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Dreampunk is a microgenre of electronic music characterized by its focus on cinematic ambience and field recordings, combined with various traits and techniques from electronic genres such as techno, jungle, electro, and dubstep.



Dreampunk emerged in the mid-2010s. Many early dreampunk artists drew influence from film scores,[2] vaporwave,[3] and drum and bass.[4] Dreampunk originates from the debut of 2814, the ambient duo composed of Luke Laurila (t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者) and David Russo (Hong Kong Express).[5] The name is derived from the word cyberpunk because of its frequent use of imagined metropolitan spaces in its sound design, evoking the experience of walking through a futuristic city.[6]



Dreampunk initially began on January 29, 2014, when British musician David Russo launched the Dream Catalogue label, which specialized in vaporwave and "dream music" (the forename to dreampunk). Inspired by the films of Wong Kar-Wai, Russo explored dreamlike ambient music under the name Hong Kong Express.[4] After befriending American vaporwave producer Luke Laurila (t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者), the two swiftly released solo albums on Dream Catalogue, across many anonymous aliases.[6][7] In October 2014, Russo and Laurila formed a collaborative project, 2814, a duo which would garner praise from critics and internet users alike.[8][9][10] In 2015, Vice published an article commending 2814's second cyberpunk ambient vaporwave album, 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day), calling it a "slip into a world of neon and rain, mist and memory".[11] Drifting from their predecessors, 2814 were steadfast about not using samples, which contrasted the mindset of the label's other musicians, like 猫 シ Corp, Death's Dynamic Shroud, Nmesh, and Vaperror.[12] Despite their success on Bandcamp, Russo purged Dream Catalogue of many of its sampled albums to avoid copyright disputes and focus on his self-described "dream music".[13][14] The schism between dreampunk and vaporwave was described by Russo as "the whole dream music vibe is certainly fluid enough to encompass lots of different musical styles, while still retaining certain elements that make the label stand out as a whole—surreality, futurism, heavy concepts and story-driven projects, while vaporwave as a term and an idea has become something of a burden to everyone involved with it."[15] From 2016 until 2018, Russo and a new wave of artists at Dream Catalogue largely focused on wosX's tongue-in-cheek hardvapour style[1][7] and the short-lived ghost tech style,[16] giving way for other labels to lead the dreampunk movement.

Early scene


The early years of dreampunk revolved around various netlabels, which were the focal point of the community. With the adoption of Twitter messaging, net radio shows, and livestreamed festivals like SPF420,[17] the newly formed group of artists were quick to connect with one another and subsequently release albums on each other's labels.

One of dreampunk's earliest proprietors was No Problema Tapes, the cassette oriented label run by Pablo Salas and Gonzalo Silva.[18][19] The label had early ties to vaporwave and drone music, but would eventually expand into the realm of dreampunk, releasing albums from some of the community's earliest artists (including Sangam, Renjā, and Origami Girl).[20] On October 17, 2020, Remezcla reported that No Problema Tapes's headquarters had completely burned down.[21] The label was able to resume operations with the help of a fundraiser, compilation album, and by outsourcing tape production to Canada's New Motion label.

Following dreampunk's emergence on labels like Dream Catalogue, No Problema Tapes, BLCR Laboratories, House of the Leg, Virtual Dream Plaza,[22] among others, artists from across the internet began using the term "dreampunk" interchangeably with "dream music".[23] During this time, producers such as Remember, CHUNGKING MANSIONS, KAGAMI Smile,[24] and THUGWIDOW[25] brought darker cinematic styles to the genre.

In a period of growth, dreampunk artists such as 輕描淡寫 (QMDX) and Sangam were featured alongside Disasterpeace and Merzbow on the now-defunct label, BLUDHONEY RECORDS.[26][27] In its prime, BLUDHONEY's focus on vinyl and cassettes brought a professional edge to the grassroots movement. Without warning, BLUDHONEY shut down in 2018.[28] Some artists affected by the closure include Rashida Prime, QMDX, and the duo Kuroi Ame. These artists opted to release records on VILL4IN. They would then switch over to Kuroi Ame's PURE LIFE ЧЖ label, which released its first album in September 2018.

The term dreampunk was fully adopted by the community following w u s o 命’s video essay, Dreampunk: The Soundtrack To Dreams,[29] where he analyzed the history and stylistic features of the genre. In the late 2010s, glitch art became a prominent aesthetic for album covers, music videos, and visual albums, as was seen on emerging labels such as PURE LIFE ЧЖ and VILL4IN. During the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown, the genre experienced a resurgence in virtual music festivals, including performances by Livewire, PURE LIVE, and Enter The Void.[30]

Musical characteristics


Dreampunk primarily draws from sounds of the city,[31] science fiction,[15][32] surrealism,[30] loneliness,[31] love,[33] and dreams.[4] Musicians such as Vangelis,[23] Burial,[3] and Aphex Twin, as well as East Asian cinema[15] and anime,[2] are common inspirations within dreampunk.

