A micro-genre with a huge lasting impact, vaporwave has had a remarkable shelf-life. Now moving into his third decade, its mutations and the multitude of vaporwave artists have made it rather durable. On first inspection dismissed as more of a novelty genre than a genuine artistic movement in its own right, it has grown in stature to be one of the most interesting genres of the last decade. If you would like to learn more about vaporwave, including its aesthetic, origins and the ways in which you can make the music of the genre for yourself, we recommend that you check out our exhaustive vaporwave guide.
In this article, we will go deeper into the genre by discussing some of its most important artists, explaining how their music has contributed to the scene, and highlighting some of their best records. Spanning from cross-over artists with mainstream appeal to those firmly committed to staying within the micro-genre, this list should easily satisfy all of your vaporwave-related desires. Read on now for 15 vaporwave artists you simply have to put on your radar!
Top 10 | Best Vaporwave Artists
1. 2 8 1 4
The stylisation of 2 8 1 4’s name, with the individual numbers spaced out from one another, firmly situates them within the vaporwave aesthetic. Yet this duo, comprised of vaporwave producers Hong Kong Express and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, began with a fascinating aim: to create music representative of the genre without resorting to the use of samples.
Across albums such as 2 1 8 4, Birth of a New Day, Rain Temple and Lost Fragments, the accomplished duo have created a world that evokes rain-streaked streets, flickering car lights and unexpressed, deeply melancholic desires. Thanks to the ways they create their music from scratch, their work transcends the novelty aspects of the genre and reaches more towards the ambient genre; using heavy doses of decay in their tracks to help create a cinematic feeling.
2. James Ferraro
One of the earliest pioneers of the vaporwave genre, James Ferraro has an extensive discography that tackles every genre from drone music to lo-fi hip hop to hypnogogic pop. His work with vaporwave helped the genre move from a mere fad to a genuine inquiry into the nature of consumer culture, post-9/11 New York, hyperreality and cybernetics.
For essential listening, we would recommend his greatest album Far Side Virtual — picked by the Wire as the greatest album of 2011 — which tackles concepts of hyper-reality and 90s futurism, blending elevator music and phone ringtones into something truly ascendent and dreamlike. Having one of the most fascinating sound-palettes of any record released in the 10s, it shows just how innovative and forward-facing the Vaporwave genre can be.
3. Eco Virtual
There is an element of Salvador Dali to the iconic SEGA-aping album covers of Eco Virtual — titled Atmospheres 第1 to 第4, they offer the ultimate balm to today’s distressing world, a chance to sit back, relax and simply drift away. Generously sharing most of their music on YouTube and Bandcamp, the Eco Virtual aesthetic borrows from old weather reports, virtual reconstructions of ancient landmarks and relaxation and fitness videos to create something original. Now seemingly off the grid, with no updates to their Twitter page or YouTube channel for a few years now, the music of Eco Virtual perfectly encapsulates vaporwave’s mid-tens heyday.
4. Luxury Elite
“Imagine for a moment if you will, a parallel universe in which Tom Cruise’s 1988 hit Cocktail were actually a gritty noir, full of smoke-filled scenes of low-lit bars and brutalist executive suites.”
This DIY Magazine description to the endlessly nostalgic Luxury Elite album World Class perfectly captures the hyper-capitalist aesthetic of the genre — this is easy listening with an ironic touch, and easily one of the most fascinating records to come out of the genre. The other records by Luxury Elite are equally accomplished; whether its the programmatic super-80s beats of prism or the New-Wave referencing noir, the music of Luxury Elite conjures up late night drives, romantic rendezvous and grimy cityscapes.
The alias of American vaporwave producer Alex Koenig, Nmesh is best known for the vastly complex double-album of Pharma (2017). Featuring samples from The Baby-Sitters Club, Soul II Soul, Pac-Man, Army of Darkness, “Oh Yeah” by Yello and even VHS recordings from his wife, Pharma has a darker, stranger take on the vaporwave genre than most artists. Nonetheless, it is a great example of the way vaporwave can take familiar elements from our collective childhood and filter them into something altogether weirder. His work, also taking influence from plunderphonics, represents the ultimate post-modern ethos of vaporwave — bringing together hundreds of different samples and reference points to create something that functions almost as pure collage.
One of the most bizarre pop artists out there, Disasteradio sounds like the music of the 80s if it was recorded by an Alien living in a basement whose only reference point is from watching the TV. Strangely addictive, Disasteradio is the pseudonym of New Zealand artist Luke Rowell, who has been working in the electronica, synth pop and chip-tune scene ever since 1999. With strange, sci-fi music videos that sometimes look like playing the Sims on drugs or a children’s TV show gone awfully wrong, his music is self-consciously playful and fun; imagining a world where vaporwave style music is the mainstream culture. For more “traditional” vaporwave sounds, you should check out his other alias of Eyeliner.
7. Famicom Fountains
From Nintendo to Anime, vaporwave has often intersected with signifiers from East Asian culture. The best proponent of this is Taiwan-based artist Famicom Fountains, whose work plays around with nostalgic objects like original Atari and Sega sounds. With several records, the playful, digital-first aesthetic of this artist makes their work easily listenable while also providing classic vaporwave thrills. And, with nearly 20 records out there, the work of this artist represents a 90s-nostalgic world all of its own.
