You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘1171domino’ tag.

This blog isn’t dead, I’ve just been very busy for the last two months with work and other responsibilities. And the free time I’ve had to write has all been devoted to this very entry that you’re reading right now, which was intended as an analysis of the world of vaporwave, lo-fi hip hop, and “future funk,” and specifically, how these sounds are paired with visuals in the form of looping anime gifs on Youtube. I’m talking about massively successful channels like Artzie Music, Axian, Emotional Tokyo or ChilledCow, to single out just a few. Several re-writes and a couple thousand words later, most of my thesis was built on speculation and a lot of baseless assumptions about the people who make and consume this stuff. I was still a long way from really understanding what was happening here, so I was in no position to try to explain any of it, much as I wished that someone would eventually do so from an informed and somewhat unbiased position.

Yesterday I woke up to find that Digibro had done all that and more, explaining the background of this nebulous scene in a way that I was completely blind to and discussing why it’s happening right now in a very simple but nuanced fashion. I’m a little irked to have gotten scooped like this — although, now that I know what to look for, I see there was already plenty of discussion about this phenomenon out there already — but I’m also grateful to have the gaps in my knowledge filled to a degree that I just wasn’t going to accomplish on my own. You can just watch this and get an idea of what is going on here, it provides more than enough background for what I really want to talk about.

To say nothing about the creation of the music itself, the act of choosing an animated gif to accompany one’s track of choice isn’t the sort of mindless exercise that I’d once felt tempted to write it off as. Having a sense about what sort imagery is most appealing to viewers doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but the most savvy creators of these videos aren’t simply selecting these clips for how eye-catching they might look on the surface. On the contrary, the most effective of these videos will often present a brief loop of video depicting a moment in time in which very little is actually happening on the screen at all. The repetitive nature of these clips is pleasantly reassuring to just zone out and stare at and even easier to just ignore if you so choose, or so I imagine as I try to put myself in the head of the stereotypical fan of this stuff. For those who are watching, does a scene like the short loop in Digibro’s video — or this or this or this, just to pick a couple off the top of my head — invite the viewer/listener to identify with what’s happening on screen? Does this romanticize the kind of mundane and quiet moments that make up the day in a way that certain viewers will be inexorably drawn to? Does it hammer home the stated emotional theme of the music in a way that the tracks themselves are simply not able to fully convey on their own?

I don’t know if I’m asking honestly or just stating rhetorical questions. I’m hesitant to come out and really say what I think because, quite honestly, I find a lot of this music hard to take for more than a few minutes at a time, and I like Nujabes. I love J Dilla (who doesn’t?). And I find most attempts to emulate or pay tribute to either of them to sound hollow or superficial, which is probably inevitable when listening to efforts from people who’ve been editing music for mere months or weeks. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but if the running similarities between all of these tracks are a big part of the appeal for many fans, it’s probably the single factor that I enjoy the least about this music. But just as soon as I feel resolved in settling on such an opinion, I’m reminded that I’d probably be totally immersed in this world if I was the same age as most of the people getting into it (or that I would be now if I wasn’t so jaded), and that I’ve always wanted electronic and sample-based music to cross paths with anime in some way that wasn’t tied up in the hedonistic, garish worlds of EDM and J-dance. So in many respects, this phenomenon is everything that I ever wished for, technically speaking.

Even more pertinent to the concerns of this blog are the many creators on Youtube who work with lo-fi hip-hop (or related genres like future funk or vaporwave) and anime visuals to produce similar videos, ostensibly with the same audience in mind, but employing more complex techniques in the process. In short, these creators are video editors in the same sense as everyone who’s ever made an AMV, selecting and cutting together scenes that flow with the song in one respect or another. And yet, describing these works as anime music videos is something I’m hesitant to do for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being that, on the surface, any congruence between these videos and the world of AMVs feels completely coincidental. Youtube’s lo-fi hip-hop scene seems to have come into existence completely independent from any aspect of AMV culture, and while it’s probable that at least some of these creators know about AMVs or have even watched a good share of them, they’re still content to operate in their own sphere far away from the Org or AMVCentral, AmvNews, anime conventions, or any of the institutions that make up the fractured but widespread community around the hobby. Call it a case of parallel evolution, I guess.

