TOMORROW: Vaporwave Recluse Blank Banshee Plays Starline Social Club

He wears a disco-ball face mask and seldom gives interviews, but he's the master of scouring 1990s nostalgia and repurposing it.

(Blank Banshee/Tumblr)

One of the most prominent figures in Vaporwave, the 2010s electronic genre that’s obsessed with the primitive sounds of the 1980s and ’90s, Blank Banshee (aka Canadian producer Patrick Driscoll) is also one its most reclusive. And given all the anonymous and pseudonymous acts digitally releasing a constant flow of material, that’s saying something. 
 
Covering his face with a mirrored disco ball-style mask while performing, Blank Banshee also keeps his activity on Facebook and Twitter to a minimum, and his About Me sections are universally barren. He’s participated in a single formal interview, and just one image of his face has been found online. But he’s coming to Starline Social Club on Thursday, Nov. 16.
 

In fact, aside from a single post announcing the start of his North American tour, his social media accounts have been inactive the past few weeks. Yet this does not seem to curb attendance or enthusiasm for his performance dates if fan groups such as Blank Banshee Blankposting on Facebook are any indication. Cell phone videos show crowds ecstatically dancing in dark venues, and continuous streams of jokes, memes, and concert meetup inquiries appear.
 
Given that both the Blank Banshee project and Vaporwave were born online — with much of the latter celebrating and even fetishizing the internet — it’s strange that he would shy away from it as a promotional tool. The bulk of Vaporwave music is released for free on sites like Bandcamp or Mediafire, live performances are a rarity for even the biggest names, and album artwork, titles, track names, and the songs themselves affectionately reference internet culture, ’90s technology, and forgotten or obsolete concepts. Blank Banshee debut has tracks called “Web Ring” — a formerly popular system for connecting thematically similar websites — and Juno — a now-defunct Internet Service Provider.
 
While the odds of you stumbling across a Vaporwave track are pretty slim — assuming you follow the path of least resistance when it comes to media — you’ve almost definitely heard sounds used in some of the genre’s key compositions. Classic Vaporwave sounds include slowed down vocal samples, snippets of R&B, Muzak, or smooth jazz instrumentation, and audio clips from video games and television programs. Almost anything is ripe for sampling.
 
Blank Banshee has sampled everything from startup sounds for the Mac and Windows platforms, video games such as Zelda and Tomb Raider, shows like Degrassi Junior High, and artists including Bjork, Boards of Canada, and 808 State. And interesting cultural juxtapositions are prevalent, with Blank Banshee’s “Purity Boys” daring to lay Beach Boys vocal samples over Purity Ring beats. 

However, unlike early peers such as Macintosh Plus or Saint Pepsi, Blank Banshee weaves these scrounged sounds into dreamy, ethereal, nostalgic, and sometimes dance floor-friendly collages. The aforementioned acts utilized uncomfortable tempos, sounds, and dissonance as stylistic choices in an effort to subvert music. In contrast, Blank Banshee took the Vaporwave genre in a more accessible, comfortable direction with smooth production, inoffensive vocal manipulation, and an emphasis on beats, resulting in something enthusiasts now refer to as ‘Vaportrap’.
 
Despite the arguable Trap influence in Blank Banshee’s production, his sound is still closer to the likes of electronica artist XXYYXX or Chillwave maestro Com Truise, rather than Trap star Metro Boomin.
 
Fans of related niche genres such as Synthwave, Witchhouse and Chiptune would do well to investigate Blank Banshee, as his music is one of the best entry points to the Vaporwave genre, and you just might feel a wave of nostalgia hit you during a listen, even if you can’t pinpoint the origin of the sound that conjured it.
 
Blank Banshee with TBA and DJ DialsThursday, Nov. 16, 9 p.m., at Starline Social Club, 2236 Martin Luther King Way, Oakland. $20; starlinesocialclub.com
 
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