Disconscious’ Hologram Plaza is an album that has had a ton of influence on my musical development. It played a key role in the production for People Are Alike All Over; the otherworldliness of it was something that inspired my thought process going into development.
Yesterday I listened to Hologram Plaza for the first time in about a year and guess what? It held up. I couldn’t help but rock a full-faced idiot smile as I nestled into the world of Disconscious; a familiar but so far away land that grows uncannily visible as become entranced as the record goes on.
I’m on the second to last track, “Midnight Specimen”, and I decide to Google this album (keep in mind I’ve otherwise been sitting there absorbing this thing). I’m looking for other people’s thoughts on this piece — I want to know if anyone has been effected by this album like I have. I end up stumbling upon WhoSampled, a website that sets side-by-side links of sampled music with its source material. It’s no secret that vaporwave is heavily if not completely sampled based (cough cough like my own music), so it was no shock that Disconscious showed up on there.
I clicked on the link for “Midnight Specimen” and the song next to it (hosted on YouTube) was unavailable in my country, so I scrolled to the album’s opener, “Elevator Up”, to find that it was derived from Julian Soule’s “Warehouse Elevator” from the children’s computer game Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren’t So Frightening. I was instantly elated: I LOVED Pajama Sam as a kid and it was astounding that an artist that I love so much had a song inspired from it. I clicked on the song excited to see the root of the Disconscious song only to realize that they were the exact same thing.
The exact same thing.
Disconscious literally just slowed Warehouse Elevator down and slapped some reverb on it. I replicated it in Audacity in less than three minutes. I’m not kidding.
I’m filled with disappointment. Again, I was completely aware that vaporwave is based in plunderphonics, but Disconscious pretty much just stole a song without adding their own creative spin to it. Sure, they decontextualized it as part of a holographic mall dream, but in reality they stole someone’s song without even crediting them (I checked their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages, no footnotes to be found). The worst part is this applies to the ENTIRE album. It’s all made from the exact same formula. “Shopping Delirium” is taken from a Tim and Eric sketch but is a clear exception to this formula, with the song at least jumbling the clip for a more unique sound.
I’m sure you could make an argument that it’s a musical equivalent of Adult Swim’s Off The Air where Dave Hughes weaves hallucinogenic web videos together to create a grander, more poingnant piece of art. Something about this feels a lot less genuine. It doesn’t pass the eye, or rather ear test. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the difference seems to be that Off The Air is assembled with more of a finite goal in mind and at least bears some originality in transitions and music/video pairings (not to mention crediting their artists). It hurts to recongnize that one of my most cherished albums is at worst a lazy attempt at capitalizing on a trend and at best a good playlist selection.
The kicker is that it’s a Bandcamp “name your price” release, so it could be downloaded for free or actually bought. With well over a thousand backers (which is rather significant for Bandcamp), Disconscious has gotten a good chunk of cash for stealing old songs. It’s ludicrous. I do feel bad coming down on this so harshly, but it’s ridiculous. To justify this would be to have astoundingly low standards for artistic creativity. I’m incredibly disappointed in Disconscious and for the first time in a long time I feel a loss of innocence.
It’s tough to swallow to say the least.