V N C F "P L E A S U R E D I S T R I C T"
(Bonding Tapes)

God, dating is terrifying. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Thank god V N C F is here to show us the ropes, because the idea of finding that perfect connection online is completely unnatural. Why do dating sites take such an effort to normalize the experience, with language and images and experiences that minimize the tension and soothe the nerves, thereby satisfying users’ initial tentativeness? Because we’re human beings, that’s why, not sets of data pulsing through the internet. Computers can’t predict or mimic happiness.

V N C F wants to discredit most of what I just suggested, since it is an entity that I’m pretty sure exists only online to reflect back perfect teeth-whitened, plastic-surgeried reflections of ourselves. Or it’s a dude in a cabin with some recording software, what do I know. At any rate, P L E A S U R E D I S T R I C T serves to perpetuate the idea of a safe, whitewashed space where we can all find love in our computers. “Love is contagious,” coos “C O N T A G I O U S,” and after listening to this tape, I’m pretty sure the song speaks the truth. I’m under the spell of V N C F, where soft rock, “glamour commercials,” filtered softcore lighting, and desire fill the atmosphere. It’s vaporwave as mood-altering medication, serving to ensure that all is right with the experience.

And who am I to argue? “D A T I N G S E R V I C E” is a great place to begin, although it harkens back to earlier ventures of video-dating services (a sample even advises fast-forwarding the tape at one point), but it still leans heavily on the utter cheese of dudes trying to get a date online. (Judging me yet? I’m a married man, son, I don’t mess with eHarmony.) Other tracks imply a deeply maintained, sterilized environment: “P R O P E R S T A T E O F M I N D,” “T A L K T O S T R A N G E R S,” and “C L U B M E T R O” all nudge you in the correct direction, and somebody’s going to have to forgive me for imagining a singles-party scenario from The Sims or something.

Because isn’t that what dating is in the present? It’s a simulation of real life where one can be whoever they want (I guess within reason on “proper” dating sites), and they can maintain a façade until the actual physical encounter with a prospective mate. Then all bets are off, because I imagine there’s got to be some sort of honesty at play there. Or maybe not – maybe that’s the sheen V N C F is plastering over everything, insinuating that no matter who you are, you can manipulate your identity and history, scrub it, cleanse it, bleach it until it gleams in perfection. Sounds like modern romance to me. It makes me queasy.

--Ryan Masteller