Profound: Riding the Vaporwave
The New Delhi producer on introducing India to vaporwave via his brand new EP ‘fre$h,’ finding inspiration in Japanese music and why he’s staying away from live shows
The small online ‘sharing’ frenzy around New Delhi electronic producer Profound’s third EP on February 20th began almost instantly. While the reasons behind its popularity could be attributed to a click-bait name like fre$h, or its pink neon visuals, it is more likely that the generous presence of a somewhat alien branch of electronic music throughout the album did the trick. Although gauzy playlists dedicated to the electronic subgenre rack up millions of plays on YouTube, vaporwave lingers in stages of infancy around the globe and is almost unheard of amongst Indian audiences. Amandeep Singh Multani, better known by his stage name Profound, laments this fact. “You know, first of all, someone telling me that they hear the vaporwave sound in my EP is fucking amazing,” he exclaims over the phone from New Delhi. “I never expected anyone to understand the whole vaporwave element. I’m so glad you know exactly what I was trying to do there.”
fre$h slips away from the experimental hip-hop featured on Profound’s previous releases (Returning Rituals and Faded) and instead cruises effortlessly through the neon synth and slow jam lounge that build the bones of vaporwave. The addition of his signature lo-fi hip-hop takes the EP a step further and pushes Profound into uncharted seas. “I had been listening to a lot of Japanese Eighties music and it was always sounding way ahead of its time, you know?” he says about the inspiration behind fre$h. “The idea of going to the past is to get that knowledge, take it forward and give people that insight.”
Vaporwave first appeared around the early 2010s as an ode to Eighties and Nineties retrofuturism, evolving to present itself as a blend of nostalgia and the Internet age. While Canadian producer and vaporwave pioneer Blank Banshee is credited with granting the genre a limelight in 2012 with his debut album Blank Banshee 0, its following has remained fierce but largely underground. Producers like London-based project 2814 and American producer James Ferraro made significant waves (pun intended) with their expansive takes on the genre, but none have been able to crack into the mind of the mainstream listener. It would seem Profound has a herculean task ahead of him.
“If you feed them crap, they’re going to get used to crap,” he says about the world’s obsession with EDM and resulting ignorance about the infinite sub-genres of electronic music. According to him, the only way forward is spreading the word about the underground. “The more producers we have, the more people we have promoting this shit the right way, the more people will realize it’s about exploring branches and how deep you dig.” He adds that he knows several producers in his hometown Chandigarh who have found vaporwave through him and are joining the movement.
fre$h dips into the old school, bringing back the ‘intro’ and ‘outro’ formats on EPs and waving in subtle storylines on each track; “walnut crepe (intro)” begins as a challenge, samples of rap and Eighties Japanese synth coming in almost instantaneously to set the tone of the entire EP. “sentences (for dilla)” pays tribute to late American instrumental hip-hop pioneer J. Dilla while “GTFO (outro)” ties it all together neatly at the end with a nod to Profound’s roots: it features sample audio of a Punjabi mother yelling at her son while he’s trying to record a track. It would seem that despite having gained its name by accident (“I didn’t know what to call it, so I literally just named the folder ‘fresh,’”) the EP stays true to its title.
As the maiden release from indie electronic label Knowmad Records, fre$h spent a lot of time getting vetted by several producers before its launch, including Knowmad co-founder Aazin Printer. “We took a whole month just to go through the artwork,” reveals Profound. Bengaluru-based illustrator Jayesh Joshi was brought in to help bring to life the vision both producer and label had in mind. “He made fifty illustrations out of which we had to pick two and eventually it felt like we were getting closer and closer to what we saw in our heads when we heard the sound,” explains Profound, adding that the artwork draws a lot from Japanese visuals and kanji, much like the music itself.
Currently working on a 15-track EP, Profound is ready to sink deeper into the branches of vaporwave (neo-soul, vaportrap and more) instead of touring. “I actually want to stay away from gigs for now,” he says, adding that he prefers maintaining the atmosphere he’s built online around fre$h rather than adapt it to club vibes. The only way to hear it is to visit Knowmad Records’ website and stream it or download it there, and therefore experience fre$h the way Profound intended and see the art the way he does. “If you want people to dig in, you have to make them do it.”
Click here to listen to ‘fre$h’ and/or download it for free.
All illustrations by Jayesh Joshi.