Sleepline Score

The very nature of vaporwave demands comparison. It’s normally completely built off of other music, twisting often obscure pieces of forgotten past into ambience that is incredibly difficult to describe if the listener hasn’t heard the essentials already. For example, Sleepline, the latest release from New Dreams Ltd. (one of the many musical aliases of Ramona Andra Xavier), demands comparison because of her past feats. A song she produced single-handedly defined vaporwave to the point where the entire genre was often misconstrued as slowed-down Diana Ross, even earning the first result when “vaporwave song” is googled.

Despite the overabundance of listening guides and huge wealth of recent music, the genre is still a difficult one to get into. As a result, the average Sleepline listener will almost certainly expect something that sounds just like Floral Shoppe. But it has an entirely different style. Where much of the latter (and vaporwave in general) feels very discomforting, unnatural and mind-bendingly repetitive, the former feels comforting, natural, and rarely loops too much. Instead of a glitching VHS, Sleepline is channel surfing.

Listeners can most easily hear this in the sample use. While the muzak is of course commonplace, somewhat random non-melodic vocals are everywhere, presumably taken from advertisements or something similar, furthering the surfing analogy. There are obvious, somewhat disarming sound effects, along with segments that sound just like the intro theme to a TV show (see much of the last third or so of “Oceanus”). Looping is quick and mostly agreeable, sounding more like someone stuttering than someone saying the same thing over and over again. When you want to hear something a little more, it lets you, developing further ideas along the way. There’s even occasional autotune and, as one would probably expect from a Vektroid album, heavily down-pitched and reverbed vocals. Transitions are of course completely abrupt. It’s formatted like a beat tape. Tracks are virtually useless, since many of them change abruptly in the middle to something totally different. There are already twenty tracks but Xavier could have just as easily made it sixty, ten, or one.

All of this contributes to the enormously psychedelic feeling of the album. Like a dream, Sleepline distorts, repeats, and takes from pieces of reality. It seems completely natural while in the midst of it, but after waking up and reflecting, the involved person realizes just how absurd the whole thing was. It’s hard to remember the exact details of the situations or sounds experienced, but the mood sticks for a while, and specific events or songs will give off a strong sense of déjà vu later. Listeners might not remember hooks after listening but repeat listens will certainly sound more familiar than other albums’ repeat listens.

While most every dream is impossible, repetitive and irrational, the other regular rules of life still apply. Sometimes they are scary, infuriating, or depressing, usually they are somewhere in the middle, and sometimes they are pleasant, happy, or ambitious. Where Floral Shoppe tended slightly towards the first descriptors, Sleepline tends towards the last few. The generally cheery samples lead listeners to a relaxed state of mind – but not complacent. Because of the quick looping, listeners live more in the world of the dream where everything is happening than the world of the person laying on their bed fallen asleep. If dreaming is thinking of nothing and everything at the same time, then Sleepline, instead of choosing nothing (like most vaporwave releases), focuses on the everything.

– Kirk B.

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