If I was going to dig even deeper — and I realize just how problematic this kind of territory really is — I’d say that the creative motivation for these kind of videos is so different from that of most AMVs that they ought not to be considered in the same terms. Just like users of Tumblr will post, reblog or like an anime screencap for its intrinsic visual qualities, I honestly feel like the creators of the animated gif-based videos that inspired these works are just as unconcerned with the original context of their sources. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and as a fan of many AMVs that could be accurately described as containing little more than “random scenes,” I’m aware that this is a critique that could be thrown back in my face just as easily as I project it onto others, but that’s an issue I’ll confront another day. And like their gif-looping progenitors, these editors rarely grant their videos the artistic prestige of any traditional titles. Almost always, the video is labeled strictly to identify the artist of the music and the name of the featured track. In that respect, these works serve a utilitarian function, promoting the artist in the same traditional sense that music videos were intended to do in the first place. I suppose there’s something kind of beautiful about that, as it seems to be as big a sign of genuine appreciation as there can be in this little scene. Is the finished video a standalone piece to be understood on its own terms, a product of the editor’s vision and unique relationship with the sources? Or is a video like this created to fit comfortably into an already established mold and not stand out? Is it just a gateway for followers directing them from one piece of content to another?  This brings me to 1171domino, an editor who probably represents the Zeitgeist of this kind of work better than almost anyone else right now.

1171domino has only been releasing videos for the past year or so, but when I first sat down to write this piece, he/she had over 40K subscribers. Two months later, that audience has swelled to over 56K subscribers, and if their most popular videos for producers like saib. or jinsang didn’t turn those producers into lo-fi hip-hop superstars, they certainly provided a level of exposure that they just weren’t going to get from any traditional outlet (just imagine writers for Conde Nast-owned Pitchfork.com slumming it in the ghettos of Soundcloud for actual underground music, it’s not going to happen). Like any editor who doesn’t arrive on Youtube fully-formed, 1171domino’s works range from flawed early efforts to more complex videos that demonstrate a more realized sense of sync and flow, defying the minimalistic, proudly-repetitive videos that the aesthetic of all this stuff was born from. Little by little, 1171domino’s works have begun to look more and more like the AMVs we all recognize, to the point where most viewers would find no meaningful distinctions between the two. There’s still a looseness to their work that feels entrenched in the less-is-more approach of the the gif-videos, a sense that the editing is never taken too seriously or fussed over, which is probably necessary for anyone who’s going to release so many works in such a short period of time. Standard AMV wisdom does not encourage this kind of casual approach, but it’s hard to advise an editor who is, by almost any account, extremely successful at what they set out to do (even if that’s only making “anime/beats“).

If I had to choose one of 1171domino’s videos to watch on repeat or to show off to anyone else, it would be this one featuring music by producer Ljones. It’s got a nice flow to it (as vague of a complement as that is, I hope the gist of it is apparent), feels laid-back in the most pleasant way without succumbing to tedium, captures that carefree and bittersweet feeling of “nostalgia” that so many editors try to convey, and marries its sources together in a way that feels natural and fittingly timeless.

Despite my wishy-washy misgivings, watching this video I find myself unable to make a persuasive argument that it’s anything other than an AMV. How could it be anything else? Well, real or imagined, I perceive a certain difference between the creative intent of most AMV editors and a videomaker like 1171domino, not to mention how their respected viewers will consume their respective works. Is that enough to put videos like these in a whole other box? What I can’t get over is my unfounded suspicion that the use of anime in these videos is coincidental…I guess, and that if this editor knew that he or she could reach a bigger audience by editing with old commercials, found footage or video game clips, that they’d do just that and reap the rewards. I realize that sounds like an attack on the authenticity of 1171domino’s creative motivations (or those of, say, ElFamosoDemon or yotsu, just to name a couple other creators in this space) and that’s really what I wanted to get away from in this entry. But as much as these videos traffic in a certain sense of cool that’s almost never been associated with AMV culture, I rarely get the feeling any of these editors hold any intentions to use the medium they’re working in to say anything at all about the anime source that they’re working with (such criticisms are regularly lobbed at AMV editors, there is nothing new under the sun, I know). Is 1171domino an anime fan? Wouldn’t they sort of have to be, at this point?

Lo-fi hip-hop and anime fan videos existed long before any of this stuff and will be with us until the end. I respect that, at least on the surface, these works have given rise to a community that’s inclusive, promising to connect people across the world in shared moments of solitude and in quiet celebration of simple pleasures. I hope it makes a difference in people’s lives for the best before it faces whatever inevitable backlash it’s headed to and that the toxic irony that will surely suffocate it — a predictable byproduct of anything born out of meme culture — doesn’t infect the minds of any more kids than it already has. Looking at this stuff through the lens of AMVs is interesting, but it’s probably not the best way to understand any of it. What kind of influence this will have on AMVs, if any at all, I can’t begin to predict. I hope this editor continues to investigate these realms of remix culture, to keep creating and eventually spin something out of it that transcends its rigid formula. The last time I had such hopes for an editor (who was, in hindsight, part of this same phenomenon in their own unique way), they quickly disappeared from the Internet along with all of their work. I’ll wait for it to happen again before I start to worry.

Advertisements

Twitter