Clanton has returned to making music under his original alias. (Illustration by Jesus Acosta)
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After some experimentation, Clanton’s return to vaporwave is a psychedelic journey down the rabbit hole.

George Clanton makes music I love. Whether working under his main alias or his side-projects ESPRIT 空想 and Mirror Kisses, Clanton’s off-brand vaporwave pop is some of the most dreamlike music you’ll hear on this side of the known universe. The musician’s talent for re-purposing electronic music into a genre-less, 3D rendered wonderland is an undeniable gift.

For those unaware, vaporwave is a subcategory of electronic music birthed from online forums and memes in the early 2010s. The work of musicians like Daniel Lopatin (who chiefly releases music under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker), Ramona Xavier (better known as Macintosh Plus or Vektroid) and countless others — including George Clanton — has advanced vaporwave into a legitimate genre of modern music.

Clanton’s status as an essential figure within the vaporwave community has built a reputable fanbase online. The artist’s latest projects have tended to stray further and further away from the microgenre, but this departure only catalyzed “Slide,” the musician’s follow-up to his cult classic “100% Electronica.”

A statement written by Clanton himself describes his latest project as “a new form of pop music — simple and nostalgic, and at the same time, fresh and exciting.” A bold declaration, to be sure, but Clanton seemed like the man to make good on this promise. With all these factors and preconceived notions set in place, I approached “Slide” weary of disappointment but anxious to witness the natural progression of Clanton’s sound.

1. Livin’ Loose

Replay Value: Very High

Wow. This is how you start an album! “Livin’ Loose” sounds like the main menu music to some long-lost PlayStation game, in the best way possible. Clanging electronics and watery saxophones sneakily lure you into a serene clam before a rickety lo-fi drum pattern breaks through the mist, transforming the hazy ambiance into a dreamlike dancefloor while Clanton’s lyrics twist the song’s title into a sorrowful double entendre.

“I don’t want to live and lose/I don’t want to be abused/If you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you back”

The introductory track immediately immerses listeners into Clanton’s unearthly world, and the album’s only just begun.

2. Make It Forever

Replay Value: Very High

Packing a powerful cocktail of mood-soaked synthesizers and head-banging rhythms, “Make It Forever” is a lovelorn fever dream and arguably the catchiest song on “Slide.” Furthermore, Clanton showcases a fiery passion through layered instrumentation and emotionally raw songwriting, both of which convey the sentiment of a lonely lover on the verge of a meltdown.

“Holding the tears from falling/When you come back again/We can convene/Make it forever”

“Make It Forever” feels like a love song you’d uncover on the depths of YouTube at 3 a.m. and find yourself dancing to until the morning sun seeps through the blinds. It’s beautifully haunting.

3. Tie Me Down

Replay Value: High

Fuzzy guitars, murky basslines and distorted synths soundtrack this slightly aggressive turn into Clanton’s lovesick mentality. It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place in an underground nightclub but seems more suited to accompany a solitary stroll down a streetlight-lit city street in the middle of the night. Constricting and intense, the track speeds by in a sleazy blink.

4. Dumb

Replay Value: High

If “Tie Me Down” was a cassette single, “Dumb” would be the self-deprecatory B-side. The track retains the guitars and crackly drums from the previous song, but ultimately builds to a blindingly bright conclusion via twinkly chords and growling synths before burning itself out, replacing the hostility with a wispy outro.

“I feel dumb/I feel lazy,” Clanton sings. “And you feel/You feel nothing at all.” This numbing sentiment rings true and gives off the visual of Clanton attempting to compose a grunge song after nearly overdosing on Novocain. It’s a wavy, angsty ballad perfectly suited for those trapped inside on rainy afternoons.

5. Blast Off

Replay Value: Moderate

As the first of the two instrumentals included on the album, the waterlogged daydream “Blast Off” rounds out the introductory act of the album. While the replay value isn’t high, the song itself makes a gorgeous interlude.

6. Slide

Replay Value: Very High

Given the countless times I’ve replayed the project in its entirety, I think it’s safe to nominate “Slide” as my favorite song on the album. Clanton uses every instrumental trick up his sleeves on the title track. The six-minute long epic takes the listener on a journey though a half-remembered dream labyrinth that’ll leave you nostalgic for a life you never lived and longing for people you never loved.

“Slide” relishes in its hypnotic mood, and I’m convinced Clanton snatched these melodies straight out of some interdimensional purgatory. By the time the concussive outro kicks the listener out of a bittersweet fog and onto a raging dancefloor, the song imparts the feeling of finally falling asleep, bringing the greatest night of your life to an end.

7. Monster

Replay Value: High

In comparison to its track-mates, “Monster” dials down the abstraction in favor of an emotionally driven, forlorn love song. Although Clanton interlaces his trademark oddities throughout the song, the track feels like it was written from the seclusion of dark bedroom with a specific person in mind.

There’s no tempo switches or left-field production on display. Nevertheless, “Monster” is an unobtrusive serenade, but remains memorable for that exact reason.

8. You Lost Me There

Replay Value: Very High

“You Lost Me There” jumpstarts the final act of “Slide” with a gothic, mesmerizing anthem that feels like the chopped-and-screwed remix to “Make It Forever,” as the song recycles the lyrics through a questioning filter.

“Will you come back again?/We can convene/Make it forever”

Optimism and grief melt together in a scarlet-stained cloud of vapor as Clanton sends half-hearted encouragement to a former acquaintance in the hopes that everything will turn out fine, despite his resentment for the individual. “You Lost Me There” marks a melancholy low point for the album — a sullen hymn that leaves a mournful aftertaste.

9. Encore

Replay Value: Moderate

Coated in a ghostly sheen of wraithlike synths and booming sub bass, the final of two instrumentals on “Slide” serves as an appropriately atmospheric interstitial to unveil the concluding track.

10. Walk Slowly

Replay Value: High

Although “You Lost Me There” might’ve made for a better closer, the angelic “Walk Slowly” is a low-energy descent back into the real world. Spiraling synths, record scratches and reverb-drenched vocals serve as the Clanton’s touching sendoff.

“I’ll break my word/And I’ll come running/While I walk slowly”

In summation, I can’t imagine any other musician being capable of crafting a better conclusion to the summer. It’s even more difficult to define exactly what makes “Slide” one of my favorite albums of 2018, but it’s an indescribably resonant experience I believe everyone should take part in. Thank you, George Clanton.

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