Discover more from Satellite Cult
satellite cult 1.1
vapor, carly rae jepsen, gifs, sewer rave
welcome to the first installment of Satellite Cult. i’m so glad you’re here. please surrender to the warm and endless void before you, where those who are compelled to create fling the sweet achievements of their hands and minds, cradling hope in their hearts that someone will notice their labor and care enough to look.
in addition to virtual artifacts, prepare yourself to engage with cult doctrine on the topics of art, media, and culture. cult disciples are expected to participate in the conversation.
in this edition, you will receive dispatches from the underground and the surface world.
please be aware that the void dive section below contains flashing gifs. for the most potent results, i recommend viewing this on your desktop.
i hope you enjoy your stay, and subscribe if you think you want to return.
i came across this album while exploring Bandcamp tags related to a sparkly aughts inspired electronic mix i’ve come to like.
hole.zip by 3xit w0und is a breakcore album at its base, incorporating elements of vaporwave and at times evoking the likes of Blank Banshee and VAPERROR. the result is something that conjures abandoned Geocities pages, the first time i ever read the warning site about the Final Fantasy VII house, my parents bringing home a bulky beige desktop computer in a cow print Gateway box circa 2001. Maybe Hackers (1995) meets Lisa Frank meets that 3D Windows pipe screensaver, all carried on the back of a cockroach in a sewer.
it’s very hard for me, but i’m learning
it’s very hard for me, but i’m learning is well-known within a particular niche. the most insufferable man on r/Vaporwave might even roll his eyes at me for including it here. isn’t this supposed to be for underground music? it depends on who you ask. the genre defying forbidden cremme is perhaps a less recognized project than his previous life as the seminal vaporwave artist haircuts for men, but this gritty dungeon house (bondage techno? leather acid? it’s hard to say except that it’s pulsing and pounding and dripping) embodies what all those Bushwick parties aspire to but rarely achieve.
speaking of vaporwave, the WITCHING HOUR ep is a curiosity of aesthetics. fantastically mismatched the whole way through, it samples from The Mummy (1932), Rope (1948), Kim Wilde, and what sounds like an 80s cop procedural your grandparents might watch in syndication. at moments M I R K W O O D P L A Z A engages in the slow and mesmerizing language of eccojams, the most classic iteration of the genre first popularized by the likes of Chuck Person and Macintosh Plus. at others, i am caught in a tense vortex, but so happy to be there.
pop for other people
after listening to The Loneliest Time on its release day, i kept thinking about this Madeline Pendleton TikTok that ended up on my FYP the week before:
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as someone who likes certain varieties of pop music, but whose listening habits typically veer towards the alternative or experimental, i often find myself considering why Carly Rae Jepsen’s music reaches those of us who have more particular relationships with the genre on such a large scale. ultimately, i think it comes down to an earnestness so disappointingly absent in much contemporary pop. i’m not sure how else to word it except like this: if she was releasing music in 1970, the album she’d make instead of Emotion might feel more akin to Tapestry by Carole King. in the 80s, Dedicated would have been Hounds of Love. other pop musicians with her degree of name recognition often feel like they themselves are the product, as if they’re selling their fans a cult of personality instead of offering up work from their hearts. it’s more about a particular sensibility, the difference between pop as commodity and pop as genre.
i’ve listened to interviews in which she describes her feelings about pop music, and it’s striking how sharp her understanding of the genre is—its sound is so specific to time and place, and offers such a degree of freedom for a musician to experiment. she has a deft handle on the idea that expressing complex feelings and concepts effectively in simple terms can sometimes require more skill than doing it in an elevated way.
Jepsen doesn’t appear to care much about what aesthetics are trending. her music instead asks where has pop been? how can it be transformed and honored all at once? in that sense, her work has something unexpectedly in common with the musicians i highlighted above: an ideological agreement with vaporwave, this displacement that feels nostalgic and far away, hazily anachronistic but entirely timeless.
songs on The Loneliest Time still offer the synth sounds Jepsen became known for after she slid into indie pop territory with Emotion, and she continues to borrow from disco as she did on Dedicated. but while the genre’s influence on songs such as “Julien,” in combination with a more present synthesizer, lend a tone reminiscent of future-funk icons like マクロスMACROSS 82-99,The Loneliest Time is also infused with a healthy dose of folk music, subtly present on the tracks “Far Away” and “Bends,” the ethos of folk more than anything, and blatant in Jepsen’s collaborations with Rostam. “Western Wind” is notable, but “Go Find Yourself or Whatever” stands out. If you told me Jenny Lewis wrote that song, i wouldn’t question it. i did initially struggle with “Beach House,” wishing i was hearing her voice instead a chorus of men, but even that has since grown on me.
i heard buzz around at least three other albums released the same day as The Loneliest Time, which naturally means the landscape of popular culture has placed them all in competition. alongside Jepsen, these albums included efforts from two1 other musicians liked among lesbians, which means i’ve been hearing about them for weeks.
Tegan and Sara released Crybaby, which i think is their best work since Sainthood, maybe even since The Con. the phrase return to form is cliché, but somewhere around Heartthrob it really felt like the soul of their music went missing in the woods where they filmed The Lost Forest Fones, and i’m ecstatic that it seems to have returned in recent years.
ultimately, it goes back to what i said before, about why people like me appreciate Carly Rae Jepson so much. it’s the sensibility of the thing. it’s the heart.
here’s some art you probably wouldn't see unless it ended up in your inbox. gifs are one of my favorite mediums.
enrichment for your enclosure
i first came into contact with Sewer Rave in the Summer of 2020 when itch.io included it in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality2. i revisit the game at least once a year. developed by Autumn Rain, the concept is simple: you’re a rat exploring a rave in the sewers, with npcs to meet, games within the game to play, and treasures uncover.
it evokes the same haunting sensation i experienced while exploring the abandoned castle in Super Mario 64 as a kid (a game i also revisited recently), and the gameplay is paced perfectly for lovers of cozy games or for casual players. with a soundtrack by Lady Saytenn, you’ll never find another rave like it.
thank you for joining me. until next time.
the other was Taylor Swift’s Midnights, which is not worthy of comment other than to say that i listened to it in a car ride upstate at the request of a friend, and found it mostly boring, with each track feeling sonically homogenous, and thematically my only take away was that Swift is obsessed with herself. the one song that stuck with me was “Karma,” only because it was so bad that i laughed.