2814 is a collaboration between HKE and Telepath, two of the shining lights in the “vaporwave” genre. Their previous album, 2015’s 新しい日の誕生 (trans. “Birth of a New Day”), was a solid distillation of everything good about the genre; the album used bleary-eyed ambient soundscapes, sleepy, blurred out beats, and ghostly vocal smudges to evoke the sense of exploring a rain-soaked Neuromancer-esque city in the wee hours of the morning.
There are moments on Rain Temple, the duo’s latest album, that pick up where 新しい日の誕生 left off and build upon the previous album’s vaporwave-isms. During the aptly titled “Lost in a Dream,” you’re surrounded by the sound of rain and barely-there female vocals that sing to you from behind the downpour; meanwhile, drones and echoing beats encircle and create a disorienting experience. “Guided by Love” is reminiscent of Jonas Munk’s most ambient moments (e.g., The North Shore) thanks to golden, sun-drenched atmospherics and trickles of guitar that are left untethered by any beats. (For what it’s worth, Balam Acab and Burial are also good points of comparison.)
These songs are lovely enough, and what you’d expect from two of vaporwave’s most well-known figures. Therefore, it’s interesting that the best moments on Rain Temple actually bear little resemblance to what most people probably associate with the vaporwave genre.
Rain Temple begins with “Before the Rain,” a seven-minute piece of ghostly electronics, field recordings, and cinematic sounds that evoke all manner of Blade Runner-ish visuals: so far so good, but it’s darker and harsher than anything I’ve heard from either HKE or Telepath (it’s almost Ben Frost-like at times) and more interesting as a result. The same is true for the album’s final track, “Inside the Sphere”; on the surface, it’s all clattering beats and airy synthesizers, but darker undercurrents imbue it with an emotional depth that pays off handsomely during the song’s climax and denouement.
These songs find HKE and Telepath transcending vaporwave aesthetics altogether; they exchange the post-modern kitsch that (for better or worse) typifies the genre for a sonic palette that’s deeper, darker, and more complex and intriguing.
In a recent feature, 2814 said their goal with Rain Temple was to suggest “a sacred place away from our current reality… a reality we can’t perceive with our limited senses.” Throughout a song like “Inside the Sphere,” there are moments where you’re positive you’ve glimpsed just such a place, even if for only a moment. Put simply, vaporwave has never been this affecting or transportive.