Vapor History: Games - Heaven Can Wait Mixtape Vol. 1 (Feb 1st, 2010)

In light of people discussing the “first vaporwave song” around the net, I figured I’d go back to the proto-days of 2010 to discuss what might be the first vaporwave album... 

Vapor History: Games - Heaven Can Wait Mixtape Vol. 1 (Feb 1st, 2010)

You know I love heading back in time to survey the landscape that birthed vaporwave as a community and independent art movement. And in light of people discussing the “first vaporwave song” on Reddit, Twitter (twice) and other podcasts, I figured I’d go back to the proto-days of 2010 to discuss what might be the first vaporwave album... 

Ford & Lopatin · Heaven Can Wait Mixtape Vol. I

February 1st, 2010: Games, the duo of Daniel Loptin and Joel Ford dropped their first mixtape titled Heaven Can Wait Vol. 1, the very first upload to their Soundcloud over 14 years ago. This collection of six tracks is not simply a batch of 80s synth pop, italo disco, and R&B strung together in a DJ mix but rather, syrupy slowed re-edits that are compressed and reverbated to fit into the same sonic universe- instead of just presenting the tracks in their original state. 

The tracks play end-to-end with pitch shifted melodies that breathe a different life into the songs curated for this collection. The influence of DJ Screw is strong on the mixtapes and some songs on Vol. 1 even change pitch during the track. An important element of Heaven Can Wait is the presentation of multiple tracks that are all manipulated- using what I've previously called minimalist production techniques- and paired with the artwork that has some important signifiers itself. 

Not only did many people continue expounding on the slowed edit concepts for many years in the wake of the early Games mixtapes and Lopatin’s eccojams, but this mixtape style was lifted and revived wholesale ten years later by the Barber Beats generation of producers. It was ratcheted up with intense aesthetics and graphic stylization that has come to dominate the YouTube algorithm and Bandcamp the past few years.

The edits that came out of the Heaven Can Wait mixtape series formed a sonic palette that producers would imitate in their sound design for years to come. The splashy drums and propulsive synths are lysergic and groovy, forming the backbone of future subgenres like vaporfunk, vhs pop and late night lofi. 

Scrolling through the Wayslower Tumblr page that Games posted on back in the day, a flyer for a DJ night hosted by Joel Ford at a bar in Williamsburg in February 2010 caught my eye. It was called SLO-ITALO and the descriptors read “slo-italo disco, slo-80s, slo-funk, slo R&B”. A whole branch of the vaporwave family tree, well represented in real life at this event, and across the three mixtapes Games would drop that spring. It culminated in the legendary Spend the Night with.. cassette release which I mentioned back in Episode 7 of the podcast (and on our website). 

Artwork Uploaded to the Ford & Lopatin Soundcloud

The artwork is also a curious combination of lowbrow graphic design, faux-fancy serif font, and digitally degraded word art on top of an ethereal image of a woman's face. It’s a visual trope and graphic crop that would be repeated by future artists in vaporwave, especially subgenres like slushwave and signalwave. The static and visual fuzz over digitally rendered analog image- and all the artifacting that comes with it- continues to be seen in vaporwave imagery to this day. This unity of visual aesthetic and musical recontextualization was crucial to this new wave of plunderphonics that Games would inspire.

And that unity was emphasized in their Pitchfork Rising artist profile I talked about in Episode 9 of the podcast! I won't list out their influences again, but another key thing mentioned in that interview was recontextualizing samples and performances- a foundational concept for this new generation of digital plunderphonics. 

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Photo by Shawn Brackbill (sourced from the Pitchfork Rising profile)

 You can listen to the mixtapes over on the Games (now renamed Ford and Lopatin) Soundcloud page or search them up on YouTube. While these may not be albums in the traditional sense, a lot of vaporwave releases are not albums in the traditional 8-12 track paradigm. Are these mixtapes the first vaporwave albums? Well, just based on the naming convention as a mixtape, probably not; however, it would be a grave omissions to forget these curated and recontextualized collections in the genesis of vaporwave.

Edited for clarity and written grammar. Listen to the audio version on Episode 14 of the Podcast