Cat System Corp is a Scandinavian vaporwave producer whose roots go as far back as 2013, a period that some might describe as “a simpler time for vaporwave.” By now, vaporwave is a fairly mainstream term that is sure to garner laughs, eye-rolls, or even earnest enthusiasm on liberal arts campuses. Back in 2013, though, vaporwave was less in the public eye than it is now, and it still had a largely mysterious, unknown aura that was accentuated by its low-res album covers and mixing style. This aesthetic was most associated with artists like Luxury Elite, Topaz Gang and, of course, Cat System Corp.
From 2015 and onward, vaporwave gained popularity and changed its sound, at least through the mainstream lens. Artists like HKE and 2814, known for their lush and digital soundscapes took dominance, while other sub-genres like “hardvapour” gained traction. While vaporwave as a whole evolved during this time period, some vaporwave natives, like Cat System Corp, stayed true to their low-fi “roots” while still evolving in their own subtle way, as a reaction to vaporwave’s movement towards ambience over VHS-style fuzz.
Cat System Corp’s “OASYS” from 2015 is a great example of the “old-new” vaporwave from this time. The album shows Cat System Corp changing from a warm and grainy sound to a cold and cacophonous one that brings to mind modern airport terminals, four-story shopping malls, and customer service The truth is, “OASYS” has a special meaning to me not just as a fan of vaporware, but as a UR student as well. Simply put, “OASYS” is the best album to study to. This is because, while some other music is good for studying, like Schubert, “OASYS” has a level of emotional depth that actually complements the study experience without distracting from it. As soon as you put on the first track of “OASYS” and the sound of customer service representatives, digital bleeps, and icy plate reverb swirls around in your ear, the capitalist hellscape you inhabit starts to make sense and creating flashcards for your Consumer Psych class doesn’t seem like such a dreadful task after all.
The great thing about studying while listening to “OASYS” is that it allows me to disassociate from the experience of being human, which I’ve found to be very beneficial when studying. When I hear the track “W i f i & A i r c o,” I am transported back to the year 2003 when my father bought for me the second installment of the “Nancy Drew” series of CD-ROM mystery games, “Stay Tuned for Danger.” I think back to the muzak that accompanied the game’s central location, a Hollywood Movie studio with sterile lights and a friendly but slightly untrustworthy man working behind the help desk. My memories of the game are hazy and might be completely false, but this sits right in with the washed out and distant production style on “OASYS.” As my falsified memories re-write the history of my life, I am evaporated into a post-human being whose graphics are as ahead of their time for the year 1999 as those of the movie “Polar Express” were for the year 2004. This is to say, I am no longer human, but something much greater—I am a cyborg working for the Pepsi-Co Plaza.
From front to back, “OASYS” is the perfect album to study to. Tracks like “Around the World in 80 Clicks” have a sheen that is so glossy they might make you laugh while you’re studying thermodynamic charts. Other tracks like “Virtual Chat 2000” harken back to those hot summer days when you were sitting in your family’s computer room, shooting the shit on AIM with Smarter Child and that other chatbot that was sponsored by Tyson Chicken. Whatever the track, “OASYS” is serene, nostalgic, and just a little bit funny—but on those days when you’re walking to Wilson Commons at 8 p.m. to study for your Econ midterm and you ask yourself, “What’s it all for?,” “OASYS” might save your life, transporting you back to a time when George W. Bush was in office and you were sitting at your father’s desk trying to get Smartchild to curse back at you. It’s in this nostalgia that you remember life wasn’t so much better back then, it was just different—and as beautiful as it will ever be.