ECCOJAMS: The Birth of Vaporwave
ECCOJAMS: The Birth of Vaporwave
Released on August 8th, 2010, Daniel Lopatin’s Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol 1. Is considered by many to be the first ever Vaporwave album. From it’s aesthetic direction to the style of sample slicing and looping, the chopped and screwed playings of Lopatin’s one-time Chuck Person alias left a massive impact on the Vaporwave direction, and is rightly so considered to be one of the true grails of the genre... and today, I want to talk about it.
To properly discuss Eccojams and how it came to be, I think it’s best if we first take a look at the man who created the project in the first place: Daniel Lopatin.
Born in 1982, Massachusetts very own Daniel Lopatin was introduced to the world of music at an early age. Both of his parents came from musical backgrounds, his father was once in a garage-rock band called the Flying Dutchman, and his mother was a classically trained piano player and music teacher, and because of this, Lopatin found a bunch of musical influence right
at home. He was surrounded by many of the works found in his father’s music collection, mixes from local radio stations, video game soundtracks, as well as everything his mother taught him along the way. Heather Phares does a wonderful biography on Lopatin that I highly recommend giving a read if you’re looking for a more intensive look on Daniel’s beginnings and early career.
As he got older, Daniel would go on to play synthesizer in bands and groups during his high school years. Eventually moving to Brooklyn, NY for grad school where he would become involved in Brooklyn’s underground noise music scene. Lopatin would begin releasing music under a number of different names and aliases, only to eventually take on the name Oneohtrix Point Never, a play on the name of a Boston radio station.
Daniel’s passion for keyboards, samplers and sequencers has crafted a pretty impressive resume over the years, many may recognize Lopatin for 2011’s Replica, an absolute Oneohtrix Point Never classic. With samples ripped mostly from 1980’s commercials, Lopatin provided ears with a dynamic journey from start to end. Moments like “Sumbersible” are heavy and bellowing while other tracks like “Child Soldier” are jittery and playful. Replica is really the perfect listen for those getting into Lopatin’s work under the Oneohtrix Point Never name, he’s
able to craft genuine emotion and structure with these broken and jumpy sounds while building the album, ultimately presenting a beautiful palette of sensations for the listener.
8 years and much more music later, Lopatin would end up composing the original score to the 2019 anxiety-ridden, crime-thriller film Uncut Gems, and a year later, work with the Weeknd, producing and writing a couple of songs off of his album After Hours. Lopatin would also play a huge role in the Weeknd’s latest album, Dawn FM.
To think that someone who’s working with the Weeknd and is composing music for one of my favorite films of all time was once making Vaporwave, even if it was only one time, is pretty mind blowing.
Lopatin’s legacy in Vaporwave would begin in the late-2000’s on his sunsetcorp YouTube channel. “angel”, “nobody here” and “demerol” are considered to be some of the first ever true Vaporwave tracks, all also eventually making their way onto Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1. These are all still viewable on the sunsetcorp YouTube channel, with “nobody here” even hitting over 2 million plays as of the making of this video.
Each piece features what Lopatin called “echo jams”: chopped, screwed up and sliced selections that take a bite right out of a sample, and pancakes the chop over and over to create this dizzying yet hypnotic sensation throughout the tracks run time with varying amounts of delay, reverb, echoing, you name it. Almost anyone can practice making echo jams due to their simplistic nature, and because of this, each echo jam’s personality depends on what snippet from a sample the producer finds to be the juiciest to flip. Lopatin understands that because each producer has their own taste, there will always be a seemingly infinite amount of possibilities on how a sample can be used for an echo jam.
Produced between 2009 and 2010 and Released in the Summer of 2010, Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 consists of two sides: tracks A1 through A8 and tracks B1 through B7. The album feels like a candy store of sounds, with chewed up samples from Toto to Ian Van Dahl, and E.L.O to Janet Jackson. There really is a little bit of everything on this album.
