The Abandoned Genre of "Ocean Grunge"
The Abandoned Genre of
Thalassophobia: a persistent and intense fear of deep bodies of water. While many quickly resort to feelings of fear when envisioning the dark void of the deep sea, there once existed a small selection of artists who, around 2014, tried to bottle that eerie, boundless energy of the ocean into a musical form. Today, we are going to explore that genre, a now-abandoned genre once known as “Ocean Grunge”, what it was and some of the notable releases from this aquatically angsty genre found within the depths of the internet. I invite you to take my hand and make sure you bring some solid scuba equipment as we embark through dark granite colored water and never-ending cloudy skies above us, all while reflecting a hopeless attitude on contemporary western society because you know, all internet genres are deep. No pun intended.
Welcome my friends to the abandoned genre known as “Ocean Grunge”
Ocean Grunge is an interesting topic to make a video on because, well, there really isn’t that much to talk about nor a dense history to go off of. On the surface, Ocean Grunge pretty much practiced a lot of the same tendencies other quirky electronic genres emerging from the internet around that time did as well, but did it with such a specific narrative in mind that it created this interesting little bubble of a vibe, which also caused its inevitable downfall due to its narrow flexibility. To save you time and to get us to actual examples of Ocean Grunge, I highly recommend checking out FrankJavCee’s famous video on how to make Ocean Grunge whenever you get the chance. While his videos were mostly parody-based, frank is a smart fella and is really good at wording things in a comedic, yet informative way. He does a great job explaining the construction of the sound for what it is, but to knock out what Ocean Grunge literally was for this article and to get us to the good stuff, it was an electronic music genre heavily influenced by early Vaporwave, drone, and grunge with an aesthetic of dark, cloudy, endless waters. You will also find a lot of sources saying its influenced by Nu metal, but I really do not see that at all
There were not really too many ocean grunge releases, the genre pretty much came and went because the narrative was so specific. How many songs could have possibly be made about the same thing? How many times can we take pictures of a gloomy ocean and say to ourselves “what would this sound like in musical form?” To be honest, I have never really listened to this little nook of a genre before exploring it for this topic, so I searched up the “Ocean Grunge Essentials” list and picked 5 of these that I thought the album cover was cool on and give them a chance. One of these albums I actually enjoyed very much, was pretty surprised actually so make sure you stick around for all of these picks I'm about to present to you today. Get cozy my friend because you and I are going to be exploring what Ocean Grunge has for us beneath the surface.
5) gorgeous☵gorgias - oceanographer #15
At #5 to start off the list, we are going to take a look at “oceanographer #15” by gorgeous☵gorgias. This was the first album art that popped to me from the list so I said let’s give it a shot.
Taking a look at the album art, it seems some helicopter expedition group just made a discovery that pretty much makes no sense, because it seems like they're in the middle of the ocean and there is no way that that thing floats so either this statue extends hundreds and hundreds of feet below what we’re seeing or the density of this water is so thick that this statue is just plopped at the top. I mean, now to think of it, it also kinda looks like snow so maybe this is Snow Grunge :^)
“oceanographer #15”, after listening to it, is pretty simple and vacant of any intensity. The Bandcamp description has it as “The story of a woman who ran away from Life to find Death in a submarine.” … very chilling
The album contains 6 tracks with some classic Ocean Grunge treatment, slowing down them samples with a multitude of textures to make this thing sound crunchy, yet underwater. It seems the album’s main weapon to ”woo” you is its constant panning, but I just think that method gets kinda annoying and overdone throughout the entirety of the album. Certain sections of songs will be situated completely on one side of your headphones, or it'll just be constantly waving back and forth between your ears… I mean hey, waving, waves, like the ocean,...right?
Nonetheless, some pretty chill background music and definitely sounds like you have signed your life away to live in a submarine, constantly descending deeper and deeper with each track.
