Zer0 れい – ブラックマジック (Black Magic)
In his Twitter bio, Zer0 れい jokingly refers to himself as “Belgium’s Biggest Vaporwave Artist” and describes his music as “Post-Ironic Internet Muzak, Vapornoise & Dark Ambient”. It’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic and befittingly eclectic blend of styles for the enigmatic producer who runs a DIY punk club in his spare time and performs live clad in leather, his face obscured by motorcycle helmet emblazoned with his moniker etched in neon across the visor. His look, much like his sound confidently straddles a range of aesthetic contradictions and seems strung out somewhere halfway between the menace of a futuristic cyberpunk assassin and the nostalgic familiarity of a lost member of Daft Punk.
Zer0 れい is a relative newcomer to the vaporwave community who only got interested in the genre around 2017. In fact he didn’t start producing until January 1st 2018, the result of a New Year’s resolution to get back into music production breaking an extended hiatus, the result of his gear going involuntarily into storage after many years of making noise, drone and experimental music under a number of different aliases including Crucifix Eye, MxCx and Unholy Analog Noisemachine. And the birth of Zer0 れい saw the producer take a creative leap of faith into a new genre, wandering into the strange world of vaporwave and leaving the equipment of his past creative life behind… armed only with his computer and sheer determination. And determined he is, having put out six albums in less than a year, such a relentlessly prolific release schedule you could be forgiven for thinking he’s been around for much longer.
Zer0 れい’s latest endeavour is an ambitious multi-label collaboration to have ブラックマジック (Black Magic) released on vinyl. The album is described on the page as combining “vaporous synth tones, dystopian oriental vibes and ear-blistering noise into a 45 minute trip around Neo-Tokyo”. This is a wonderfully expansive record which builds a whole world inside the listeners head, taking you through a shimmering futurescape metropolis that seems to be ripped right out of the pages of a William Gibson novel… all gleaming chrome and pulsating neon, the cheerful corporate facade masking a menacing reality that throbs at the edge of the frame.
The creation of ブラックマジック (Black Magic) started out innocently enough as a personal challenge for the artist. Feeling entirely uncreative but not willing to lose momentum after previously well-received albums, the decision was made to grab a random movie and just start building tracks on top of that. Eventually “Black Magic M-66” was chosen, a relatively unknown Japanese OVA by one of the artists that would later work on Appleseed. At first glance, it had a good gonzo cyberpunk retro vibe that resonated well with the music style of Zer0 れい and it also wasn’t too long, clocking in at 47min. In the end, only small bits of dialogue and a couple of sound effects came through in the final version of the soundtrack. Everything else has been made entirely from scratch to suit the mood and evolution of the scenes in the movie. Since then it has really become its own thing entirely, a personal vision of Dystopian Neo-Nippon Cyberpunk.
In general, each album starts from elements from previous albums to further explore. In this case, the vintage synths and Japanese string instruments that were prominent Tungsten Dragon CXE were combined with punchier, more complex drum-mixing that was gradually introduced throughout the artist's body of work. Another recurring element is are the saxophone samples from the end of Slipstream 20XX that carried over, as you can hear the saxophone features heavily on this new album. The final result is an intimately personal album that, while wearing its influence on its sleeve, threads a very fine line between Ambient, Vaporwave and Post-Metal. An interesting listen for anyone interested in those genres.
As a physical object, this meticulously mastered vinyl was pressed as a collaboration between the artist and 2 of the project's earliest supporters and shows that in 2019 it is more than ever possible to successfully release without the aid or interference of larger labels.
Zer0 れい's shown no signs of slowing down, with even more ambitious projects ever on the horizon, and as such, this vinyl debut is bound to become a collector's item for the project's growing fanbase.
(Article largely adapted with permission from Zer0 れい's interview with Doktorbing for VapoUrban)