Rain is a frequent field recording choice, often used as a callback to the ambience of future-noir film Blade Runner which focuses on palpable atmosphere and worldbuilding rather than plot or action.[34][12] This concentration on atmosphere gives the music an immersive and dreamlike quality. This quality is further heightened by the frequent use of cassette tapes in recording and distribution.

See also



  1. ^ a b Broomfield, Matt (28 April 2016). "Inside 'Hardvapour', the internet's latest microgenre". Dazed.
  2. ^ a b "Interview: Hong Kong Express - 2814". NEONVICE. 21 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b Monster, C (15 October 2015). "Dream Catalogue (HKE, 2814) "I think '2 8 1 4' might be the number on the door of a hotel room in the year 2084, rather than the year. It's open to interpretation."". Tiny Mix Tapes.
  4. ^ a b c Thomas, Russell (8 September 2014). "Interview: Dream Catalogue's Hong Kong Express on Vaporwave's Past, Present, and Future". Red Bull Music Academy.
  5. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R. (25 November 2015). "10 New Artists You Need to Know: November 2015". Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ a b Liu, Nelson (9 May 2016). "Upfront Dream Catalogue". Boiler Room.
  7. ^ a b Towlyn, Christopher (15 August 2016). "Vapour Dreams: An Interview With HKE Of Dream Catalogue And 2814". Neon Dystopia. Archived from the original on 17 July 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  8. ^ James, David (31 October 2015). "2 8 1 4 – 新しい日の誕生". Optimistic Underground.
  9. ^ "2 8 1 4 :: 新しい日の誕生 (Dream Catalogue)". Igloo Magazine. SMARTBOMB. 24 April 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2020. 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) has rapidly become known not only as one of the best albums in its field, [...].
  10. ^ C Monster. "2814 – 新しい日の誕生". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  11. ^ THUMP Staff (9 September 2015). "Prepare to Get Deliriously Dreamy with Vaporwave Sensation 2814's "Shinjitsu no Koi"". Vice.
  12. ^ a b O'Neal, Sean (29 November 2016). "Vaporwave is no longer a joke on 2814's Rain Temple". A.V. Club.
  13. ^ "Dream Catalogue releases "Album Title Removed" by Artist Name Removed". Sunbleach. 6 April 2018.
  14. ^ Ryce, Andrew (27 July 2017). "Label of the month: Dream Catalogue". ra.co.
  15. ^ a b c Marcel (2016). "Interview: Dream Catalogue founder HKE". MMJ.
  16. ^ "& Options releases "Last Week" by CULT MEMBER". Sunbleach. 21 June 2018.
  17. ^ Moen, Matt (15 April 2020). "Livestream This: SPF420 Fest". PAPER MAG.
  18. ^ Alarcón, Rodrigo (7 August 2015). "Under Construction: No Problem Tapes". POTQ.
  19. ^ Banas, Graham (4 March 2021). "NO PROBLEMA TAPES ANNOUNCES NEXT GROUP OF RELEASES". Utopia District.
  20. ^ Parker, Brian (28 May 2019). "Plastic Dreams: An Interview with Pablo Salas of No Problema Tapes". Plastic Dreams.
  21. ^ Hassan, Marcos (20 October 2020). "Help Chilean Experimental Label No Problema Tapes Get Back On Their Feet". Remezcla.
  22. ^ Morehead, Jason (16 September 2020). "Voyage / Embrace by 2814 (Review)". Opus Zine.
  23. ^ a b Chester (24 May 2016). "DREAMPUNK & FUTURE BEATS: An introduction to dream music". TZEEEAC.
  24. ^ Kadir, Chanel (17 March 2021). "Premiere: Kagami Smile – Non-Disclosure Reverb Lake [Kudatah]". Untitled 909.
  25. ^ "Albums That Made Our 2018 Brighter". Secret Thirteen. 4 February 2019.
  26. ^ Ortiz, Luis (8 July 2016). "Hyper Light Drifter Soundtrack Features Incredible Cassette Edition". Missing Number.
  27. ^ "Merzbow's legendary Pulse Demon finally gets a vinyl reissue… and sells out immediately". Japan Vibe. 12 May 2018.
  28. ^ Martin-Schultz, Sebastien (29 September 2020). "Bludhoney Records: The Disappearance of Music's Most Innovative Label". YouTube.
  30. ^ a b Daly, Andrew (11 April 2021). "An Interview with David Russo AKA HKE". Vinyl Writer Music.
  31. ^ a b Maher, Michael (7 October 2021). "Reimagining Iconic Artwork for NFT Collectors". Maxon.
  32. ^ Iglesias, Pablo (18 December 2017). "Bludhoney Records". God Is A Glitch. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  33. ^ Laurila, Luke (2017). "Virtual Dream Plaza Info". Virtual Dream Plaza.
  34. ^ O'Neal, Sean (6 October 2017). "Beats, rhymes, and replicants: El-P, Gary Numan, and more on Blade Runner's musical influence". A.V. Club.