This New Hardvapour Comp Is a Perfect Soundtrack to the Horrifying Comedy of the Modern Era
Hardvapour Resistance Front's second label sampler is unwieldy, chaotic, and joyous all at once.
Album cover ofHVRF's
It's a hard world out there. At the pulverizing pace of modern life, horrible news comes hard and fast. If can feel like every passing hour—every time you tap the refresh button at the top of your Twitter feed—there's more demagoguery and drone bombing, hi-tech horror the likes of which we've not seen until the internet era.
The punishment of hardvapour, a new-ish genre positioned in response to the dreamy nostalgia of vaporwave, seems on its face to acknowledge the state of things. Grating, borderline atonal synthesizers laser-pitched kick drum rattling your skull is a fitting reminder that everything is, and very well could continue to be, bad. But on a new compilation they're releasing today, the label Hard Vapour Resistance Front—one of the burgeoning scene's most prolific institutions—seems conscious that sometimes all you can do when faced with this futile reality is laugh.
Earlier this year, the anonymous folks behind the digital imprint celebrated the Republican National Convention with a collection of chaotic tracks themed around the now infamous idea that the extraterrestrial ex-presidential candidate known as Ted Cruz might actually be the Zodiac Killer. A few weeks later they released a concept album of radio recordings centered on a plagiarism scandal in Reddit's tight-knit vaporwave community called
PZA FILES: THE FIRST SLICE, adorned with cover art riffing on the Papa John's logo. It's goofy stuff, but harrowing in execution, otherworldly and crushing all at once.
This new collection—which is the label's 50th release and compiles tracks from the previous 25—serves mostly to underscore the sly undercurrent that underpins the industrial-indebted starkness that most of the genre's practitioners espouse. Sure there's harrowing dark ambient tracks like Стaалкер's "Salmon Trawl" or the other punishing moments like the unhappy hardcore of TRENDS' "AXX," but it comes alongside relative levity (like the psych-rap raveup of imagineIAm's "NINJA BLOOD" or the brief selection from the PZA FILES) joyful, or at least comical relief in a strain of music that could otherwise be a horrifying downer. It's a reminder to smile every now and again, even when the weight of the world feels backbreaking.
HVRF sent over a quote from a recent interview with the producer HKE as help for understanding Hardvapour as a whole. He calls it "the sound of the World War 3 pre-game show," and even if he meant that as an entirely grave statement, it gets at the most interesting thing about the genre, its capacity for absurdist theater and paradoxical celebration, even as the apocalypse looms.
Listen to HVRF's Sampler #2 below or download the whole thing on their Bandcamp.