“Cool tunes, cool styles, and even cooler people”: Celebrated vaporwave artist Vaperror to headline an evening of live electronic music | 01.20.23 Platypus

Vaperror and NOGENKI! w/ KC Mackey and Sound Market | 01.20.23, 9pm | Platypus, 4501 Manchester Ave | $12-15 | All ages

This Friday, New York electronic music acts Vaperror and NOGENKI will be performing at Platypus, a bar and concert venue in the Grove. They will be joined by two local DJs: Paul Dixon (Sound Market) and KC Mackey. The event is being organized by Vaporspace StL, which describes itself as a “live vaporwave party production crew.”

“Vaporspace StL’s mission is to grow the vaporwave art movement locally and globally,” said Ron Parres, co-founder of Vaporspace StL. Paul Dixon, one of Friday’s performers, is also a co-founder.

Vaporspace StL’s Ron Parres

“We do this by regularly hosting live music events throughout the city that welcome talented local, regional, national, and international artists to perform for our growing community of vaporwave fans in St. Louis.”

Vaporwave is a subculture within the electronic music community that originated in the early 2010s. The genre was originally conceived as a surrealist parody of consumer culture, making ironic references to corporate training videos, on-hold music, and outdated technology from the 1980s. The name “vaporwave” is itself a parody of vaporware, a term from the computing industry that refers to software and products that are announced but never materialize.

Through their sample-heavy sound collages, early vaporwave artists presented a satirical take on the state of contemporary popular culture and its growing obsession with consumer technology, framed through the lens of ‘80s nostalgia. There is a particular emphasis on technofetishism and Japanese pop culture, with many vaporwave artists using artist and release names that sound like a forgotten filename (e.g., death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, virtua.zip by Esprit 空想) or that reference the low-quality Japanese-to-English translations that were common in this era (e.g., t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, 猫 シ Corp.).

As vaporwave grew in popularity, it became increasingly divorced from the sarcastic commentary on consumerism it was once associated with, with “vaporwave” now often referring to a general design aesthetic rather than a specific style of music. In its current iteration, vaporwave music is now a mostly sincere blending of popular music trends of the 1980s, such as synth funk, Japanese disco, and city pop, while also incorporating elements of contemporary trap and synthwave music.

“The people in the vaporwave scene are by and large sweethearts, and I’m appreciative of them,” said Jeff Cardinal, AKA Vaperror, the headlining performer of Friday’s show. “The music in the scene is ever-evolving, and we are seeing more of a pop-oriented angle now, with artists breaking away from the original constraints of simply slowed down, reverberated, sample-based music.”

Vaperror

Vaperror, Cardinal’s primary project, is one of the most celebrated practitioners of this more upbeat, dance-friendly style of vaporwave. Cardinal released his first album as Vaperror, Mana Pool, in 2014. Since then, he has released six full-length albums under the Vaperror moniker, as well as several EPs and albums using his many aliases (Useless, DJ CAMGIRL, SPORTSGIRL, etc.). His most recent album, Radiant Racer, was released in May of 2022, and he has many other projects on the horizon.

“I have been working on lots of singles with New York-based artists, as well as city pop and disco songs with Hanari [singer-songwriter based in Austin, TX], a new Vaperror album, a new SPORTSGIRL album, and countless other [individual tracks],” said Cardinal. “I hope to be ambitious and release plenty of new music next year.”

In addition to being an accomplished producer and composer of electronic music, Cardinal also has a background as a rock guitarist, which serves as an influence to his R&B and funk-oriented music. He often incorporates live instruments like guitar, bass, and keyboards into his sets.

“I actually played in a rock band when I was a teenager for a few years,” Cardinal told us. “After I graduated high school, I started making electronic music on my own. For a few years afterwards, I was not feeling inspired and almost quit making music as a whole. But then a friend of mine introduced me to vaporwave music via SoundCloud. I released my first single, ‘Sega Dreamland’, in February 2014, and the rest is history.”

Cardinal is personal friends with Ron Parres of Vaporspace StL, and they have collaborated together on shows in the past, both in St. Louis and NYC. The upcoming St. Louis show is a one-off event, and not part of a larger tour.

“When you work with an artist this often, this successfully, and without industry intermediaries facilitating and taking over the interactions, friendships naturally and easily form,” said Parres. “We’re fortunate to have a very good friend in Jeff.”

NOGENKI

Fellow New Yorker Michael Vasquez, a.k.a. NOGENKI, will be joining Cardinal for the upcoming show at Platypus. Similar to Parres’ work, Vasquez organizes and promotes vaporwave events in NYC and on the West Coast, which he advertises as “Pocari Sweat shows” in reference to the Japanese sports drink.

“When we first started the Pocari Sweat shows on the West Coast, roughly 6 or 7 years ago, we were really trying to do something different, really just for us and what made us happy,” Vasquez told us. “I found a place where I was surrounded by ‘80s Japanese and house music, party people, anime fans, late night culture, and creatives all in one place.  People who understood my references and looked out for one another.”

Vasquez will be performing a DJ set at the Platypus show on Friday. He is a founding member of Club Genki, a collective of DJs and electronic artists that organize shows in lofts and dive bars throughout Brooklyn.

KC Mackey

In addition to Vasquez, two St. Louis DJs will be performing sets at the Platypus show as well. KC Mackey is currently the resident DJ at Takashima Record Bar in the Grove. She got her start performing in clubs in Boston, NYC, and Providence, RI.

“I got addicted to record collecting and started working at a record distribution warehouse so I could constantly absorb music at my job,” Mackey told us of her time in Boston. “Discovering music both old and new, and buying all the represses and new releases I could afford with my employee discount.

“I bring my unique personality and memories to my song selection, my transitions and mixing styles,” Mackey continues, “a lot of energy and bubbliness to the DJ booth. I’ll likely forever be a party girl, raver, club kid type person.”

Sound Market

Vaporspace StL co-founder Paul Dixon, a.k.a. Sound Market, will also open the night with a DJ set. Dixon co-founded the group in 2018 after connecting with Parres through Reddit. He cites Blank Banshee, Vaperror, and Crystal Castles among his artistic influences.

“I’ve been making music as Sound Market as early as 2017,” Dixon told us. “I began by writing more traditional vaporwave and have since transitioned to more danceable, EDM-inspired music.”

“My live sets are typically a mixture of vaporwave stylings blended with breaks, house beats, and a liberal amount of video game samples,” said Dixon of his DJ sets.

The show on Friday will be a multimedia experience, with visual projections complimenting the performances. Jeff Cardinal is known for showing loops of video game footage during his performances, in addition to being a highly energetic dancer.

In closing, Vasquez offered the following sales pitch for the Platypus show:

“Vaporwave: the soundtrack to warm nostalgic dreams, featuring synthetic memories of days passed… I don’t know, everyone I’ve met has been great. Let me try again. The vaporwave scene: Cool tunes, cool styles, and even cooler people.” | David Von Nordheim

For an idea of what Vaperror’s live sets are like, check out this video of him performing at 100% Electronic 2 in 2019. We put together a playlist of his set from the same show, although his Platypus show will also include songs he has released since then.

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