Although the Vaporwave scene has really only been around for 10 or so years, tracks off of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 make me already feel nostalgic for earlier days in the scene. Hearing that intro track A1 rev up into the “Africa” sample by Toto is just so magical everytime, Lopatin throws the sample back and forth like he’s having a baseball catch and just submerges everything in this aquatic, eroded and thick shroud to quickly introduce us into the deep-sea
artwork from the album cover. A2, or as we’ve come to know of it as “Angel” from the sunsetcorp uploads, features some of the more diverse sample chopping moments of the album. Nothing on the album is really revolutionary in regards to how Lopatin decides to pick and place where each sample chop go, more of the focus on Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 is spent with the textures and hypnotic experiences found within the final result of the sample reworks, but A2’s
first couple of seconds does feature some of the more bouncier moments of sample chopping on the album. Fleetwood Mac’s “Only Over You” from 1982 bombarded with reverb, echoing and obnoxious, yet tasteful, flangers.
And Lopatin continues this style of nostalgia inducing, trippy overlapping sample play throughout the rest of the tracklist, and to talk about each track individually feels a bit pointless in a way since it’s an album that kinda does the same thing throughout the entire run time. There is a really nice range of genres explored through the sample choices Lopatin made in each track individually, but the glitched, almost “broken”, concept that glazes over the entire project pretty much makes every track feel the same, and it really works for a project like this
one. Lopatin takes the sweetest, most savory, part of a sourced track, and loops that perfect hook at nauseum, and doing that pretty much throughout the entire project gives this thing it’s personality. Echo jams were done time and time again after this release, but nothing ever truly captured the same magic Lopatin did with this thing. Maybe he just knew how to hit our brains right with the perfect sample choices, his wonderful editing and texturizing, whatever it is, nothing ever really hits like Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1.
On the visual side, we’re given glitchy album art built up from bits and scraps of the Sega Mega Drive and Mega-CD versions of the Ecco the Dolphin video game. This cover is like a historical Vaporwave art composition at this point—this and Floral Shoppe, of course, seem to be the most recognizable Vaporwave classics from those who have at least heard of the genre once or twice and for good reason. They capture such a nostalgic tone yet they feel so liminal and unnatural... All themes that would be chiseled into the Vaporwave aesthetic for years to come.
The concoction of fragments on the Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1. artwork is so jarring yet cool at the same time, and just feels like a Gameshark cheat code gone wrong. The artwork really pairs well with that pancaking audio effect I mentioned earlier that Lopatin uses as a staple throughout the project. And, just like the Ecco the Dolphin game itself, there is a sense of dread behind the album as well, Lopatin taking happy pop songs and corrupting them through various amounts of delay, reverb and tape manipulation, while the video game gives you, what should be, a beautiful ocean world terrorized by an outside force. I’ve always looked at the album as a message on the dangers of relying too much on nostalgia for happiness, the idea that we can sometimes have such a broken view of a romanticized past, and how that affects us in finding significance in new experiences.
There will always be discussion, in virtually any community, topic or subject, on what people believe was the “first to ever do it”. While many in the past have sampled music in similar fashion to Lopatin’s work here, the aesthetic and tone present within the entirety of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1. was so crushingly Vaporwave in an almost sinister, purposeful sort’ve way, that I find it so hard to choose anything else as the “first ever” for the genre due to the project’s self-awareness in a time where there were no other relatable Vaporwave releases to
compare itself to.
As of today, the only Lopatin-sanctioned physical release of Eccojams came from the label The Curatorial Club on a limited edition cassette, a cassette which has once sold, according to Discogs, for $1,000... Pretty wild!
With the boom of vinyl and cassette releases becoming more and more available in the Vaporwave community in recent years, Eccojams never received a true, Lopatin sanctioned physical release beyond the original limited edition cassette back in 2010. And this is pretty understandable, there’s some heavy samples on here that are quite distinguishable and if Lopatin ever wanted to officially get this all cleared for a truly sanctioned physical release, I’m sure it wouldn’t even be worth it at that point.
A number of bootlegs were released throughout the years, most notably the Vapor Tapes Inc. drop back in the day which some of you may remember caused quite a stir when they were first revealed. I actually grabbed one of these things when it was first announced, I just saw it on Twitter I think and immediately picked one up not really thinking about it beyond the “wow, a physical release of eccojams!”, only to soon see Lopatin kinda shoot it down a little while later. I don’t really remember the whole story of Vapor Tapes Inc. but I do remember them also posting about an Eccojams vinyl release as well as some bootleg Blank banshee stuff, I’m not even sure if those ever saw the light of day, but yeah I have this weird and wacky cassette version of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1. I do like the glittery cassette shell, that was kinda cool.
