Vaporwave, Future Funk, Newtro and other retro-revival trends
Newtro has been chosen as one of the marketing trends for 2019 in Korea.
From CHUNG HA’s PLAY concept clip to the 90s-inspired debut of SSAK3, Newtro has become one of the most essential artwork in K-pop today.
Newtro is a Korean neologism meaning “new past”, a fusion of “present or future (New)” and “past (Retro)”.
Newtro has become a major trend in South Korea, and a revival craze for vintage style is taking hold in 2018-2019, infiltrating a wide range of areas of Korean culture, including fashion, interior design, graphics, games, cafes and travel.
Vaporwave and Future Funk are said to be the influences behind this Newtro craze.
We’ll review the background of how Newtro was born, looking back at Newtro with a look back at Vaporwave and Future Funk.
The arrival of Vaporwave, a chopped up and reconstructed version of nostalgia
Music and artwork created by pitching down songs or looping specific phrases using a technique called “chopped and screwed,” which involves cutting and pasting a collection of music material from the 80s and 90s, emerged from the internet music community in the early 2010s.
The genre was dubbed Vaporwave and gained significant attention on the internet.
The artwork was mainly inspired by products that were in circulation in the 80’s and 90’s, computer graphics from old computers, old computers themselves, VHS videos, cassette tapes, cyberpunk, classic sculptures, and other objects that were massively circulated and consumed in the past.
The noise sounded like a stretched cassette tape.
VHS-like images with a rough texture.
Old crunchy anime and game graphics.
This is the kind of lo-fi material that has been mass-consumed in the past, and it’s been somewhat nostalgic and has attracted a lot of attention.
In 2011, Vektroid released Floral Shoppe (a specialty store for floral) under the name Macintosh Plus, which is said to be one of Vaporwave’s most enduring masterpieces. The cassette tape was sold for around $150,000 and is now said to be like modern art.
The second track on the Floral Shoppe album, “Lisa Frank 420/Modern Computing” is a masterpiece by Vaporwave, which was produced by a succession of different people under different names, such as artwork with the Helios image replaced with a face, versions with rap music, remixes, etc.
These alternate versions are called boots.
The creator who makes the work of Vaporwave is not the one that took permission from the original original song or sampling material source, but chopped & screwed the material by extension of the play, changing the pitch and making the work by collaging, and furthermore, the work built on the abuse unique to the digital work such as processing the work and attaching a video was spread, and the experimental creation enjoyed in combination with the image as well as music spread in the Internet space.
If you search for “Lisa Frank 420” on YouTube, you can still find various artwork and remixes that are still being uploaded today.
Vaporwave has influenced corporate advertising and the work of major artists by uncovering, chopping up and reconstructing objects that had been massively distributed and consumed in the past to create new works of art.
Previously sampling old logos and commercials, Vaporwave has grown from sampling old logos and commercials to being quoted on the corporate side for their “vibe.”
But with the mainstream’s attention, Vaporwave lost its early freedom and stalled as it spread with unauthorized abuse as the antithesis of pop culture.
Future Funk, which has stepped up to pop culture
Some of the creators of Vaporwave, who had chopped up and reconstructed the material without regard to the meaning of its original source material, began to create more danceable sounds using Japanese 80’s city pop as their main sampling material.
This is a sub-genre called Future Funk, which is derived from Vaporwave.
Future Funk also had more of an upper disco mix than the blustery Vaporwave, and expanded its fan base to the general public.
As hip-hop artists began to dig into industrial records, Future Funk artists re-evaluated the babble of city pop used in Japanese commercials, and Japanese record prices skyrocketed.
Kaoru Akimoto’s Dress Down sampled MACROSS 82-99 was a big hit and, like Vaporwave, the creators of the video did the same thing.
Here’s a collage of Japanese street footage and Sailor Moon’s dance lesson footage of MACROSS 82-99 and Yung Bae ✿ Harrison ✿.
It’s made by someone who doesn’t know Japanese, so the lyrics and the video are unrelated.
As such, various video versions of Dress Down have been released one after another.
After Kaoru Akimoto’s re-breakthrough as a Future Funk DJ overseas, the price of his records skyrocketed, and in 2020, Tower Records re-released a limited edition remastered version of Dress Down’s “cologne” album, which featured Dress Down.
