Sampling vs. Non Sampling in Vaporwave
By Pad Chennington
Who doesn’t love a good sample? I know I do.
When it comes to making Vaporwave, implementing and exploring the internet for samples to chop up has become a practice sacred to the very sport of aesthetics itself. Hunting down obscurity within the depths of the YouTube related section, converting a song you like to an mp3 or wav file and then goin’ in on it to make it your own only further pronounced the very mystique attitude of the Vaporwave way of life—A forgotten, mysterious, lost glamour that you happened to stumble upon within’ the crevices of the cyber world.
However, the ways of musical production did not stay solidified in a state purely dependent on sample engineering for very long. Even by late 2012, producers began introducing their own instrumentals to create a palette less sample dense, all while still trying to still ooze this feeling of false technological hope, forgotten media, and nostalgic undertones. An immediate example that comes to mind is Blank Banshee’s beloved “Blank Banshee 0”, the classic pound-for-pound champion of the Vaportrap division that played off of trending vibes existing in that current meta of Vaporwave, all while at the same time, adding in something odd, intricate, and organic to the movement with cleverly placed 808’s and synths sounding like they were sprouted from the soil of one’s strangest dreams.
Nowadays, it is pretty safe to say we have seen it all; a prism stretched far and wide blessed with all sorts of production methods. Sample chopping, field recordings, live instruments, vocals—you name it, we have heard it!
A big discussion seems to come up time and time again in the community: the battle between sampling vs. non-sampling… Which one is “better”, especially in this day and age and the growth of the scene? Is it impossible to abandon the tried and true ways of the sample bender or should we really move on for the sake of newness and fresh creativity?
Well, with this article I want to not necessarily search for an answer on which one is “better”, but more so on how each one contributes to the scene in it’s own, unique way.
Boring answer? Lame answer? I know, but to be honest with you, I believe the discussion should be based less on competitive assets and more so on how each one enhances the Vaporwave genre, all while not going overboard in it’s own way.
Let’s start off with sampling, good ol’ sampling… I mean cmon’ like I said who doesn’t LOVE a nicely chopped, creatively filtered, and perfectly placed sample to coat your soul with something fun and catchy? Who doesn’t enjoy that little rewarding surprise after hearing a Vektroid track and then hearing the original sample used to make that song pop up on your radio only a couple days later?
*Sample used in MACINTOSH PLUS - ライブラリ
Sampling from existing songs is always ironically convenient in a narrative sense of the whole Vaporwave idea, the fact that it can replicate this “bootleg” acquisition within the flow of your track. Using samples to create musical stories, artists can pump out projects and albums at a consistently convenient rate, a good amount of work is already done for you especially when you found that super delicious little loop in a track ripe with instruments and vocals you do not need to put in yourself. All of this further contributes to this melting pot surplus of Vaporwave tracks that already exist on the internet and will always allow for more music to be pumped out at a rapid rate. Who doesn’t love getting lost in the back catalogue of 猫 シ Corp.’s earlier works? Or taking a mini-vacation through the skyscrapers of Luxury Elite?
A lot of us love Vaporwave for that, and always have. This engraved notion of availability, getting lost within the hundreds of bandcamp pages tagged “Vaporwave” always knowing we’ll never be able to listen to it all; and most of those uploads will contain samples. Simply put, it is obvious how important the act of using samples are to the genre’s core.
The flaw in this is that there will be a lot of Vaporwave material put out online that many can find lazy, uninspired, and repetitious. I’ll always find the cheap side of Vaporwave fun, but understandably for many, you may want to hear more than a haunting sample chop. With this issue, implementing some real raw and organic production can set you apart from a good majority of the competition.
I always liked to think of sample-based Vaporwave as Adobe Photoshop and non-sample-based Vaporwave as Adobe Illustrator… For those who aren’t familiar with the two softwares I just named, Photoshop is used to edit already existing images that can’t be enlarged, or you’ll get em’ all blurry, while Illustrator is used to construct vectors and shapes that can be enlarged and/or shrunk without losing resolution. Traditionally, one would create in illustrator and edit in photoshop, you don’t use one over the other but instead use both together in the creation process. .
This is why I see sample and non-sample based vaporwave as more of teammates and less as competitors, there is an open door towards newness all while retaining that signature Vaporwave feel— Never losing sight of this longing for a past that was hopeful for the future to come. One can start with a blank canvas, produce their own material and then glaze it with a sample to add an exciting variety to what one has created themselves. And, if you still think the track is a bit empty sounding or can use some more structure, create some more organic production and continually pair it back up with what you have made so far. A back and forth concoction that could end up creating a final product way more dense, diverse, and wholesome.
Many believed that deterring samples go against the very heart, blood, and soul of the genre’s original roots, and a concern one may have with going strictly non-sample based is that it makes the track lose that “Vaporwave” charm, that undeniably dusty aura that comes out of using an old sample in your track. Sometimes when something is “too organic”, it does not deliver that same smoky punch as, let’s say, an old 80’s RnB sample slowed down. This is why I think it is just more practical as a producer these days in the scene to try their hand at using both, take a shot and hit both sides of the spectrum.
Nowadays it is so nice to see many coming around to the idea of non-sample Vaporwave, realizing the refreshing experience for artists to craft something themselves. Windows96, Dan Mason, FM Skyline, and Runners Club 95 are just a small handful of artists this year that have put out some very notable work heavy with their own formula, and it absolutely bangs.
So what are your thoughts on the whole idea of sampling vs. non sampling in Vaporwave? It is totally cool to prefer one over the other, but when we can see the two as best of friends I believe the possibility for newness and excitement is endlessly legendary.
Much love, ur boi,
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