8. Oneohtrix Point Never
With a style and aesthetic that embraces collage and re-contextualisation, the work of Oneohtrix Point Never — the alias of Brooklyn-based musician Daniel Lopatin — touches repeatedly upon vaporwave, and is considered a key progenitor of its style. His early work took elements of synth music, 80s new age tropes and noise music to create something totally new; before hitting the mainstream with full-length releases with albums such as Returnal and Replica.
For a great example of how a loopy, synth-heavy, ultra-intense vaporwave style can add intensity to a film, we would recommend checking out his unique soundtracks to the Safdie Brother’s films Good Times and Uncut Gems.
9. Saint Pepsi
Saint Pepsi is one of several aliases of Skylar Spence, a New York-based DJ who burst onto the vaporwave scene with the classic 2013 album Hit Vibes. Sampling elements of the classic Woody Allen film Everybody Says I Love You, and combining it with a sunny musical vibe, perfect for parties in new-build apartments by the beach, Hit Vibes doubles up on the funky and smooth elements of the vaporwave genre. Later he had to change his name back to Skylar Spence after a legal dispute over the name, with his latest album, Festival Music, slated to land this year.
10. Blank Banshee
Canadian artist Black Banshee is best known for his eponymous album Blank Banshee 0, which helped to move vaporwave from a niche, novelty genre to something more approachable and re-listenable. Combining a dreamlike tone with trap-like drums, he is widely accredited with inventing the vaportrap genre. He moved into the viral sphere with the track ‘Teen Pregnancy’, which was included in a video of the short-lived Simponswave movement, which combined vaporwave tracks with a looping video of the iconic 90s sitcom characters.
Vektroid is the primary alias of Ramona Andra Xavier, easily one of the biggest vaporwave artists around. She has a variety of different names however, the most important probably being Macintosh Plus, which is the one she used when she released the genre-defining record Floral Shoppe.
The opening track, “ブート” (the Japanese letters for a Windows computer booting), which features a slowed down sample of “Tar Baby” by Sade, is probably the most iconic of all vaporwave tracks — summing up its original aesthetic of chopping up and slowing down original 80s and 90s tracks rather well. Additionally, the album cover, featuring a greek bust, Japanese lettering, and a picture of the Twin Towers, is basically the entire vaporwave aesthetic in a nutshell.
But this isn’t the only record Vektroid has released; with tens of different albums across a variety of aliases, her work is one of the most comprehensive vaporwave discographies out there.
12. Windows 96
An electronic music project from Brazilian artist Gabriel Eduardo, Windows96 takes you back to an easier time; his sound evoking connecting to dial-up internet under the influence of weed. Keeping the beats and melodies simple, often combining synth-wave patterns with high saxophone notes, the blissed-out vibe of his music is perfect for easy listening. Still something of a mystery, you can check out even more fun harmonic sounds of his via his other alias, Guiding.
The delightfully named VAPERROR (after all we can assume that most vaporwave fans are also steadfast vapers) quickly introduces listeners to a world of nostalgia. Think of the opening synth chords of Mana Pool, which samples the PlayStation 2 load-up sound to instantly bring us back to our childhood. Coming from Atlanta, Georgia, their aesthetic is heavy on bright sounds, taking the vaportrap genre and giving it a characteristically Southern spin. Presenting many of their records like the start of a computer simulation, this is one heady virtual trip you don’t want to miss.
14. George Clanton
One of the more successful artists of his generation, the artist known as George Clanton combines chillwave, synth pop, vaporwave and even elements of indie rock, to create something truly his own. Often singing over his tracks with a yearning, mournful tone, he imagines the 80s from the perspective of the sad kid in the corner, unable to join in all the fun. The result is nostalgic, effervescent and deeply impactful. For more classic vaporwave sounds, of which he has created quite a few, we would recommend his side-project ESPRIT 空想, which helped to move the genre away from sampling and more into the realm of original compositions.
Started in late 2013 by Italian DJ Ricardo Danieli, Bl00dwave’s music immediately takes you back to the world of muzak, empty hotel rooms, corporate environments and flashy yet soulless dining experiences. Over the years his music has evolved quite significantly, moving from the world of sample-based vaporwave to more original, more synth-wave influenced compositions. Either way, Bl00dwave creates fascinating soundscapes that make him one of the most interesting vaporwave artists around.
Where Can I Listen To Vaporwave Music?
To get started with the genre, we would recommend our vaporwave guide. Yet to listen to the genre, we would definitely recommend simply hopping on YouTube, where there are a variety of channels, including v a p o r w a v e, E m o t i o n a l T o k y o and Ｓoｕnｄ Ｓtａtｉo n. Additionally, most of these artists don’t really release their work on CD or Vinyl, meaning the best place to get copies of their tracks and to help them continue their work financially remains the Bandcamp platform. To find new artists, we would recommend finding a 24/7 vaporwave YouTube channel, allowing you to imagine you are in nighttime futuristic Tokyo or L.A no matter where in the world you are.