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satellite cult 50.50
50th edition special, satcult revisited, fanzines
welcome to the 50th edition of satellite cult! i began working on this newsletter in October 2022 as a way to force myself not only to write, but to interact with the art and media that i love. what started as a necessary personal escape from apathy and doomerism has grown into a hub for underground web music, art, and culture. i know my readership is smaller in comparison to publications on the Substack leaderboards, but around this time last year, my subscriber base was composed of 13 friends and acquaintances. not only has the number of satcult readers increased exponentially, but now, most of you are people i’ve never met—i’m incredibly grateful for your presence and support.
the time i’ve spent thinking about this newsletter’s future is comparable to the time i’ve spent thinking about 80s anime OVA openings and internet cults (a lot). i’ve tossed around the idea of expanding beyond the weekly dispatch into the realms of written commentary, interviews, digital culture journalism, guest contributors, YouTube, Twitch, or a podcast, though i’ve also questioned my ability to deliver on these projects as a one person operation who needs to work a regular job and has friends, a partner, and other hobbies and interests.
no matter what satcult’s next step ends up being, i feel like it needs a refresh. over the next few months, you might see me experiment a little, and when i do, i want your feedback. if you comment on posts or contact me here, i’ll listen. but in the meantime, i promise: satcult prime isn’t going anywhere.
in this edition, i'm revisiting NOISE and VISUALS from some of this newsletter’s earliest installments. looking back, it took a while for satcult to find its voice, and while those initial efforts now feel a little rough around the edges, i’m still proud of them. to account for the longer content of this edition, there won’t be a VOID DIVE this week, but you can always take a look at the void plaza gallery until next time. welcome to this week’s satellite cult dispatch. i’m so glad you’re here.
please be aware that the void dive section below contains flashing gifs. forgive the way Substack formats some embedded media from Bandcamp.
i write and research satellite cult each week because i love it, and it’s important to me that it remains free to read and subscribe. but if you want to give altar offerings for the time and labor i invest, you can support me on Ko-fi.
if you enjoy what you find here, like, share, and consider subscribing to satellite cult.
want more music recs? here’s my Bandcamp collection.
(originally featured in satcult 1.1)
when i first featured this album by 3xit w0und, it had a different title: hole.zip. it’s since been deleted, renamed (remastered?), and re-uploaded as self_titled(full_hz). this breakcore, digicore, cloud rap inspired mix still evokes too-late nights with no light but the soft glow of your computer screen and that exciting, tingling uncertainty of a rabbit hole that only goes deeper and deeper, where you never know what’s behind the next link.
(originally featured in satcult 2.2)
in satcult 2.2, i discussed this album by c678924 within the larger context of the development of sextrance music. if you’ve been around here for a while, you’re likely cued in about sextrance. crunchy, pounding hexd hard trance with some vaporwave influences, it’s big on plunderphonics and builds itself on the aesthetics of the early aughts internet, nostalgic video games, memes, and animecore. this album struck me initially because of its cover, depicting a blurred edit of Osaka from the Azumanga Daioh PS1 game with a simple message: “fvck sxwxrslvt.” i went in then expecting something extraordinary, and i wasn’t disappointed.
now, the album feels more familiar after repeated listens, and since legions of DJs and producers in the underground scene have begun to imitate the sounds pioneered by the likes of c678924, purity://filter, vertigoaway, and the GZ999 crowd, but simultaneously this album strikes me as more meticulously crafted and more experimental each time i engage.
(originally featured in satcult 3.3)
future funk has a complex relationship to the web music scene. in many ways, it’s the least rooted in the net out of all these genres—yes, it’s subgenre of vaporwave, but it also incorporates the likes of traditionally danceable music like French house, nu disco, j-pop, and city pop. at its least interesting, future funk leans in almost entirely to these more palatable genres, without anything distinct to differentiate it aside from slapping a bishōjo girl on an album cover. Eknoh neon pink’s 嘘つきFantasia tips a little in the opposite direction, still paying clear homage to dance music, but utilizing a production style that feels squarely vapor. the chopping is frequent and rhythmically excellent, ensuring you’re entranced but still keeping you alert and ready for whatever comes next.
(originally featured in satcult 3.3)
easily one of the most iconic plunderphonics albums of 2022, my jaw hit the floor when i learned that non-binary love was a teenager. i shouldn’t be shocked—the web music scene is full of people who are 10 to 15 years younger than me and had nothing to do except make music on their computers for the entirely of COVID lockdown, but something about the emotions this release coaxes out of me feels so much more mature.
listening to ｌｏｎｅｌｉｎｅｓｓ ｄｅａｔｈ for the first time felt as revelatory as the first time i listened to Floral Shoppe. the whole album blends eccojams, barber beats, future funk, and breakcore, and utilizes the most subtle bitcrushing, just enough that we can call it hexd. everything is haunting and melancholic, buried the the sounds of anime and the web. the first track, “私を分かってますか？☹,” is its best known, using Bôa’s “Duvet,” the title song of Serial Experiments Lain, as a foundation. it is distant, and only a little dreamlike—mostly, it’s disassociation incarnate.
