The inventor of mallsoft is most likely Disconscious with Hologram Plaza which dropped in 2013. 猫 シ Corp. - Palm Mall and 식료품groceries - 슈퍼마켓Yes! We're Open were both released shortly after that in 2014. I sat down with 猫 シ Corp. to find out the story behind the artist's iconic mallsoft sound.
You have released various mallsoft albums during the years, so the genre is clearly very special to you. How and when did you decide to start making mallsoft?
– We have to go back all the way to 2013 or early 2014, when I created Sky Lounge 〽ぺ for Hiraeth. That track features heavy reverb, something I picked up from other early vaporwave and mallsoft. Other influences have been of course Disconscious (also my first cassette ever!) and the way they created this sonic shopping experience. The whole shopping/corporate side of vaporwave has always been one of my favorites, so I also wanted to make an album that was set in this fictional mall in a sunny coastal city. At first I only wanted to do a couple tracks with heavy reverb as I thought it would otherwise be too much, but after talking to Gonzalo about the way it sounded then, we both decided to release the version that had the same heavy reverb and delay all over it. That was the moment Palm Mall was born and my journey started.
What's your approach when you start planning and producing a mallsoft album to keep it interesting?
– I usually get inspired by experiences I've had, places I've visited or by movies, videogames and sci-fi. For example "Oasys" was inspired by a trip to the university of Groningen and some business meetings I've had. Palm Mall Mars was partially inspired by the Hyperion books and my general love for sci-fi. After getting inspired I usually already have track titles in my mind and the way it looks inside my head - a mall with big white tiles, palm trees and huge windows. A fountain splashes in the food court and the AC is blowing a nice cool breeze - and I want the music to sound like that. After Palm Mall I started to tinker on how the stereo field, delay and reverb sounded. Also taking out a lot of frequencies to make it sound like small speakers or narrowcasting TVs inside the mall. First I try to establish a sound in my head, a mood or a vision - whatever you want to call it, and I build from there. Track titles are usually rooms, shops or areas inside the mall and I try to make it sound the way I think it should sound.
Malls have always been both super fascinating and scary places to me. How do you feel about malls?
– Truth be told I got my first real mall experience only a couple years ago. When I was a kid we sometimes visited this small place that you can barely call a mall according to modern standards. Therefore I have no idea what it must feel like to be a mallrat, let alone in America. Not until I was filming my movie Family. Work. Shop. I visited real Dutch and Finnish malls. I must say I like malls, but modern malls can look so desolate and soulless, unfortunately.
On the one hand, mallsoft can tell a sonic story of an abandoned mall and on the other hand, the album can be about a dystopian or real mall filled with life. What kinds of stories have you tried to tell with your albums?
– Palm Mall is this grand shopping center in a coastal town, set in probably the early 00s. Palm Mall Mars on the other hand is much more futuristic. Shopping @ Helsinki is more of a collection of experiences I've had there and Oasys definitely feeds that corporate hunger. Mallsoft is escaping to an alternative utopian reality. How that place looks depends on the listener but I at least try to create my vision.
Mallsoft music and aesthetics could be seen as criticism of capitalism and society. What's your view on this?
– Partially maybe, it's not my intention to create some sort of a protest album against modern society or consumerism but of course everything is done with a little bit of tongue in cheek.
What makes a good mallsoft album?
– Personally I'm a sucker for mallsoft that sounds as if it's actually inside a mall and if it has titles like "Climate Control リモート 3000". Musically I prefer when tracks are easy-listening - it must sound like muzak or dreamy.
I think it's hilarious that the ショップ @ ヘルシンキ album is based in Helsinki, Finland, as I also live in Finland. Could you tell the story behind the album?
– My girlfriend is from Finland and when we met for the first time in Helsinki I was amazed by how popular malls were there, nothing like back home! When I went there for a second and third time I got inspired to make an album about my experiences there. Previous albums have always had this kind of 'American' flavor to them and I wanted something more European. I knew that the tracks needed to sound as plastic as possible, a sound I had not done before. During these visits I would also record sounds from the places we visited, so I could construct a completely new background ambience track.
At some point during the production I came to realization that I needed some more sounds and pictures, but I did not have the opportunity to go back right away so I called in the help of my girlfriend. She went to a couple malls and recorded sounds and took photos for me.