James Pants is an idiosyncratic producer/multi-instrumentalist and crazy record collector signed to Stones Throw Records. His off-kilter pop music stems from his teenage past as producer and DJ for a black nationalist rap group and his ongoing obsession for the most unusual sounds and songs available. He plays our festival in Bratislava on April 19th.
情報デスクVIRTUAL was recommended to me by the YouTube algorithm, which I think is getting really good, by the way. I must have been looking at some MIDI video, some outdated technology video, and I think this one came up, because it sounds like the best/worst of the MIDI world.
It reminded me of the MF Doom Special Herbs & Spices series because I think he was one of the first rappers that I’m aware of—I could be completely off-base here—who was sampling fusion records; slow fusion like Yellowjackets ballads. And I always had a soft spot for that stuff, mainly from when I was first buying records and didn’t know any better, and I bought all the Spyro Gyra stuff. Anyway, he sampled that stuff, early ’80s Quincy Jones, and James Ingram; just ballads. I liked that series, and this Virtual record is basically this Special Herbs series fleshed out and taken to the smooth extreme.
The music itself is one to two minute jams that are really loopy and repetitive, but reverbed-out with snare drums, ballad tempos, digital electric piano, and occasionally some sax and some digital ethnic instruments. Really breezy stuff. It’s music you don’t have to think about, and that’s the stuff I love the best.
I think that vaporwave, what VIRTUAL is being tagged as, is an interesting movement. A lot of people who are making music are of the age now where they remember the early ’90s, or even mid-90s, Windows 95 era and are even nostalgic for it. I was in my teens at that time, so totally was into it. But it’s hard to put the classifications on it because I just like it, regardless. It definitely is true that there’s a lot of that sound going around, but I think this is one of the better ones. It’s basically just fusion, though. It’s like sampled fusion for the internet age.
I think in general, the library industry—and I’m not talking the old collectable “big funk break” stuff, but the current stuff— has been seriously neglected. There’s been a focus on the artsy music, but the actual corporate side of music, the industrial machine hasn’t really been viewed or discovered as much, and I think finally people are finally starting to check out what the ad music is about on its own merits. We’re also obviously so bombarded with ads nowadays that at some point it sinks in and you start to like them.
But for me, it’s completely aesthetic. I like this smooth sound. I’ve heard a lot of this vaporwave stuff that’s horrible. In general, the sound of this one is so polished and so well executed, it’s really nice to listen to. Plus I have a super short attention span and so one minute to two minute songs are ideal. It’s like The Residents‘ Commercial Album, but the smooth jazz version.~
Published March 10, 2013. Words by James Pants.