Matsumoto, who composed Dress Down, was surprised by this time gap hit.
Whereas Vaporwave was the antithesis of pop culture, Future Funk has turned into a love and admiration for pop culture.
Unlike Vaporwave, which shredded the past to shreds, Future Funk has created a phenomenon where by quoting the past, they are once again digging up the masterpieces of the past and connecting them to the future.
As a result, songs by artists like Kaoru Akimoto and Maria Takeuchi have been called the Internet’s version of rare grooves, and it is said that this is one of the reasons why Japanese new music and pop music has gained such a high reputation around the world.
British music producer TANUKI is one of those creators, and his 2015 release “BABYBABY no Yume” has been introduced on YouTube and has over 10 million views.
TANUKI came to Japan with Future Funk creators from around the world and participated in events where she collaborated with musicians who actually produced 80’s Japanese anime songs.
In this way, a movement to create new works of art has emerged, not only by using material from the past, but also by quoting from it.
Korean creator Night Tempo
While Vaporwave and Future Funk were being born on the Internet, a Korean creator named Night Tempo emerged.
Night Tempo, a Korean producer and DJ, laid the groundwork for future funk by reimagining ’80s Japanese city pop, Showa songs and Japanese disco tunes.
In 2018, he released his mix tape Nighty Tape86ʼ in 2018.
It was a rendition of Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” and sparked an internet-centric city-pop craze in the US and Europe.
Night Tempo is an arrangement of songs by Akina Nakamori, Masahiko Kondo, Hibari Misora, Akiko Wada, Yasuha and BaBe, with a touch of dance music thrown in for good measure.
The group took Japanese 80’s songs and made them relevant to today (updating existing songs to “floor level” specifications) and called them “Showa Groove”, which was popular not only in Japan and Korea, but also in the US.
Night Tempo’s success led to the birth of Future Funk and Korea’s Newtro.
Newtro, born in Korea
These creators’ works on the Internet caught the sensibilities of the younger generation in Korea, and a Korean neologism called Newtro, which means “new past,” a fusion of “present and future (New)” and “past (Retro),” was born.
Newtro has infiltrated a wide range of areas of Korean culture, including fashion, interior design, graphics, games, cafes, make-up, and travel, as well as music, and has led to a revival boom in vintage style.
This trend has affected a wide range of Korean industries, including tourism.
Younger Koreans sought to recreate an authentic vintage experience by visiting old villages and historic urban areas.
At the same time, there has been a gradual rediscovery of nostalgic songs and Korean AOR. And the music of the past, discovered by millennial artists, began to show up in the K-pop market, either as cover songs or as reimagined new songs.
In the midst of the Newtro craze, Korea’s city-pop singers of the past have begun to attract attention again, and city-pop has been reinterpreted in the modern era under the new concept of Newtro.
One of the first Korean city-pop singers to return to the spotlight is the old-time artist Kim Hyun-chul.
The song “Long time no see”, released in 1989, was covered by George and became a hit, which led to his return to the Korean music scene after a 10-year absence.
In addition to George, guests on Kim Hyun Chul’s “10th – preview” album included Hwasa & Fiin of the idol group MAMAMOO, the female duo OKDAL (Roof Top Gekko), female solo singer SOLE, and other artists who are leading the current K-pop scene.
The Newtro K-pop run is said to be Last Night Story (Last Night’s Story), which was released by IU in 2017. At the time, the term Newtro hadn’t yet been born, but the song is said to be Newtro-like in that it’s “a retro-style reinterpretation cover of a 1987 male idol group song by IU, who was born in 1993”.
The title of DIA’s 2019 album is simply “Newtro”.
It incorporates 80’s-90’s inspired styling and fashion.
There is a Newtro-type song in the music of an idol-type female singer.
Newtro elements are included in music videos as well as songs, some of which are full of Newtro elements.
Wonder Girls member Yubin’s solo debut song “Lady” is a disco-like song with a disco-like background, and the music video has been influenced by Future Funk with celluloid animation-style images, old cars, and cyberpunk-style cityscapes.
I don’t know how long this Newtro craze will last, but I’m looking forward to seeing more retro-vintage Newtro-inspired products and services in 2020.