In the old 4:3 aspect ratio of an outdated television screen, a teaser trailer for Advertising Films explains that the term generation loss refers to a condition under which recorded media degrades as it is copied and transferred over time. It is especially evident in the VHS format where horizontal waves of static and warped audio tracks leave stained technological fingerprints on a once-pristine tape. Like other art forms such as stop-motion animation or kintsugi, however, these imperfections have come to be regarded as a mark of character worth celebrating.
Generation Lossless, an electronic solo project with a strong taste for synthesized soundscapes, dives into the fuzzy lines between vintage and modern context on its sophomore LP. Inspired by old Japanese TV commercials from the late 1970s through the 1990s compiled and uploaded to YouTube from low-fidelity sources, Advertising Films is a wholly original work that borrows both lossy VHS aesthetics and the Japanese tongue to create a new experience.
Unlike the heightened, cheery facade of those vintage ads — they seem satirical by today’s standards — Generation Lossless slows down, taking a cue from vaporwave to explore the frontiers of microscopic space that lie between tube television’s analog scan lines. Here, in an otherworldly plane, the album meditates with friendly ghosts of the past and uncertain omens of the future to reclaim the present.
Advertising Films is not a spoon fed listen. With Japanese passages painstakingly translated and recorded for accuracy via the help of consulting collaborators Phantom Bear and Maxolotl, it weaves in a handful of hazy “commercials” that English audiences will not comprehend in a literal sense. However, the vocal tones and musical effects inform a sense of drama that hints at the album’s hidden layers that await the curious repeat listener. It is more than the weird, self-indulgent electronic album by a Japanese culture nerd as some will inevitably conclude.
The hints are everywhere, though. The album title itself is a mistranslation of the word “commercials,” underscoring that notion of beauty in imperfection. The cover art depicts the artist holding symbols of the album’s themes of death and rebirth. Hints are even in the artist’s name, Generation Lossless, which contradicts its namesake. Generation loss is considered a destructive force, but Advertising Films proves that it is also a creative one. Artistically, the LP comes to the same conclusion as the first law of thermodynamics. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only altered in form.
Lest there be any doubt that an album could be this lofty and insightful with so few lyrics over so much time — Advertising Films breaches the one-hour mark — a beautifully, tragically pure moment of clarity comes in at track 15 to confirm in English that all of this is intentional. “Divorce” begins to accept loss as a necessary aspect of linear time. Through poetic lines such as “like grass in the yard, please know we grew,” it wrings emotion while nodding to the many more hidden treasures in the album’s Japanese scripts, which are translated both on the Generation Lossless Bandcamp page and in the physical booklet included with the limited CD release (complete with old-school jewel case).
There is more still which can be discovered in Advertising Films. The creative spirit of Ryuichi Sakamoto is reflected in a closing tribute as well as the album trailer, which references the music documentary Tokyo Melody in its directorial eye. There is a macrocosmic angle about what globalization once meant and now means today. The dream state reflects the pandemic limbo during which Generation Lossless composed it. Millennial and Gen-Z fascinations with lost media, analog horror, and other internet mysteries relate to this LP’s cryptic coding and retro inspiration. The list goes on.
More than anything, though, with its hypnotic chimes, ruminating rhythms, and atmospheric effects, Advertising Films provides a graceful realm where listeners can sink in solace as they are. Here, imperfection is not a mistake. It is the most human art there is.