By Drew Dattilo
By 2018, vocalist and producer George Clanton had made a name for himself in the underground electronic scene during the 2010s, being one of the innovative pioneers of the meme-like micro-genre Vaporwave. Whether that name was one of his aliases, like Esprit or Mirror Kisses, or his current title George Clanton, the Vaporwave artist won the respect of all of his peers and all of the fans of Vaporwave at the time.
Vaporwave is a microgenre of electronic music that began during the late 2000s and rose to popularity during the early 2010s, with projects such as Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus or Birth of a New Day by 2814. Vaporwave was stylized by slowing down and chopping up samples of the 70s and 80s songs, inducing a sense of nostalgia in every listener, even if they weren’t alive to experience those periods.
The genre was a contribution to meme-culture at the time as well, with the song “Lisa Frank 420/Modern Computing” by Macintosh Plus being one of the most popular meme songs of all time. The track is essentially just a slowed-down version of Diana Ross’s 1984 song “It’s Your Move.” This song would lay the foundation for Vaporwave to come until musician George Clanton emerged and changed the entire scene. Clanton expanded the initial idea of Vaporwave by creating his compositions instead of sampling and adding the nostalgic feel that the original Vaporwave had. Clanton and fellow Vaporwave artist Negative Gemini started their label 100 Percent Electronica, a label that focuses on Vaporwave and keeps the genre fresh and alive. This label would become the most significant independent label specializing in Vaporwave of all time.
George Clanton released many projects under a few different names throughout the label’s creation back in 2015 and gained popularity in the Vaporwave scene. It was in 2018 though that Clanton took Vaporwave to its peak with his exhilarating album, Slide. This record is described by Clanton himself as a “Vaporwave opera,” and the album definitely holds up to that description.
When you start the album, you’re immediately welcomed with the track “Livin’ Loose,” with warm synths and smooth saxophone licks creating a chill atmosphere. This atmosphere continues through the whole album, adding to this record’s consistent laid-back tone. Following the first track, comes the song “Make It Forever,” one of his most popular songs with over 3 million streams on Spotify to date. This song, being more straightforward, explores the idea of missing somebody you love over lush synth lines and a break-beat style drum beat, continuing the refreshing feel of the record. After that, Clanton serves us the more energetic “Tie Me Down,” a song that lays its foundation within the deep synth bass lines and smooth vocal lines. Although the track is a little more upbeat, it still continues the chill vibe that was established at the beginning of the record. Then, we get my personal favorite song on the whole album, “Dumb.” Everything about this composition is beautiful, how it hooks you with the simple guitar riff, and then adds a beautiful and lush synth with an energetic drum beat to it. On top of this, George Clanton provides an amazing vocal performance here, singing about leaving somebody in a relationship and the feeling that comes with it. When Clanton exclaims “I feel dumb, I feel lazy,” it always reminds me of how I sort of feel while listening to this record. I let everything go, and just become immersed in the music, and I believe that is ultimately what Clanton wanted the listener to experience. Letting the music flow through your ears until you just become numb to everything around you is the best way to experience this record. The ending to “Dumb” fades into the next track “Blast Off,” which acts as a sort of interlude with ambient synth chords among an arpeggiated melody. For the remaining half of the record, the songs flow through you with a calm and refreshing tone like the previous tracks, and they feature Clanton’s signature Vaporwave style all throughout. Clanton even experiments with using some of his previous songs on the album in the track “You Lost Me There.” The beautifully catchy hook from “Make It Forever” appears on this groovy, bass-heavy track with Clanton passionately singing “When you come back again, we can convene and make it forever!” While it’s the same line he had used before, it fits very well in this 6-minute track as it flows beautifully with the instrumentation, and being that it’s in a different key this time, it feels different; it feels a little more melancholy. The closer of Slide, “Walk Slowly,” manages to leave us with a lasting feeling of serenity, as it recycles the same chimney synth from the opener, making the whole listening experience feel extremely cohesive.
Vaporwave pioneer George Clanton released Slide in 2018, and listeners have been engulfed by this record’s feel-good atmosphere ever since. The songwriting is gorgeous, it creates a perfectly consistent tone while experimenting with different sounds. On the technical side of the project, it’s crafted beautifully. George Clanton proves himself to be not only a great songwriter but a talented producer and mixer. The mixes all sound amazing for it being entirely self-produced/mixed by Clanton. Clanton’s self-proclaimed description of his album (a “Vaporwave opera”) turns out to be incredibly accurate, as the album is entirely its own experience. I personally call this record a modern essential, the experience of listening to this record is one of a kind.