Macintosh Plus / Florel Shoppe: A Music Revolution Or Chillwave for Marxists?
Understanding the central idea of the bumper-hitch is simple enough. A group of hitchers, typically 3 or 4 of us from the neighborhood, lurked in the shadows of a vehicle intersection. Eyeballing passing cars for speed and driver awareness. Mostly we just waited. Waited until the right combination of adrenaline and nerve pushed us to jump/run behind a passing car, grab the rear bumper and hang on tight. Most preferred the squatting position and dug their boots (or shoes) onto the snow covered street. Resulting in the aforementioned “bumper–hitch“. The chosen car pulling us down the street undetected as the driver accelerated. Always making a special effort to avoid the exhaust and heat from the rear muffler. Our group of delinquents always planned our strategies during school hours. Judging weather and road condition was important. An uneven or inadequate snow fall could result in obvious injury. And this was particularly true at high speeds. Once a car hit cruising speed there was little time for second guessing. And yes. There are certainly easier ways to travel.
Which opens the central point; “why“? Why the risk? The neighborhood parents called hitchers “troublemakers“. Kids seeking a thrill. However, that assessment is a shallow dismissal as the motivation runs deeper. Allow me to explain. Risk is essential to creative thinking. The creatively minded will always explore their environment. Risk is vital to the breakthrough of new knowledge. And I can testify today that many of those troublemakers were actual the most interesting students in our school. They didn’t always get the best grades or have good behavior. They were the few capable of seeing beyond the constrant and order of the school day. In fact, those troublemakers were often the most hungry from real learning and the norishment of knowledge.
If risk is a purposefully creative activity, then the album Macintosh Plus Floral Shoppe is built upon that risk. First released on December 9, 2011 on the Beer on the Rug label. A small electronic music label that specialized in releasing cassette albums of Bandcamp musicans. Macintosh Plus is but one of the many aliases for the electronic music artist, Ramona Andra Xavier. A (then) 18 year old from Portland, Oregon who had been releasing independent electronic music since 2005. Little did anyone realize that Xavier would release one of the most important and controversial albums of her generation. And unlike, say, the Sex Pistols‘ Never Mind the Bollocks, Xavier‘s music would confronted consumerist culture at the most vulnerable point. Intentional or not, Floral Shoppe broke the cardinal rule of the marketplace by questioning and violating copyright. This was music the mainstream would never accept. Could never accept. Upon it’s initial cassette release, Floral Shoppe started a firestrom. Exploding across the internet underground and popularizing a new form of electronic music known a Vaporwave. A musicial style that had been lurking around the darker corners of the web-world since the mid-2000s. The Vaporwave astetic developing from a satire and commentary of consumerist culture. A situation that would have made Malcolm McLaren both proud and shiver with embarrassment.
Vaporwave is electronic music, a visual design and a cultural statement. The music is built around the manipulation of sampled AOR, elevator jazz and smooth R&B music from the 80s and 90s. The musicans warp and bend the music until it is often, but not always, unrecognizable. By slowing the vocal pitch and choping the music samples the emotional impact of the music is completely altered. Creating a sound that is entirely new and fresh. Vaporwave taking the symbols of a hyper-commercial society and turns them inside out. And by using unlicensed copyrighted material, vaporwave artists dare a confrontation with the music industry. For example, Macintosh Plus clearly uses a sample of the Diana Ross single “It’s Your Move” on Floral Shoppe. More then just a short sample, 02 リサフランク420 – 現代のコンピュー is virtually just a slowed down version of the song, chopped and edited. The message is clear. Popular entertainment, technology and advertising are the tools of propaganda used by the prevailing culture. Vaporwave and, specificly, Floral Shoppe becomes the inversion of that propaganda. Representing a burging movement of young artists turning the superficialities of cultural propaganda against itself. The sleeve art of Floral Shoppe continues the aesthetic and would become an important part of the Vaporwave style. The computer generated graphics, retro web design and glitch-art all adding to the look and feel of the emerging subgenre of electronic music. It’s intersting to note that no legal acton has been taken or threated against Macintosh Plus. Perhaps this is a copyright legal battle the music industry is hoping to avoid or ignore?
And our story could have ended right there. With albums like Floral Shoppe or HKE’s & Telepath’s Birth of a New Day being nothing more then interesting statements on our consumer society. A poke-in-the-eye to the music industry and nothing more. However, something strange happened on the way to the vaporwave rebellion. The music was often good and sometimes very good. And occasionally brilliant. If all that Floral Shoppe did was stir a tiny rebellion on the back pages of reddit, the music wouldn’t be worth investigating. But Floral Shoppe creates a universe unto itself. The homemade manipulations of the music has a strange effect. Constructing swirling soundscapes of textured sound that are amazingly thoughtful and deep. There is a beautiful sadness and forgotten tenderness lurking between the grooves. The disjointed sounds weaving together like stands of a thread. Creating a fever-dream of hot and cold atmosphere. The warped sounds and odds cuts give the music the feeling of instablity. A reflection of a world where nothing is lasting? The sound becoming a commentary on a culture where all is temporary, even disposable. Sex, love, and companionship are merely by-products of a chosen lifestyle. With nothing extrodinary to be found and treasured.
Floral Shoppe was grown from the the risky endeavors of one young women from Portland, Oregon. Creating art that is a reflection of a society accelerating towards complete standarization. There will be no rough edges to rub against. And broken pieces aren’t permited anymore. Courting controversy or stepping out-of-line will religate the artist and the troublemaker to the outer edges of the vast republic. As if they are infected by a virus, society will build walls around the dirty and unclean. Fortunately, a few of those rough edges can still be found on Floral Shoppe.