I just thought it would be fun to get weird

By Alex Mazey

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What we often perceive as holograms today are more often than not the clever manipulation of lighting and perspective to create a seamless integration of real and reflected images whereby the invention attributed to John Henry Pepper’s ghostly effect is still used – in the case of Tokyo Disneyland – to create convincing illusions of ghosts, holographic displays, or other supernatural phenomena. ‘It is endlessly fascinating how that depiction of life after death’, I once wrote in reference to Pepper’s Ghost, ‘is today repurposed in the aesthetics of life after reality; a stage illusion no longer used to depict something of the past in ballroom ghosts but something of the future in Yameii Online.’

Since plugging into the colourful premier of CANDY DELUXE last summer, I’ve since moved onto listening to other experimental hyperpop projects like Cyber Milk Chan’s Computer Milk – and yet with an ongoing hyperfixation with all things hypercool and hyperpop, it only makes sense that I would’ve already written about Yameii many times before now. Yameii is, after all, a vocaloid who sounds like Hatsune Miku if Hatsune Miku grew up on the other side of the Pacific Ocean listening to Atlanta hip hop and sweating out Monster Energy on Mario Kart. Despite all her flex and fire, Yameii is nevertheless another vocaloid like Miku and Cyber Milk Chan(?) who exists in a similar anticipatory framework of bubbles and candy perhaps no different to the ‘kawaiizome’ of cute touched upon in Maya B. Kronic and Amy Ireland’s recent book where, in that ‘bafflingly coherent’ manifesto for Cute Accelerationism, ‘all that is solid melts into cute.’ If the phenomenon of cuteness relates tentatively to a theory of survival amongst certain species it would perhaps make sense that, situated in a stupor of (hyper)eschatological fatalism, an aesthetics of cute – as also exhibited in the astral world of Yameii Online – would be the first phenomenon to depart from the terrestrial; reterritorialized, waving goodbye as it goes.

As conceptualised in a theory of The Future posited by the late anthropologist Marc Augé, the story of the future is also a story of departure, just as the intensity of an ‘aesthetic feeling’ as it relates to the future may come as both an inauguration and an anticipatory modality of what is to come. As in the case of Hatsune Miku’s edgy sister then, it is perhaps not so much Yameii’s ‘pristine aesthetic’ that could be considered both the inauguration and anticipation of one possible future, but rather Yameii’s vibrational embeddedness in the colourful tapestry of Osean World that, for all intents and purposes, really makes Yameii come to life in the most intense way. Through an ongoing commitment to augmented and mixed reality à la hyperculture, it is Osean and Deko’s creative antenna that seems fiercely in-tune at a time when new dreams have been made possible again. In many ways it is the teamed-up brilliance of Osean World – the artist whose world Yameii belongs to – alongside the virtuosic flair of music producer, Deko, that makes this vocaloid extraordinaire feel extraordinarily anticipatory for the tapestry of tomorrow in a way that doesn’t condemn the future to another plug and play expression of misery.  

The determining effect the future holds over the contemporaneous present is certainly an influence that is placed at the forefront of Deko’s music production, especially where Yameii is concerned, and so, when Deko opened his Instagram DMs for a brief period in late January, I found myself asking various questions in relation to two albums that, I feel, inaugurate and anticipate the future in a way that feels authentic and prescient; presented through an aesthetic feeling, in Deko’s own words, “that’s kind of fun and silly in a way we don’t get yet.” It was within his elucidation of the future, spoken in reference to the high concept album, Nu Radio! where Deko answered my question regarding the project’s primary influence. 

“My actual influences were…” Deko paused on the other end of a voice message, “I don’t know if I had any influences for that other than just world building, you know? That was one of my few projects where I feel like it was really a solid idea from the start. I just thought that futuristic radio station – as simple as that could be, my brain was just like futuristic radio station” It was this compilation project, featuring a cast of characters from Osean World, that would be “Like something you almost couldn’t imagine…” Deko added, “Yeah. That was it – and I kind of ran with that for Nu Radio!”

It was satisfying to hear Deko mention the commercials that feature throughout Nu Radio’s worldbuilding, the advertising copy for chemical weed and creamy dreamy milkshake appearing as hyperstitional anticipation, the advertising copy of some other world that – even now – comes dangerously close to resembling our own. “I got all the songs that I liked,” and having put together a colourful clique of Osean World’s finest, Deko soon enough “…used that inspiration to weave them all together through stuff like commercials, and having voice actors, and just a cool sound palette.”

Without a doubt, Deko’s production embodies a ‘progressive sound of the future’ – as the Nu Radio! soundbite relays – jumping fidgety through in a sound palette that translates seamlessly across all of these collaborative efforts, from mixtapes like Nu Radio! to the aforementioned Yameii heavy compilation, CANDY DELUXE, which, as previously mentioned, dropped like gashapon from the summery heights of a virtual utopia.