Moonlight Arcade Delight
(originally featured in satcult 5.5)
i typically only feature web music, which is a separate entity from music distributed through the web. but after noticing the revival of a 90s alternative-inspired local indie scene, and on the heels of Louise Post dropping previously unreleased demos on Bandcamp, i devoted satcult 5.5 to exploring a renewed interest in the sounds of that era. while y2k revival is on its way out now, (jarringly) in favor of the 2010s, a year ago the online aesthetic space was still saturated with it. when i came across this album by Jess Roveda, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
building upon the likes of Hole and Liz Phair, Roveda recorded this record in her bedroom. in recent years, we’ve developed the label bedroom pop, but those musicians rarely feel partially DIY to me. they’re too polished, perhaps, like they’re striving for perfection instead of expression in some cases. don’t get me wrong—there is a lot of bedroom pop i like. but it doesn’t have the same kick as something like Moonlight Arcade Delight.
trends in art are reactionary and therefore cyclical. EDM has reined supreme for years at this point; it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back towards bands, and i think it may already be happening.
Evil pacman stole my fucking warpedwater damaged maractus card
(originally featured in satcult 7.7)
what can i say about Evil pacman stole my fucking warpedwater damaged maractus card? meme music is a gift, and this concept EP with a hyper-specific narrative is hexd, synth, plunderphonics, and drone all rolled into one.
meme music and shitpost music likely have their roots in for the lolz internet communities—sometimes i think of it as 4chancore, or adjacent to neetcore. while i understand it isn’t for everyone, there is something about the layers of sheer absurdity and awareness that i appreciate in the underground’s tendency to take tone less seriously than musicians working in other spaces. the idea that rather than making a joke with your music, your music is the joke can coexist with genuine exploration and experimentation, which feels optimistic to me.
(originally featured in satcult 12.12)
when people declared vaporwave dead 10 years ago, it was because the genre had been diluted by aesthetic photosets on Tumblr and Instagram accounts riddled with ads for Solo Jazz patterned t-shirts. it was also after the microgenre had splintered into even smaller microgenres. a lot of them. everything felt messy, and the original and nuanced spirt of vaporwave had long since evaporated. the first wave of musicians had mostly moved on, some following different creative paths and some ceasing to make music altogether. eccojams felt like a relic of the past, even as pop music of the time embraced some of the classic hallmarks of vaporwave.
the genre of course still lived, but it sounded different. as most things do, it evolved. ironically, a genre built partially on the complex and sometimes contradictory emotions evoked by nostalgia itself prompted nostalgia for the old days of vapor.
this classic vapor masterpiece has a touch of utopian virtual and a touch of eccojams to it. it feels epic from beginning to end, blasts the listener with a sense of wonder that a piece of vaporwave music has not provoked from me in a very long time. this is still the real deal. this is GENESIS GRAPHICS.
it’s not always at the forefront of my mind, but i’ve spent most of my life at the fringes of anime and manga fandom, a direct result of a childhood and adolescence on the web. old fansites, forums, and even Usenet groups are my web history grails, and back in satcult 4.4, i discussed the history of anime and manga fandom in the west and how it relates to the net. but of course, online isn’t the only place where these communities thrived; IRL conventions, clubs, and meetups have remained essential, and historically these organizations, or their members, produced fanzines, which can be seen as precursors to the fansites that used to dot the web. two weeks ago, in satcult 48.48, i explored some old anime and manga fansites, but this week, thanks to the Internet Archive, i’m taking a look at some anime and manga fanzines from the late 80s and early 90s.
The Rose was the newsletter of Anime Hasshin, a Rhode Island-based anime club that was once one of the largest national clubs in the US, according to this and this. the zine included reviews, episode synopses, news, and fan illustrations. this issue was published in 1990.
Anime Illustrated, published by West Coast Anime, features news and reviews, but also fan fiction and fan comics.
the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization is one of the longest running and currently active clubs in the US devoted to manga and anime, and has a storied history—at one point it had affiliated chapters across the country, but internal politics reduced it to a single chapter in LA. it’s also notable because former members of the club branched out in the 70s and 80s to become founders of the furry fandom, for better or worse. here is an edition of C/FO’s bulletin zine from 1987.
thank you for joining me. until next time.