4) Pacific Despair - ~~~Devour~~~
Oooh, this one looks a little spooky baby I don't think I wanna be treading at #4 here with “~~~Devour~~~” by Pacific Despair. A dark, brooding album cover of what seems to be a world with an ocean below us and an ocean above, or maybe this is the perspective of swimming deep within the depths of an underwater trench, getting closer and more claustrophobic with every push towards the bottom of the sea. “~~~Devour~~~” comes at us with 6 tracks, a very similar format and track length list almost completely identical to “oceanographer #15”. If you check out a couple of this Ocean Grunge releases you can easily see why this genre kinda went under. A lot of it just seemed to be the same thing release to release, just some gloomy Mallsoft if anything, so I think it's just more of the name of the genre that dispersed or labeling this sound as “Ocean Grunge” than the actual sound itself disappearing. Ocean Grunge is just another case of the always-sprouting niche genres the internet belches up for us that find its eventual doom due to the limitations conjured up by its own narrative.
Nothing too dynamic or ear-catching on “~~~Devour~~~” as well, just some more faint background noise to accompany you if you’re studying, cleaning the house, or whatever you like to do. The is pumped with reverb, echoing samples, droned out and constantly retexturized metallic sound effects… you know the deal. I mean, it definitely does sound a bit distant, like you’re under the sea while there is a ton of activity going on above the surface but being so deep underneath, the sound just can't quite get past the ocean water into your ears. “~~~Devour~~~” a good example of what ocean grunge wants to be, another product off the ocean grunge conveyor belt and we can leave it at that. Every track pretty much sounds the same, all leading up to the final track “no signal” which just sounds like one 10 second sound stretched out by like 2000%, it does the notion of an “aquatic void” justice I guess.
3) POSEIDON IN CHAINS - Beneath the burning hands of God
Next up, I decided to choose an Ocean Grunge album from the Ocean Grunge Essentials list that did not actually have an ocean in the picture… crazy right?
Let us take a look at “Beneath the burning hands of God” by POSEIDON IN CHAINS, 5 tracks all with a decent amount of length to them ranging between 6 and 8 minutes long each. The album describes itself on Bandcamp as “From the last remnants of the planet, around the year 2500”, and it definitely does give you an abandoned, apocalyptic feeling. The constant sound of ocean waves crashing upon the shore are remnants of a once flourishing coastal town, flocks of seagulls searching for a bite to eat, bellowing vocal samples poking out between the more quaint parts of the track where a lot of the sounds seem to mellow out... You’ll hear some stretched wind chimes, or what seems to be some glass or metallic noise-making objects. Very vast, enormous feeling, and an album that really scopes how big and empty the world would be if nothing existed but oceans and remnants of what used to be a society. Beneath the burning hands of God is very spa-like, yet definitely ominous; it is like the Tripods from War of the Worlds about to come out the damn ocean and vaporize you at any possible second.
I think this album is definitely better than the first two we took a look at, there actually is some effort in regards to creating a layered, structured song. POSEIDON IN CHAINS does a solid job with synths, sounds, and sights to really give each little instrument or hum it’s respected space, definitely sticks out as one of the more prominent, talented artists from such a specific corner of music. “Beneath the burning hands of God” paints a picture of this hopeless wasteland we find ourselves in quite well, a cinematic experience for something that can only be heard through 5 tracks. Good job with this one.
2) metsu - as the earth drinks
Next up we got “as the earth drinks” by metsu, another 5 track release coming out all the way back in June of 2011. Recorded in December of 2010, “as the earth drinks” is an ambient and textural five-song album with bit crushed and compressed drums, fingered guitar strumming and some moments of breakdowns believe it or not (track 2 titled “imber” goes hard at the end, out of nowhere). This album is definitely not Vaporwave, some of these Ocean Grunge albums really flow towards the “grunge” side, and this album is definitely one of them. As I was mentioning earlier, I think a lot of Ocean Grunge is basically just some gloomy mallsoft with a narrative based on the ocean, I guess the other half is just ambient sounding grunge.
“as the earth drinks” is a cool listen, very raw and seems super unpolished which, we all know, can sound really great if it is done right. The album really feels like it was recorded in one go by some friends in a garage on a rainy afternoon, tracks like “rust/gasping for air” sound like a chillaxed jam session with your best buds and a 12-pack. Some tracks just sound like your standard “grunge” song, I do not really see the relationship to the ocean in track #4 titled “to keep from drowning (your feet must touch the ground)”, but hey, not everything needs to be a e s t h e t i c.
