the things that make us happy. I mean, as cloying as Bruno Mars can be, “Uptown Funk” is a catchy song, and offers a credible update to Morris Day/the Uptown sound.
So, what do you get when a whole community of internet-empowered producers burrows deep into a contrafactual past where the future is a South Beach nightmare of goon squads, urban blight, and probably Michael Ironside?
Outrun, variously known as Retrowave, traffics in a particular blend of looped anime and menacing synthesizers, with a dusting of wistful Yamaha club beats. This is where I would have hyperlinked a shitload of videos cherry-picked to support whatever point I was going to make about the persistence of memory in the internet age.
Which would have segued pretty well into my next point, about Simpsonwave. I swear to God, this is a real thing. At first blush, it seems like a stylistic cousin to Outrun. Rather than soundtracking a world where the Nag Hammadi library was full of Miami Vice VHS tapes, however, Simpsonwave feels like a pulsar transmission from a corner of the galaxy where culture was irreparably broken. Simpsonwave is actually a outgrowth of Vaporwave, famed for its deconstruction of popular consumer signifiers from the 90’s.
But guess what? I’m not going to talk about any of that. I was minding my own beeswax, wandering contentedly through the grottos and gardens of YouTube, zoned out and blissful. When I looked up, though, I found myself in a bad neighborhood, and the sun was setting. I thought Simpsonwave was the end of the road, but it turns out it’s just where the streetlights leave off. Beyond, in the shadows, is the haunted mansion known as Trumpwave.
I guess turnabout is fair play. If Vaporwave was built on the premise that cultural/technological icons, in their banal ubiquity, can be appropriated as ciphers for a post-Y2K ideology, than Vaporwave itself can be co-opted by the veiny-faced jags on the alt-Right.
Be that as it may, the unexpected discovery of this nauseating puddle of nationalist barf is just such a huge bummer that I don’t really have the energy to write about, like, my dumbass hot take on remixed AOL notifications or whatever. Retro music is one thing. A political credo centered on going backwards is entirely another, and the unfortunate fact that a cadre of red-pill bros is using what amounts to dance music to advance their shitty agenda. Seriously, look at this comment from that last video:
You know what? This is too depressing.
I think we all need a palate cleanser.