Nostalgia—for a place or time now lost, or memories of something purely imagined—has long been a central theme in art and entertainment. The ability to access media from anytime or anywhere via the Internet has allowed people a wider palette to revisit the past and construct their own world from it, especially in Japanese culture. Web-centric micro-genres, in particular, capitalized on this idea; from chillwave to vaporwave, creators looked to the upbeat consumerism of ‘80s pop and jazz to create new music. Future funk is part of that picture.
Although creators associated with future funk sample plenty of songs that don’t originate in Japan, the niche style leans heavily on the “city pop” from that country—the glitzed-out cuts that sounded great in the kind of high-end automobiles Japanese consumers were buying in the 1980s. Album artwork often relies heavy on Japanese imagery, while unofficial YouTube headquarters Artzie Music pairs songs with videos taken from old anime.
“When I listen to vaporwave or future funk or retrowave from outside Japan, I think it’s almost like a bigger picture of the sound,” Yuuta Watanabe, who records as Boogie Idol, says. “They treat it more like a painting, you see much more of what’s happening.”