It is a common misconception that nostalgia is the longing for what has been lost. The other end of nostalgia is not the past, but indeed past utopia. When yesterday’s future is here, but the past dreams are unfulfilled, we look back at not necessarily what we lost, but what wasn’t put into reality at all. Seen this way, nostalgia opens a window to an alternate universe and is utopian in itself, reminding us of what we used to dream about – and that we should dream up something new again. Some retro-trends have a touch of nostalgia, but most look positively upon the past, as a past paradise or simply a reservoir of styles to put into tradition once more.
This year’s vaporwave however is the high point of true nostalgia, and although some deem it to be dead already, I think it is only broadening and diversifying. Seen this way, I want to attach this label to Steve Vibes’ self-released instrumental album “Highland Park”. Because even though it does not use the distort- and chop-techniques of commercial source material that most vaporwave artists employ, but is newly composed from scratch – as far as I can tell – and doesn’t use their visual style and their anti-capitalist message, it evokes the exact same feelings of nostalgia as those do.
Steve Vibes is the moniker of Stephen Griesgraber, former guitarist of Antony and the Johnson’s and part of Redhooker and Slow Six. Mainly relying on guitar and saxophone, “Highland Park” is highly reminiscent of 80ies TV movie soundtrack scores. Its intriguing eight tracks of carefully crafted sweet pop melodies won’t be a fit for everyone, but strike a chord with me the same way Delicate Steve’s “Wondervisions” did last year. Listen to it in its entirety below, and buy it on his Bandcamp if it hits home with you too.