Polysthetic 98 was intended as a throwaway musical visualisation project that grew out of hand. It started as a series of eight thumbnail sketches capturing my mood back in August 2021, a dissatisfaction with career and financials. From these thumbnail sketches grew an audio visual project that would be built on the following elements:
- Hand drawings based on the thumbnail sketches floating in 3D environments with associated visuals
- A Windows 95 backdrop with a portal with complimentary (sometimes non-Euclidean) visuals
- Lo-fi trip-hop-like instrumentals based on Windows OS samples and nostalgic video game music samples from my youth
- Vaporwave influenced anti-capitalist themes
It was intended as short, silly set of videos that would keep my channel active (ironic, given the theme) as I got my video game development project off the ground, but grew into a beast in its own right. Ultimately, the aim was to capture each theme in the overarching premise in the music as well as the visuals, capturing the anti-capitalist themes of Vaporwave, though in an overt, rather than satirical, way.
01 – Polysthetic 98
B minor, 90 bpm
Samples: Windows 98 start-up sound
Notes: I love the sound of a B minor chord with the 5th and 1st strings open (X04430) i.e. Bm11/A. It’s spacious, dark, moody, and elegant. As such, I’m claiming this voicing as the “Polysthetic chord” whose arpeggio opens Polysthetic 98, just after the Windows 98 start-up sound. Dark, jazzy vibraphone melodies and piano chords take over the B section.
Visually, the theme is the commodification of art, in case the irony isn’t laid on thick enough.
02 – Please Make More
E major, 100 bpm
Samples: Windows XP start-up sound, Diddy Kong Racing lobby theme, Windows 3.1 start-up sound, CHÖNKY – Making Sick Vaporwave Tunes
Notes: The flip-side of over-consumption, it’s over-creation, the pressure to create more for the purposes of consumption.
03 – Mr Manhappy
C minor, 110 bpm
Samples: Windows 95 start-up sound
- Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist – God is Perfect, the melody is built on the Cm9 arpeggio
- Metallica – Orion, the bass line in the B section
Notes: Loneliness is the theme here, one that Dr Manhattan, in his infinite power, could not overcome. The visuals are based on this wallpaper with him and Quasimoto.
04 – Mushroom Log
E major, 50 bpm
Samples: Windows Vista start-up and shut down sounds, MSN Messenger new message received sound (significantly slowed down so it sounds like chiming bells)
Influences: Animal Crossing music to rain (5 PM City Folk)
Notes: Mushroom Log is a reprieve from the darkness of the rest of the album. Much like how sample-based music (such as Vaporwave) took old music and reinvented it, mushrooms take the decay of the old and turn it into something new, sometimes edible, sometimes poisonous, sometimes beautiful, sometimes psychedelic: mushrooms are artists and artists are like mushrooms. I was listening to Mushroom Jazz Vol 2 when sketching the thumbnail sketches so this is my homage to the album.
05 – Smile, You’ve Got Money
G major, 120 bpm
Samples: Mac start-up sound, “You’ve Got Mail” AOL, Daria on smiling, Donald Trump, cash register, slot machine
Notes: Wanted to experiment with splicing vocal samples. Loved it because it was funny.
06 – Here for Your Pleasure
Eb Major, 120 bpm
Samples: Windows ME start-up sound, NBA Hangtime “I’m in the Zone” bassline, camel roar
Notes: The theme here is about the exploitation of animals (and people but I’ll keep that subtle), hence the use of Nyan cat and the roaring camel sample which was inspired by Hymn of the Big Wheel.
07 – Enjoy Your Stay
C minor, 70 bpm
Samples: Windows ME shut down sound, Gex 3 – Mission Control, Donkey Kong Country Returns – Tidal Terror
Notes: A common theme in anti-capitalist art is the inescapability of the system (e.g. The Matrix). Even if it is burning from within, the exit’s blocked, so enjoy your stay! The fires are bridge between the two adjacent tracks, a nod to “burning” lust in the previous track, but more importantly, global warming.
08 – Citethsylop
Eb major, 100 bpm
Samples: Windows 98 shut down sound, Windows XP shut down sound
Inspirations: Mastodon – Hearts Alive, the composition is based on the climax of the song which kicks in at the 10 minute mark
Notes: Rising sea levels consume the final track, hence the low-pass filter slowly drowning the music as the ocean drowns the statue. In Mastodon’s “Leviathan”, the climax of the album is the guitar solo on “Heart’s Alive” which represents the final tussle between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. Ahab perishes; you cannot triumph over nature.