memorygarden禅 – “districtアトランティス” Album Review – 2-13-19

Josh Owens

2017 LP “districtアトランティス” or “District Atlantis,” is memorygarden禅’s first full release on Oakland-based label Constellation Tatsu. District Atlantis’s overall feel is ambient, watery, and dreamy. Very reminiscent of early vaporwave projects by Macintosh Plus (Vektroid) and Blank Banshee, but also with calming and rippling textures, as if the album was recorded through a Nintendo 64 at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Even certain tracks, such track 5 ( 聞こえたエコー (Echo Heard) and track 6 コイgarden (Koi Garden) feel like B-sides to C418’s Minecraft Soundtrack, (with memorygarden禅’s own personal touch of course).

“Fishvapour” as tagged by memorygarden禅 on their bandcamp profile, is the likely best way to describe this subgenre of electronic music. Although the album sticks to its trademark floaty, underwater sound, there are hints of psychedelia and lounge influence sprinkled throughout that remind me of Haruomi Hosono, attributing to memorygarden禅’s characteristic wobbly, wet synthesizer sound. Overall, District Atlantis is an excellent debut for memorygarden禅 to build upon and it will be exciting to see how they expand upon their own sound.

John Zurzola

With music becoming more and more reliant on technology that is advancing every day, finding an obscurely intriguing album such as “districtアトランティス(atlantis)”by memorygarden delves into the mysteriously intriguing genre known as “vaporwave”. What started as an internet phenomena, originating on popular internet forum sites such as the likes of “tumblr” and “reddit” thanks to the work of Skylar Spence (AKA Saint Pepsi) and many others, it has expanded to multiple aspiring artists such as memorygarden which nobody could have predicted. With this being a vaporwave album, one could possibly expect the bizarre interest of 80’s, 90’s, and predominantly japanese culture that is, what could be called a “key ingredient” in the genre to be included, but to my surprise, that was not the case. This is a rather simplistic, but “aesthetically pleasing” 10 track project that experiments with effects you’d hear in a Tokyo-esc environment. It has the ability to put you to sleep, and that’s not a bad thing.

The production entailed in “districtアトランティス(atlantis) is that of typical vaporwave “jargon” if you will, filled with ambient sounds and heavy use of synthesizers, except there aren’t any easily identifiable 80’s or 90’s samples your ear can catch. It seems to be all in memorygarden’s interest in straying away from the normal vaporwave music you’d expect to hear. It’s not attempting to go toe to toe with any “Saint Pepsi” track or especially the vaporwave anthem, “Lisa Frank 420 / Modern Computing” by Vektroid (AKA Macintosh Plus). It is strictly staying in its own lane, and that’s acceptable for now. The tracks all come under a reasonable length, around 3-4 minutes, but some are shorter, falling under the 2-2:30 category. Despite that, it doesn’t take away the ability to enjoy them. memorygarden’s use of mixing certain instruments, such as a violin track, or a synth on the 10th and final track, “sun輝く街のスカイラインの下に沈むmoon” results in a relaxing melody that sticks to the tone of the album, a peaceful, experimental trip.

In a nutshell, “districtアトランティス(atlantis)” is no “Floral Shoppe”, but it is an interesting take on the ongoing evolution that is “Vaporwave”. While this is a pleasant album, memorygarden should (if they haven’t already) start further exploring all that vaporwave has to offer, and hopefully we get to hear more projects that push the experimental envelope, and fully utilize the “power” of the strange aesthetic that the genre fully embraces.

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