Fidelity Zero is so much more than a late night lo-fi compilation. This sprawling 64 track release reflects the label owners, Sunset Inc. and Hallmark ’87’s brave vision for the future of vaporwave. A vision of creative freedom in which the music has broken out of it’s own restrictive genre template and begun to discover itself, to realise it’s own potential. To that end, this compilation draws together a diverse range of sounds that takes the distant and melancholic essence of late night lo-fi as common thread without letting the sub-genre restrict the creativity of the contributors. From the glitched out noise of AZENXIO’s Mental Pianist Transmission, Aristoltle’s Hard Drive’s Playing Ape Escape on my Sega Saturn or 96 Pontiac’s パラダイス to the smooth sensual grooves of Ｎ・Ｈ・Ｋ‘s Tonight’s Dorama or Caliente Mirage’s Port Richey Detour there is something strangely cohesive about this incredibly eclectic listening experience.
Track sequencing is paramount to the success of this gigantic release and the carefully crafted flow is no accident. It is indeed all part of Night Light Tapes’ master plan to confront the endless vapordrama about what is or is not vaporwave by challenging purists to accept that there is room for everyone in the vaporrealm. And this compilation doesn’t disappoint, contrasting traditional sounds like T H R E E’s CONSUMER SERIES ┊ 3(𝘣): CORPORATE TRAINING with more aggressive beat driven jams like ⁂V‡▲D‡M∇R⁂’s L a y M e D o w n T o n i g h t, Sent Down Girl’s Turning These Knobs and MUZK – VIRTUA. There’s also a healthy helping of lo-fi hip hop inspired tracks such as Haircuts for Men’s lftb 12 and Wizard of Loneliness’s oshi.
The range of different styles on offer here keeps the compilation feeling fresh all the way from start to end. However, the lack of predictability takes the listener to some pretty experimental corners of vaporwave and pushes serious boundaries. I personally love this aspect of the compilation, however, a word of warning, Fidelity Zero demands that it’s listeners approach it with a very open mind. As I’ve said, Sunset Inc. and Hallmark ’87 are on a mission and they aren’t messing around. Along the way you encounter abstract noise (Fickly Fainted Fuck – Kewl™Joint), dark industrial dub (Lila Tirando a Violeta – The Applicant), sprawling progressive electronica (Arasmas – Spirits of the Stereo), ambient drone (Monoscopic – Mystical Cave Zone) and even reinterpretations of classical music (Jill Strange – Halleluja).
Even when working in more subtle ways, the majority of the artists featured on this compilation are showcasing their more experimental side. b a k m a h n, for example, produced his track soon by writing an original electro song which is then re-imported into his DAW and treated like a sample blurring the production techniques of original and sample-bsed vaporwave, as well as, their aesthetic. Or Cap Supreme, who attempts to balance a flowing dreamy atmosphere of more conventional vaporwave with high octane breakbeats. There is also deelovesamy who creates something dark yet danceable that emphasises the haunted qualities of 80s French pop. And Dark Roast ’97’, a personal favourite, who stitches together tiny second long fragments of the soundtrack from an ancient PC game to create something completely new and unexpected
Thematically this compilation also covers a lot of ground too demonstrating that vaporwave can explore a range of different ideas, narratives and feelings. Zero Fidelity covers everything from loneliness, lost love (and the painfully bittersweet melancholia of moving on), rainy summer nights, retail shopping, 80s consumer excess, insomnia and fever dreams to more conceptual narrative experiments exploring notions of haunted technology or simulated beach utopias projected into dark rainy future worlds. There is a wealth of vision across the 64 tracks featured here which gives listeners a lot to digest and analyse over its huge run time.
If I have one criticism of this compilation it is that it is too much. Whilst I see that it’s vastness definitely represents value for money, the huge run time makes it hard to appreciate the project in its entirety. Quite frankly, there’s just too much here to really give a listener sufficient time to focus on each piece and fully appreciate it. Personally, I would have preferred if this had come out as a series of shorter compilations in order to give me more space to appreciate everything that is on offer here. That said, if you give this the time it deserves, and it deserves a LOT of time, it is an extremely rewarding listening experience.