MacIntosh Plus And The Best Album You've Never Heard!

As someone who grew up in the 80s devouring as much "new wave" music as possible and spending the years since digging for the lost treasure the decade had to offer once music became free.

I went from never buying a Magazine album to downloading their entire discography in twenty-minutes (it was a slow connection). And with the help of Spotify, I continue to fill in the blanks, but sometimes I feel I've exhausted every nook and cranny the decade had to offer.

My thirst for more Eighties music led me to discover "retro wave" - also known as "Synthwave" -, and artists like Kavinsky, Trevor Something and Com Truise whose music and visuals seek to most accurately recreate Eighties aesthetics.

Retro wave has since splintered into dozens of other sub-genres; each with their own offshoots, making it almost embarrassing to mention "synthwave" in certain circles.

My particular favorite sub-genre is "Vaporwave", the aesthetics of which are best exemplified by the album that many feel created the genre's very blueprint, Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus.

Macintosh Plus, of course, is the pseudonym for Vektroid (24-year old Portland, OR artist Ramona Xavier), who seems hell-bent on making sure the word "prolific" features prominently in her bio, releasing no less than 22 albums and EP's under a swirling array of aliases (PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises, New Dreams, Ltd., and Laserdisc Vision to name just a few).

Here we have the original version of Sade's "Tar Baby" taken from her 1985 album Promise. Those who may already be familiar with this upbeat jazz-pop track may find Macintosh Plus's treatment of the song a tad jarring as it is deconstructed, pitch-shifted, and transformed into a skipping, stuttering and sacrilegiously de-tuned mid-tempo collage that, on first listen, may incite a heated response from listeners who've chucked CD's out a car windows in the past for much less.

Perhaps my introduction to the album, not knowing what source music was being sampled and deconstructed, allowed me to judge the entire work on its own merits. While I'm able to recognize Sade at any speed, I was not at all familiar with much of the other material, such as that from Pages (Richard Page's band prior to forming Mr. Mister), whose "If I Saw You Again" and "You Need A Hero" form the foundation for "Flower Shoppe" and "Library".

Admittedly, there is a reason that Pages remained a well-kept secret despite three major label releases. Now, it isn't because they're an awful band, but, rather, because their brand of soft pop was out of step with the more upbeat and flashy new wave acts of the time. If they'd had the good sense to release these same album in the later part of the 80s when power ballads and pop schmaltz were dominating the charts, they'd have no doubt been huge.

In Xavier's capable hands, the potential from each song is distilled down to its most simple elements and then stretched and pulled into something completely unrecognizable that goads the listener to accept what they are hearing as "the new normal", with all glitches, time shifts and tempo changes meant to keep your eyes guessing what strange twists and turns lie just around yonder corner.

Elsewhere, Xavier nabs three songs by German smooth jazz duo Dancing Fantasy ("Deja Vu", "Worldwide" and "Hang Loose") and turns them into the album's atmospheric centerpiece.

There's something to be said for an album that inspires the listener to seek out other artists. R.E.M. fans were introduced to Velvet Underground just as those who find themselves immersed in Flower Shoppe's beguiling devil-may-care digital re-dressing are now Googling such obscurities as Pages and Dancing Fantasy to hear the original source music in unaltered form.

So, is it art?

Chances are many will take one listen, mutter a few expletives, and go right back to cranking some good ol' Ted Nugent in their earbuds, but it's those who find themselves compelled to revisit the album a second or third time who will find themselves becoming hooked on the album's unconventional, yet melodically inspired nature.

Perhaps that is why this album, in all of its many forms on YouTube, has collected over 10,000,000 streams since the album's release in 2011.

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