Beer on the Rug is one of the most interesting labels to have emerged in the last year or so. Early releases from the likes of World Series, The Arcade Junkies, Midnight Television, and (a little later) Boy Snacks were all in that Ariel Pink, James Ferraro circa Night Dolls With Hairspray region of ultra lo-fi hypnagogia. But the next wave of output, beginning with Laserdisc Visions’ New Dreams Ltd. in July 2011 and continuing on with albums from Napolian and Computer Dreams, Macintosh Plus, and, most recently, 情報デスクVIRTUAL took the label into different territory entirely. All of a sudden, there was less emphasis on grime and far more on gloss.
Where hypnagogic pop was concerned with hazy and degraded re-productions of and odes to vintage pop, this new breed of artists — while still looking to the past for their raw material — seemed to be far more interested in re-using and re-purposing: re-branding, to use an appropriately corporate term, the sonic lubricant of commerce for the purposes of the musical underground. An act of appropriation and recontextualization. Sometimes the raw material is looped, restructured, pitch- and/or tempo-shifted. But sometimes it can be virtually impossible to detect the presence of the artist at all. And the effect is an intriguingly ambivalent gesture somewhere between valorization and critique.
The term being bandied around for this stuff is vaporwave. It’s by no means limited to Beer on the Rug, but the label is certainly a major hub for it. It’s these artists, most of all, who have brought the label attention. And as a result, I really wasn’t expecting their latest release, TIMETIMETIME&TIME by Californian artist Ben Straus a.k.a. YYU to sound like this.