“The last year or two, a lot of my favourite artists in music have come from what the world likes to call Hyperpop,” Deko added in reference to a question regarding Back2Me, recalling hyperpop’s emancipatory switches in sound that, in his words, “You almost just wouldn’t see it coming, you know?” Listening to Back2Me develop into what sounds like – in my mind – midwestern emo is exactly the kind of switch you would never expect to hear from a Yameii song. In fact, what’s so great about a lot of hyperpop these days are those “wild switches” that work against the conventions of established genre whilst producing a sound that “works really well” – and in the specific case of a track like Back2Me then, Deko laughs, “I just thought it would sound good in another sound and [I was] going through different sounds when I landed on the guitar, it just felt, kind of right with the way Yameii was singing.”

“And blending it together with the little, I guess 2010 dubstep tempo kind of drop but like more of a – I’m really bad with genres sometimes – with more of a future bass kind of drop, I guess is what it would be. But yeah – I just thought it would be fun to get weird.” So, whilst Deko is, by his own humble acknowledgement, ‘really bad with genres sometimes’, there is quite obviously a deep love and respect for the process of music creation in his answers where it seems less about the categorisation of particular sounds and more about the opening up to the joy of hearing something new. Anyone interested in the theory behind hyperpop should really ask what’s the point of music that isn’t, at its heart, similarly playful?

“As far as the video goes for that song,” Deko adds, “We were all out in Japan when we did that and fortunately, you know, when we’re out of town Osean doesn’t have all of his equipment to make a big rendered video so it was just a cool little idea to make kind of a scan of what’s going on and put it in there. But that was Osean’s idea for that video.” Deko reveals, “If anything, I always like when we do realistic Yameii stuff, I love that, and that’s what I’m pushing for on this next project in which I’m going to be directing all the videos. The concept is Yameii in the real world and kind of how she got here in the first place considering, you know, I live in the real world and I’m not a character in Osean World and stuff like that but we make music. So it’s just a fun way to explain that and it will be all Yameii IRL with all the mixed AR stuff…”

Augmented reality, which is to say, virtual elements integrated with real-world objects is fast-becoming an important part of Yameii Online, with stage shows involving integrated holograms scheduled all over the United States. I asked Deko what it was like being involved with an immersive experience at Coachella last year where Yameii partnered with Coke Studio’s 360-degrees immersive environment featuring LED walls, reflective floors, and a mirrored ceiling. It was here where a fully synchronised music video transported audiences into a vibrant cloud world, featuring Coke metaverse-inspired architecture and a cast of Yameii’s friends. Some producers would be happy enough to rest on a plushie mountain of Coachella and Coke except Deko’s ambitions are not of this world but rather a mixed and augmented one, where Deko and his team have a lot more planned for the future.

“…as far as mixed reality and virtual immersive experiences, I’ve got a lot planned for that kind of stuff. I love mixed reality – I really do – but I feel I love it most in an artistic way these days, right? In a way where, in a way more of an experience way, you know?” Deko is careful to address the inevitable pitfalls of having augmented reality reach the more banal spaces of everyday life; a prescient fear considering the arrival of Vision Pro on the New York subway last week. “At some point if we all had augmented everything it would be a little dystopian…” Deko adds, echoing the dystopic twinge felt on Nu Radio! “…but I really like the concept of everyone coming together and experiencing an augmented experience together – so if you came to a show and there would be mixed reality with everything, I think it would be the most amazing thing ever, and from small things like having the ability to use AR to, honestly…” Deko pauses, “I can’t really tell you all the plans because I do want to be the first person to do it but I’ve got plans to build my own venues in the future one day.” On the other end of the phone, Deko starts to dream big again and as I press play on the final voice message, I begin to understand what kind of top-secret mission Yameii might be on.

“I’ve got plans to build my own future venues where I already have an idea where the concept could be replicatable as well so it’d be really awesome if we could somehow open one in – like – the bigger cities all over and then start getting some of the biggest artists to perform there because we’d be able to provide definitely an immersive experience that is unmatched to anything today – and I mean even to the giant sphere in Vegas which is honestly friggin’ cool but it’s a little different to the one we’re going for – so I’ve been kind of telling everybody about this behind the scenes at our team – and my business – and I’ve been really excited about this even though it’s definitely something that’s a lot further down the line.” Like all visionaries the excitement in Deko’s voice never falls short, never quite dissipates, so when it does it seems like Deko – the stargazer – has finally come back down to earth. But the truth is I don’t want him on the phone any longer, I want him up there – beyond space and time – alongside Yameii and the entire cast of Osean World, dreaming bigger than he’s ever dreamed before. “But we’ll start where we’re starting…” His voice message concludes, “With hologram shows and slowly adding more AR immersive experiences and virtual things – but I love that.” In the end it might be the case that the present is all about creating a future worth living. Whatever the future holds for Deko and Osean – Yameii and her friends – I can’t help but feel like we’re destined to love it too.

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