It’s tempting to place ghosting’s Telenights somewhere on the vaporwave spectrum. Some of the elements are there: an obsession with late-80s, early-90s kitsch seems to be the driving force. But while many vaporwave projects evoke a pastel-tinged consumerist cyber-utopia beyond time and place, ghosting has created something grittier, weirder and hyper-local.
On Telenights, VHS audio is pitch and tempo-shifted, cut up and generally fucked with. Announcers’ voices become extraterrestrial dictations. Throwaway jingles take on the sobriety of Gregorian chant. And the programming is constantly changing, as though a kid with a short attention span has control of the remote — although the transitions are more calculated: something like a mixtape tribute to rabbit ears.
Telenights’ real strength is in how it hones in on juicy bits of pop and jazz, then warps them to exploit their appealing qualities. On “Telemiracles,” a Casio bassline turns lugubrious and doom-filled. With “Late Movie,” the percussion on a muzak track becomes infectious. But in other places there are lo-fi mutations: on “Wavelength,” the analog ambience of a nighttime forest is degrades and becomes ASMR-inducing.
The best are those chunks of music that, through heavy processing and their own inherent charms, possess emotional affect. The listener might find themselves entranced by a cheesy sax solo turned tragic lament, only to suddenly discover that the sample belongs to an advertisement for frozen french fries, or to be informed that “the night belongs to Michelob.”
Telenights fails when the manipulation of vocal tracks become self-indulgent. The warped male-female dialogue of “Cathode Girl” is presumably played for laughs, but lands flat. Yeah, slowing down vocals from bad TV shows makes them sound funny. But such samples are already liberally employed to break up sections of music and set the theme for tracks. The real pleasure comes from hearing throwaway kitsch transformed by ghosting’s touch.
What will stand out most of all to listeners in Canada, BC specifically, are ghosting’s samples. The Blue Jays get name-dropped, as do CHEK TV and Richmond Toyota. Makes sense: ghosting is based in Vancouver. It’s a break from the spaceless/timeless utopia explored (and criticized) by many vaporwave artists, a suggestion of a real paradise that should be embraced. And it isn’t far away: just a few decades in the past, humming muffled from your parents’ living room, while you hover at the edge of sleep.