I also have an unofficial lathe cut record of the album released on Groovy Dude Records. These were released at a super limited amount as well a couple years ago, I don’t remember the exact number, but I do remember seeing the post about the drop on Reddit and it genuinely felt like the label was releasing this for the pure sake of fans and collectors just wanting to see Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 on vinyl. I don’t remember the exact price of the vinyl either but I do
remember it being really reasonably priced, further noticing that this really wasn’t made for profit at all but merely a cool gift for the scene. I love the transparent look of the lathe, and the artwork looks really rich and hi-res too, super nice touch. Bootlegs and unofficial releases are always an interesting subject, but lathe cut in particular felt simply made as an homage to the classic Vaporwave album, and it’s just cool being able to spin eccojams on my record player.
In regards to visual material, A handful of tracks from Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 were also originally used on Memory Vague, Lopatin’s 2009 audio-visual project that was released as a limited-edition DVD in June of 2009 by the label Root Strata. With Lopatin providing the music and Maxwell August Croy the design and layout of the project, Memory Vague served up a concoction of found footage material like commercials, animation and music videos, all edited
by Lopatin in Windows Movie Maker. The project contains the sunsetcorp YouTube music videos Lopatin uploaded like “Angel” and “Nobody Here”, as well as several other tracks from the eccojams project all adding up to 11 tracks in total. Memory Vague is considered to be another pioneering piece in the Vaporwave genre due to its aesthetic tone and manipulation of 80’s source material. The DVD is also pretty hard to comeby as well, once selling for over $100 on discogs.
So with an album name like Eccojams Vol. 1 it was only obvious that people would eventually think: “well, where’s Vol. 2?”
With it now being over a decade since the release of Eccojams, a Vol. 2 never came to be unfortunately. When asked about a possible Vol. 2 in a Reddit AMA post from October 2013, Lopatin replied with “I have multiple volumes of eccojams in the cryptotank set to defrost in the distant future”... gotta love it.
And I can only assume that he has a ton of these things he just never released, echo jams are audio snacks to me and like most Vaporwave flips, there’s a charm and almost ironic replayability in their disposability, and I’m sure there was also a similar sort’ve feeling when creating these things. I imagine Daniel played with tons of samples during the creation of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 that maybe just didn’t hit right for him. Who knows how many of them are half finished or maybe fully complete but not up to par for what he wanted in an official release, but I like to really think of them all sitting in some frozen hard drive thousands of feet under the sea in some metallic facility with a giant window showcasing the deep ocean floor. Some real Dr. Evil kinda shit.
Looking back at the project and its legacy, it’s still really great to see people paying homage to the echo jams style even in the present day. ECCO:10 - A Tribute to Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol 1. celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Lopatin’s work with a massive 51-track compilation project featuring over 30 artists and creators. Originally released in 2020 on the label Virtual Dream Club, the project would get re-released about a year later on Tiger Blood Tapes as a
complete version, this time with a really sweet limited edition double cassette tape boxset. All profits given towards the cassette purchase went towards the water.org foundation, a foundation aimed to help people get access to safe water and sanitation around the world.
Even my favorite Vaporwave release from 2021, gh0st’s 呪文, has a heavy influence from Lopatin’s eccojams, even having a track on there titled “ecco to no one”.
Do I think Lopatin will ever come out with a Vol. 2? Honestly, no. I actually think it’s kinda cool that there’s only a Vol. 1, this concept maybe that people who stumble upon the release who don’t know anything about it or it’s legacy, just finding it for what it is, possibly trying to search for a Vol. 2 after finishing the album, only to completely fail at ever finding the follow up. The idea of lost nostalgia, and the irony in those who try and re-capture those same, exact feelings in their present day living... It just doesn’t exist, and it never can.
The obnoxious behavior of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 and it’s dedication of flooding you with a nostalgia-overdose serves as a great reminder, at least for me personally, to find inspiration in nostalgia, and not necessarily try to re-capture it. Eccojams Vol. 1 is an album I really don’t listen to frequently, I kind’ve get sick of it after a full listen honestly and I think that’s just another ironic beauty of the album. I get that nostalgia blast from it, but after a while even I too just want to listen to something less intoxicating. Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 is really unique in that way and genuinely feels disposable, in all the good ways. If I ever need to jab myself with a nostalgia-syringe, I know exactly where to go.
Much love, ur boi and we’ll talk soon, Pad Chennington.