Vaporwave is an exciting genre because of its numerous facets and styles. One strong example of this is the album MIDI Dungeon by the artist ESC 不在. ESC 不在 happens to be one of the many pseudonyms of Vaporwave pioneer Ramona Xavier, who is more widely known as Vektroid.
MIDI Dungeon was released on August 2, 2011. And, while not as popular as some of Vektroid’s other Vaporwave work, it is still a great listen nearly five years on. As its name suggests, the album focuses on MIDI samples which are looped and reworked to create sometime new and fascinating. From the first track “Mirror Harem” to the last “Aurora3D” listeners are taken on a Vaporwave journey though the endless seas of MIDI.
MIDI, which was standardized in 1983, stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a protocol and interface for the creation of digitally synthesized sound and music. Early versions of MIDI found widespread use in the 80s and 90s, especially in computer games, low budget film, and television. Simply put, it was more cost effective to synthesize music than it was to hire a band or orchestra. Since then, new versions of MIDI have overcome initial deficiencies, making it more difficult to distinguish from real instruments.
MIDI Dungeon is a curious title choice for an album that seemingly celebrates the classic sound of MIDI. Is the name a commentary of the horrific overuse of MIDI? Maybe it is meant to evoke a place where the listener has been trapped in an unending loop of MIDI?
The song titles provide little additional context. Sounding like something out of calm new age release, tracks like “Surf,” “After Hours,” and “Slumber” conjure a warm day spent at the beach. Others, such as “In a Cave Watching the Blizzard” are of a colder and more ominous nature. Regardless, the album follows the Vaporwave aesthetic of taking the listener on an imagined journey.
The album art is equally mysterious. A dark image of a red hooded figure is paired with silver crosses. These are placed over images of 1980s vintage PCs and an Excelerator Plus 5.25″ floppy disk drive for the Commodore 64. Might this montage of graphics be suggesting some sort of religious dedication to the power of old school MIDI? Once again, the listener is left with more questions than answers.
ESC 不在’s album MIDI Dungeon is a terrific listen for anyone interested in taking a journey through 80s and 90s synthesized digital music. It combines the vibe of a TV soap opera with the adventure found in the first Tomb Raider video game and presents a uniquely Vaporwave sound.
Album: MIDI Dungeon
Artist: ESC 不在 (Romano Xavier/Vektroid)
Length: 31 minutes
Released: August 2, 2011
Available on: YouTube