Around 2009, a new generation of music producers, many of whom were not alive during or were too young to remember the 80s, revived many of the production aesthetics of early synthpop and dreampop. Variously labeled, “Chillwave,” “Glo-Fi” or, my personal favorite, “Hypnagogic Pop,” it was really nothing new: a sort of dreamy, fabricated nostalgia involving detuned synthesizers and thick lush effects that had been alive and well through the 90s and 2000s.
My earliest adolescent experiences of hypnagogic pop were records by Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, early Cure, Cocteau Twins, AR Kane and even deep cuts on very popular records that your average suburban kid would stumble upon by Duran Duran and Arcadia. In the early 90s the evolution of the tradition was often called “Shoegaze” and acts like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Medicine and Lush were among my favorites. By the late 90s and early 2000s, synthpop returned with a short lived genre tag of “electroclash” and acts such as Boards Of Canada defined an aesthetic of dreamy faded detuned synths that continue to influence many today.
But what was exciting during this recent “Chillwave” renaissance was the volume of excellent new melodic vocal-driven material by then up-and-coming artists like Toro Y Moi, Washed Out, Neon Indian and handful of others. Toro Y Moi (Chad Bundick) in particular was and continues to be a tremendous inspiration to me: his first records immediately struck me as if they were albums I should have made had I been more confident to produce the style that I truly enjoyed vs. what was the flavor of the month or what I was involved in with other musicians.
Eric Grandy in 2009 wrote in The Stranger, “The genre’s great unifying theme is a kind of fond nostalgia for some vague, idealized childhood. Its posture is a sonic shoulder shrug, a languorous, musical ‘whatevs’.” Jon Pareles in 2010 wrote in the New York Times, “They’re solo acts or minimal bands, often with a laptop at their core, and they trade on memories of electropop from the 1980s, with bouncing, blipping dance-music hooks (and often weaker lead voices). It’s recession-era music: low-budget and danceable.”
In the modern era of computer-based recording technology and excellent low-cost recording equipment, anyone with patience and talent can self-produce great tracks on a minimal budget. “Bedroom producers” as they have been called, create some of the most interesting output today — the lack of formal intitutional pressure, label expectations and unlimited time give the artist total freedom to create the sound they, “hear in their head.” Unorthodox approaches are common due to a lack of traditional production training and often yield compelling innovations.
This track was written and recorded in 2011 using mostly minimalist soft synths and drum machines in an early version of Reason. Vacations In Color is an ongoing solo project combining rock, R&B and synthpop.
Written Produced & Performed by Ernie Gray
© Ernie Gray – All Rights Reserved