#mallsoft: Reflections On A Dead Genre

A project prepared by Douglas Moffat

From April 18 to June 15, 2019
Opening on April 18 at 7 pm

Listening to #mallsoft is to enter in to a kind of meta-fiction, an act of place-making, and to witness a peculiar shift in time. Small expository details and spatial clues bring to life imagined, forgotten or lost spaces.

#mallsoft is a micro-genre of music released mainly through the online music platform Bandcamp. The first records appeared around 2013, growing out from the genre #vaporwave.

The recordings are built around the trope of an imagined visit to a shopping mall ― heavily reverberant with faint echoes of programmed background music. Less concerned with the vague criticism of late capitalism celebrated in #vaporwave and appear to present a more purely fictional, propositional grounding of a new sound-world.

#mallsoft’s peculiar relationship to memory and “reflection” offers a curious alternative to the linear historical timeline so often reinforced in music criticism. I prefer to hear #mallsoft as concerned more with operating on a set of axes less tied to the time domain (t) and more concerned with (x) and (y) and (z) of the spatial. There is a gravity to #mallsoft that is never secure. Memories are unmoored and lose their reference point in time, sounds are created that return and return endlessly. The mall never closes.

My interest in #mallsoft follows directly from a sustained engagement in the sound of architectural space ― and how we imagine and construct the sonic possibilities contained within them. This playlist is the result of a close-listening to the genre. The visual essay provides a series of reflections and contextual fragments that often work against the smoothness of the sound.


Artist: 猫 シ Corp.

Album: Palm Mall / Year: 2014

猫 シ Corp. is the most celebrated artist in the #mallsoft category with Palm Mall almost a shorthand for #mallsoft itself. Field recordings of bustling active spaces create ambience with background music (BGM) pushed to the distance as small percussive elements provide a material index. The track-length is nearly arbitrary and could go on for another hour or more. A rustling of pocket change in the foreground, a cough reinforces the stasis of #mallsoft.

Artist: 猫 シ Corp.

Album: Palm Mall Mars / Year: 2018

A recent release from Cat System Corp. Collecting terrestrial samples around a science-fictional premise, possible futures of #mallsoft are charted out. Those attempting to imagine futures beyond late capitalism will feel the tension as extra-terrestrial shopping destinations appear as the inevitable.

Artist: モールFUTURE/PAST

Album: The Mega Christmas Sale! / Year: 2015

Recalling the sound of shopping spaces cannot ignore the yearly return of christmas carols. The artist name, translated as Malls, Future & Past underscores #mallsofts non-linear position in time while imagining a distant future where the same carols continue to appear indefinitely.

Artist: Zadig The Jasp

Album: 1988 エスケープ・モール / Year: 2017

One of the more active creators of #mallsoft, based in France. In two tracks, an articulate mix places sound carefully as reverberation provides a chorus to short percussive samples. Muzak and BGM samples are edited, layered and treated into new forms before being released in the plaza.

Artist: TDK Dreams

Album: Towne Square Mall / Year: 2013

TDK Dreams appears to be based in Boise, Idaho, USA. The cover art features the floor plan of a mall titled ‘Towne Square Mall’. An internet search reveals the existence of a ‘Boise Town Square’ similar in size but with a different layout altogether. The tracks themselves are built on heavy, slushy field recordings with BGM samples layered lightly on top. The effect is one of quick collage, a model hastily prepared for a presentation, something unfinished or never built.

Artist: Leisure Centre

Album: 友達と会話

Leisure Centre may have actually been based in Japan but it is difficult to tell. The track titles display less of the cultural distancing and fascination with the Obi-Strip that other artists employ. There is a calmness and softness to the mixing and samples that make this release one of the most quietly confident.

Artist: Hallmark ’87

Album: Atrium / Year: 2019

This album is dedicated to the American architect John Portman, who passed away in 2017. Portman was known for immense, cavernous hotels and conference complexes - the Peachtree Center in Atlanta and the Renaissance Center in Detroit are two well known projects. A near infinite reverberation evokes these empty spaces. This record, released in January of 2019 provides another possible departure from #mallsoft.

Artist: Future City Love Stories

Album: 寂寞鋼琴師 / Year: 2014

A view into a busy urban space rotates slowly as events pass by. A siren, oscillating in the mid-range, traces out the location as it is built. These are perhaps sites for love stories, but they remain under construction at the ground level, waiting for a future opening.

Artist: Cereal

Album: Opening Soon / Year: 2013

Cereal is the artist that is having the most fun. Attentive to the stereo field, folding what little bassline they allow into the far wings of the space. The second track goes even further, suggesting the dry carpeted spaces of the stereo store, the reflective mush of the concourse, abruptly interrupted by the public address of the mall diner. This is a track that both imagines then follows a spatial trajectory, moving from one acoustic to another.

Artist: PowerPCME

Album: Kmart 1989-1992 / Year: 2016

A former Kmart employee released a carefully preserved cache of in-store recordings in early 2016 that revived interest in #mallsoft as shopping centres continued to close, most recently with the closure of Sears. PowerPCME takes these tapes as a starting point to re-build K-Mart with both an eeriness and an attention to space. Distorted samples seem to pinned forever at a moment of collapse. This branch of #mallsoft allows itself to both pinpoint and let slip away a specific moment in time.

Douglas Moffat constructs environments for listening, using field recordings, electroacoustic music, and landscape architecture. Moffat received a Bachelor's of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph (Ontario) in 1999, a Master's of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Concordia University (Montréal) in 2009, and a Post-Professional Master's of Architecture from McGill University (Montréal) in 2010. His recent project Listening to Las Vegas explores the sonic environment of the city's principal artery, commonly known as "The Strip". His work has been presented in the context of The International Garden Festival at the Jardins the Métis (Québec, Canada) and the send + receive Festival (Winnipeg, Canada). For two summers, he has co-led workshops at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (London, UK). In collaboration with Steve Bates, he recently completed OKTA, a major public sound installation for the City of Toronto. He lives and works in Montréal.


Meet the artist

Douglas Moffat

On June 8, 2019 from 2 pm to 4 pm

In the context of project #mallsoft: Reflections On A Dead Genre, Douglas Moffat will be in the gallery to speak with the public and answer questions. Swing by Dazibao to see the exhibition and meet the project’s creator in an informal setting!

Dazibao thanks the artist for his generous collaboration as well as its advisory programming committee for its support.

Dazibao receives financial support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Ville de Montréal.