A Unique Take on Liminal Spaces
A Deep Dive Into Hantasi’s Liminal Spaces
By: Pad Chennington
It seems that the discussion for liminal spaces, those weird, eerie in between places void of space, time and rationality, is everywhere these days. From series like The Backrooms by Kane Pixels to the abundance of Twitter accounts posting these odd and uncomfortable empty screenshots–I’ve even done an entire video focusing on a music album solely responsible for my fascination with these liminal spaces.
I believe my appreciation for the album in that video, Infinity Frequencies’ between two worlds, a 2018 classic of the mysterious Signalwave subgenre, comes from the fact that the album delivers the feeling of liminal spaces through audio form, instead of how we traditionally experience liminal spaces, which is visually, through mediums like an image or a video.
And while that album’s personality is so further fueled by it’s cover as well, there’s no way to deny it, the same can be said for the album I am focusing on today, Hantasi’s Liminal Spaces. It's clever sample selection and decision where to make that chop makes all the difference in creating a project that feels powerfully empty. Albums like these capture the opportunity to make such an impact on that setting conjured up in your mind, and their sample curation is just as important as the artwork itself in getting you to the feeling of being in a liminal space. Today, you and I are going to explore a fresh, unique take on the liminal spaces phenomenon, something so visually engrained, but this time, brought to life through music.
The California based Hantasi is known as a legend in the Vaporwave scene, and just like every other video I mention them in, they are mostly known for what many consider to be the first ever Mallsoft album of all time. Their 2012 release of the iconic Vacant Places, a dark entry into the world of the generally optimistic and angelic Mallsoft subgenre that would be later brought to life through artists like 猫 シ Corp. and 식료품groceries.
This article will once again serve as another example of why I beg you to check out the rest of their amazing discography beyond Vacant Places. And, better yet, if you are an enjoyer of that album, I do believe you will find an attraction to the darker nature of Liminal Spaces. Hantasi’s ability to bring these moods to life has always declared them as one of the greats in this uncanny corner of internet music production.
On January 7th, 2021, Liminal Spaces would be released; 19 tracks as well as an additional 3 bonus tracks to give the album a pretty lengthy listen, especially when many other Signalwave releases can feel like they’ve ended before they’ve even got going.
Liminal Spaces contains 22 haunting tracks that beg to be pretty, although you know the slightest touch of these tracks would turn their illusions into a pile of dust. Good Signalwave, for my taste at least, comes down to the artist’s ability to create a narrative through their sound design, the talent to make a sample feel extremely brittle and delicate, all while having the density to tell a story. It’s a fine line to walk, and after reaching out to Hantasi to get some insight on the album, they stated that the creation process of Liminal Spaces has exemplified the entirety of their shape-shifting career, always anchored in the uncanny, but oddly peaceful spacious sounds of Hantasi’s own dream scapes, whether they come as a casual daydream or a deep sleep.
The opening track “Northwest Plaza” is the optimistic buzz after the long and haunted lonely tour of the mall in Vacant Places (a “proper finale” to that album, as Hantasi likes to put it). To me, the track feels like you’re on an abandoned boat ride; there's no workers to operate anything, no guests accompanying you on your journey through the river of unplugged animatronics, so everything feels hollow despite it all looking normal at the surface level.
“Same Old Dream” blends in traces of echo jams with its distant, echoed vocals washing over some heavily diluted guitars saturated in some classic reverby vaporwave effects. It’s a sort of “psychedelic mall tour experience”, wandering in and out of different catered shop decor. Meaningfulness and meaninglessness live in tandem together here.
Delayed, decayed sample loops flipped through a heavy dosage of filters and echoes, Hantasi’s signature taste in sample curation is always perfect for the moods their projects are trying to portray, tracks like “Remember” feel so carved out yet heavy, staring into the depths of a dark room where you can’t see the wall on the other side, yet you know something has to be there. Hantasi aimed for this track to be “motel jazz, mall-ified”. A late night fuzzy buzzing worldly wonder, all packaged into the nice shape of a dated, but upkept, motel.
The track “Shopping Mall Background” is the pensive dread of Hantasi resenting their past, where they’ve been, and how Hantasi got here all while nihilistically basking in the actual piece itself. Hantasi states it as an intense and reflective soundscape meant to freeze the listener, just as it froze time for them as well.
Unfortunately, I do not believe there are, or were, any physical releases for the self released Liminal Spaces. Hantasi albums like Vacant Places were brought to life in such beautiful ways on labels like Geometric Lullaby, and a cassette, vinyl or even CD of Liminal Spaces I think would look great. The album is pretty long at almost 2 hours in total run time and would require something like a triple LP to even bring it to life, but like I always say, bring on some more Vaporwave triple LPs. I really do love the idea of what you can do with gatefold packaging for vinyl, and a project like Liminal Spaces is just perfect for that.
Each puzzle piece of this tracklist jigsaw feels like a different liminal space entirely. It’s one of those albums that each of us will have a different experience with because there is no concrete narrative this album is trying to construct per say, but instead, just a narrative that conjures up the idea of liminal spaces infinitely. Where I may picture a track like “Hello” to take me to an abandoned aquarium for example, that track was sculpted around the idea of spaceship-like design and the aesthetic of Apple’s new main campus, according to Hantasi. And that specific track may take you somewhere completely different, Hantasi’s Liminal Spaces delivers that uncanny open-world nature for anyone that takes the time to dive into its tracklist.
I suggest making a nice cup of coffee or tea, turning down the lights and listening to this album in the dead of night. I was inspired to find out that each of these tracks were derived from so many different places, memories, and senses for the producer… Liminal Spaces is so much more than sampled selections with some effects behind a photo of a stereotypical liminal space. The album is gorgeously empty and blissfully expansive at the same time, and, in all the right ways. If you’re looking for a journey into the unknown, you found your listening for the night.
Much love, ur boi,