This album has a physical release, which is also surprisingly still available for being out since 2011. The CD comes in a shrink-wrapped, high-quality printed board case with a really nice 5-panel pop-out accordion artbook. I really adore the packaging here, Ocean Grunge definitely has some strong and mesmerizing colors in its palette and the CD packaging here takes advantage of that quite well. Only 100 of these exist, and hey, why not support these fellas and grab something that somehow still exists for sale that is almost 10 years old. Pretty cool indeed.
--§E▲ ▓F D▓G§ - THROUGH THE FOG AND THE DRIFTWOOD
Alrighty, last but definitely not least, I want to share with you an album that I actually find to be quite amazing and I am really happy to have discovered it by checking out this Ocean Grunge Essentials list. For the final pick of this countdown, we are going with one of the OG players of the Ocean Grunge sound --§E▲ ▓F D▓G§ and their release of “THROUGH THE FOG AND THE DRIFTWOOD”.
Coming in at 10 tracks, August of 2014’s “THROUGH THE FOG AND THE DRIFTWOOD” by --§E▲ ▓F D▓G§ is everything an Ocean Grunge album should, and can, be. The album is way more dynamic in sound range compared to everything else I pretty much took a listen to here, you got a ton of instruments and sampling techniques going at it with one another and a whole bunch of energy to really replicate an ocean of waves at war with one another, constantly crashing and colliding in a world where no land exists at all. The opening track “Slain” does a fascinating job at welcoming you to this world, a wrecking ball of an atmosphere as the song hits you with every component the Ocean Grunge toolbox can possibly throw at you.
What really does it for me with this album in its a range, every track has a personality of its own. While track #1 “Slain” is an orchestra of Ocean Grunge attributes, track #3 “It’s Over” is sampled and produced to sound almost sound like a George Clanton track if it were to be dropped down in pitch. Track #6 “Blu like the Ocean” has some classic eccojams vibes to it while the final track “Once Again, Left With Tears” sounds like what a Death Grips instrumental would be in the Ocean Grunge genre.
I also love the album artwork on here, those light grays to dark granite colors are so pretty to me and the artwork here helps you visualize an endless, hopeless sea quite well. I was picturing that ocean world from “Interstellar” while listening to this thing, all of it is very grand, overwhelming, and aggressive. The album has also dropped on cassette twice, unsurprisingly both sold out, the limited edition cassette and limited edition black tape anniversary cassette both looking really nice and for any of you who were able to pick this up over at Bedlam Tapes, be proud as this is a very solid piece to own. Hey, maybe this will gain some new attention for the album from people who have never heard it and we can somehow get a physical release of this again one day. Imagine this on a super dark forest green / light black swirl vinyl pressing? Absolutely gorgeous.
Ocean Grunge, for what it was, provided a unique aesthetic for an ambient, grungy sound. It’s downfall and short-run history is unsurprising though because, as I said, the narrative is so specific it creates a ceiling for how high the artists can go in regards go creativity, inspiration, and community. And, if they did want to experiment beyond what Ocean Grunge could be, it just places their sound in another genre. But, as always, who cares because at the end of the day, placing a genre on a sound is just a way to put faith into labeling something. I find some of these releases to be pretty good, definitely the last one we talked about, while others just seem like regurgitated background noise we hear time and time again from the internet. I don’t see the genre ever making a true comeback, but it is definitely fun to return to the idea of it nonetheless… setting sail in cold, cloudy waters where you are one wave away from being swept into the dark black void of the ocean.
Safe travels my friend.
Much love, ur boi,
"Also known as "Youtube's Vaporwave Valedictorian", Pad Chennington is a content creator who has created a substantial following on YouTube for his videos discussing all things Vaporwave. Starting in the Fall of 2017, Pad's videos range from reviews to breakdowns, interviews to unboxings, and much more, always revolving around odd and interesting music genres found throughout the internet. Pad has also recently released an album in February titled "CONTRAST" that is available as a free download via the My Pet Flamingo label."