Discover more from Satellite Cult
satellite cult 12.12
eccojam revival, cyber-nihilism, w3 archives
welcome to this week’s satellite cult dispatch. i’m so glad you’re here. i hope the artifacts i present you with will aid you in planning your great escape from meatspace while you still can. is it possible to port your consciousness into a virtual avatar, to live forever basking in the glory of cyberspace? not right now, but maybe “San Junipero” will become reality if we all try hard enough and believe in ourselves.
please be aware that the void dive section below contains flashing gifs, and the cyber-nihilism section may trigger your depression, anxiety, or existential dread.
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the death of me
last week i wrote about the role of nostalgia under capitalism, and between then and now, DΛRKNΣSS released nostalgia kills.
these trip hop-inspired barber beats are aptly titled; while some tracks incorporate the smooth jazz emblematic of barber beats, others lean more into breakbeat, layering 80s and 90s synth on top. it’s an amalgamation of the most prominent nostalgia-driven scenes in web music, something belonging to all times, and therefore none. it has a melancholic essence, embodying a specific type of hurt that accompanies recollection: the realization that no matter how much happier you were in another time and place, you can never go back, and even if you could, it would never feel the same.
i’ve also featured DΛRKNΣSS more than once, and wanted to mention that they have cool merch if you like their music and want to support them.
remember big chungus?
i came across an odd album called ethnography of the image, released by unim.
describing itself as being “at the vanguard of computer chungal music,” it was released in 2021, but appeared in a search i performed for recent uploads. a meme album in presentation, it’s plundered and nonsensical, with aggressive, catchy beyond expectation chopping—unsurprising, since the producer’s Neocities page shows that their site is part of the Denpa webring.1 if you dive in, you’ll find everything from anarchism, web0 futurism, criticisms of solar punk, the futility of nostalgia, and anime writing, with connections to everywhere on the net from 4chan to RiseUp. it's a fascinating rabbit hole.
in vaporwave, it’s common for producers and musicians to reference retro tech and consumer electronics while naming themselves and their music. GENESIS GRAPHICS stood out to me because of the producer’s name: CD.
CDs are at a crossroads when it comes to format revival; people returned to vinyl for its warmth, cassette for its low cost, and film and VHS for their particular visual artifacts. But CDs offer little in utility or aesthetic that direct download or streaming doesn’t. the CD isn’t even technically dead, though it’s becoming more and more difficult to buy a laptop with a disc drive.
while CD sales overtook vinyl and cassette in the late 80s, both formats, particularly the cassette, saw widespread use until the early 2000s. CD is a fascinating choice for an alias if you’re a vaporwave producer. in many ways it stirs the opposite of nostalgia—to me, CDs still seem ever-present. no one has ever said, oh, remember CDs?
the album itself is a strong entry into the library of eccojams, exemplary, even, of the most classic genre under the vaporwave umbrella. in 2010, it would have blown up. now, perhaps, it sounds a little dated, with most contemporary vaporwave leaning into hexd, breakcore, and drum and bass. but it’s dated in a way i like. ironic, on my part, to wish for the days of old vaporwave, when the whole point of the genre is to examine the relationships between capitalism, utopia, and nostalgia.
all of that said, it looks like older forms of vaporwave are experiencing a small resurgence; tapewurm.fm recently released a compilation called Vapor Classique, stating: “We're starting 2023 off with a very unique Classic Vaporwave compilation. Thank you to all the amazing artists who contributed & the friends/followers who listen to & support us. We hope you enjoy!”
the compilation features producers and musicians who are likely familiar to anyone who’s been interested in vaporwave since around at least 2014: one of those rare moments when styles abandoned by time are actually a breath of fresh air.
signs that old vaporwave is approaching a revival have been with us for at least a year, even if that revival only ends up existing within the web music scene. it’s always only a matter of time before enough people miss something hard enough.
i’ve been trying to work up the willpower to untangle myself from TikTok, but this landed on my FYP this week:
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some of its imagery i’d associate more with the late 90s and the early 2000s, true to the time and place in which this video was produced, but the aesthetics are largely derived from vaporwave and seapunk.
are we on the verge of vaporwave’s return? sit back, relax, and crack open a Crystal Pepsi. we’ll just need to wait and see.
https://b0x.neocities.org is a site by n1x, who wrote an essay on cyber-nihilism. it was published back in 2016, but feels very relevant now. you can read it on Neocities here, or on the Anarchist Library here.
even if you disagree with the author, it’s thought provoking, and actually rather terrifying if read alongside this article, first published in Fast Company back in 2000. a profile of the right-wing economist Ian Angell, the outlined vision of cyber dystopia hasn’t played out exactly as he predicted, but it isn’t too far off from the techno-capitalist oligarchy we’ve been careening towards. Even worse, Angell is one of the architects of this future, advocating for a world at the mercy of corporations, where anyone who isn’t rich is left out to rot. this techno-economic Darwinism is the stuff of nightmares.
i like them.
the old wide web
did you know the World Wide Web Consortium keeps a freely available archive of early documents, communications, and webpages? they’ve also archived documents from before the organization was founded, including some from Tim Berners-Lee’s days at CERN.
if you’re interested in internet history, it’s an indispensable primary source.
thank you for joining me. until next time.
the word denpa is most commonly associated with an underground music movement popular with otaku in Japan or with a genre of visual novel, but it can also refer to someone who behaves erratically, experiences intense fantasies, and is disconnected from the world around them.