Discover more from Satellite Cult
satellite cult 8.8
aesthetic as genre, old windows icons, web archiving, void dive
welcome to another satellite cult dispatch. i’m so glad you’re here. i hope you will engage with the artifacts i present this week from your bedroom late at night; please allow the cult to transform your space, turning shag carpet into mall fountain tiles, floor lamps into neon signs, your window succulents into six-foot tall birds of paradise with fanning emerald leaves. maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll find god in the cosmic food court that used to be your kitchen. gaze up into the skylight and feed it with your anxiety.
please be aware that the void dive section below contains flashing gifs and that discussion of the traumacore aesthetic in the noise section involves brief mention of topics that could be triggering for some readers, including childhood abuse.
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if you’re a dedicated cult disciple you’re already familiar with the intersection of internet music and internet aesthetics. genre as aesthetic is nothing new—consider punk, emo, goth, scene—but aesthetic movements rooted online go deeper than clothing or attitude. vaporwave is a genre umbrella but also an art style, a meme style, eventually a catch-all term for all retro 80s aesthetics online once it broke the mainstream.
while the origins of vaporwave are in music production, it’s also common to see the music to aesthetic pipeline work the other way around. though there’s some disagreement over whether the aesthetic or the music came first, the short-lived seapunk scene was born as a Tumblr meme circa 2011 on the coattails of a tweet by Lil Internet. if an aesthetic exists online, Tumblr is probably its childhood home. and then there are entirely manufactured cases of aesthtic-as-genre, like the Spotify-coined hyperpop, that collect related sounds and scenes, unite them under a name, and homogenize them by catapulting them to popularity.
the Aesthetics Wiki collects even the most niche internet aesthetics to varying degrees of accuracy. despite my appreciation for vaporwave, i don’t subscribe to a particular one, but i am very interested in questions about aesthetics, subcultures, identity, and belonging. while digging for music, i often search by aesthetic tags because it narrows work down to a particular sensibility.
dreamcore is a surrealist, dreamy aesthetic closely related to weirdcore, liminalcore, and unreality. the Aesthetics Wiki cites its origin as TikTok in the 2020s, but i recall seeing the tag alongside aesthetic content on Tumblr as early as 2018. the sounds associated with dreamcore don’t seem quite as cohesive as the visual aesthetic, but most common is ambient, chillwave inspired electronic music.
some self-identified dreamcore seems more keen on tagging trending adjacent aesthetics than actually embodying dreamcore—this music fits mostly only because it comes from other internet-native scenes. that said, i didn’t mind this EP by Newboy that owes its existence as equally to acts like I Set My Friends on Fire as it does to hyperpop.
weirdcore casts a wider net than dreamcore, even though there is strong crossover, and because it’s widely derived from the aesthetics of the internet in the 90s and early 2000s, it’s also closely related to webcore (or internetcore, if you prefer).
you may even notice the word enawave floating around, in reference to the web series ENA by Joel Guerra and its music. glitchcore and breakcore are related genres, and of course, vaporwave and other genres built on plunderphonics; segahaze seems to be particularly big as a vaporwave microgenre that plays nice with weirdcore-0VΣRKILL!!! by MΛD ΛGΛMΣMNON is a good example.
weirdcore doesn’t describe all experimental electronic music, but but those genres most commonly populate the tag.
earlier this year, traumacore exploded into unprecedented musical relevance with the release of PREY//IV by Alice Glass—the witch house inspired hyperpop album from the former Crystal Castles frontwoman is probably the most high profile release incorporating elements of the aesthetic. recognized on Tumblr since the mid-2010s, traumacore typically juxtaposes cute childhood imagery with dark subject matter expressed in the form of text over photos. the text is often self-deprecating in nature, or delivered from the perspective of another person engaging in acts of verbal or physical abuse.
traumacore is most recognized as an outlet to express feelings related to childhood trauma, but can generally refer to any trauma (Bandcamp recommends transgender as a related tag to traumacore, interestingly enough). it succeeded the morute aesthetic—a clumsy portmanteau of morbid and cute, more commonly referred to as creepy cute in my experience—that also addresses trauma like childhood abuse and self-harm, but lacks the influence of weirdcore and the Sanrio character edits that have become hallmarks of the traumacore aesthetic; it’s really the child of morute and kidcore, part of an intricate web of Tumblr aesthetic tags. morute had its own music—think Nicole Dollanganger and musicians who embody the Southern Gothic version of what Lana Del Rey spent her whole career chasing. despite the shared history, traumacore sounds so different.
PREY//IV in the visual sense isn’t really proper traumacore, but it is certainly when you consider the music itself and its thematic elements.
girls murdering each other by princess imitation is a more recent release, and the musician also opted to tag the album angel sounds and angelcore; i’ve seen those descriptors used in other contexts, but here they seem to refer to the frightening, biblically accurate angels present in weirdcore visual art.
but where did i go by Ava is more classically representative of traumacore, from the album artwork to the production.
and i felt i couldn’t leave out HRT by voidgal, in light of the recommended Bandcamp tags and the fact that i am a transgender person.
i mentioned kidcore briefly above; it’s an aesthetic rooted in childhood nostalgia, making it the ideological opposite of traumacore, but with plenty of visual similarities. it’s an aesthetic that developed without a native sound, though plenty of people associate established acts like Kero Kero Bonito and Neil Cicierega’s Lemon Demon project with kidcore. i couldn’t find any true kidcore music (this is the first time i’ve ever looked for it), but i did find a hyperpop and glitchpop producer who goes by Kidcore* and released this chaotic, choppy Caramelldansen remix:
I’m Bored, Let’s Explore (Mall)
in this browser game on itch.io, you and a friend explore an abandoned mall in a calming color landscape. it’s eerie and liminal, but in a cozy way.
Windows 98 Icon Viewer
speaking of nostalgia, if you’re not aware, the Webrecorder project provides a variety of open source tools to help anyone become an internet archivist.
thank you for joining me. until next time.