World of Ecco: A Look Back at Chuck Person’s Eccojams Volume 1.

An eccojam is a piece of music usually made from a single short loop of source material, nearly always from the seventies, eighties or nineties, and smothered with effects, most notably reverb and echo. When listening to an eccojam, or watching a music video for one on YouTube (usually fan-made, set to washed-out stock footage from the VHS era), a number of associations are elicited. The name itself pastiches Ecco the Dolphin, a cult Sega video game from the early 1990s, a reference which seems apt given the vaguely aquatic, waterlogged quality of the music, and also suggests crude CGI dolphins leaping over the sunsets of corporate videos and the bucket-list aspirations of the information age’s middle-management. It’s also not difficult to interpret the eccojam as a sort of nostalgia wormhole; a lament to the pre-Internet era already slipping out of collective memory, an ode to the two tapes: video and cassette. But a large part of their appeal is their ambiguity: the miniscule focus of a single line or phrase of FM drivetime pop, destined to repeat forever, like the last skipping CD in the post-nuclear wasteland of our Hollywood-prescribed future. The eccojam’s enduring quality is probably its fragility: it grasps at something about our present and our future, about memory and the human condition, but it never quite reaches it. The famous quote attributed to Marx and Engels about capitalism could work equally well in this context: “All that is solid melts into air”. [1]

All of this has been said before to an extent, including by Simon Reynolds in his nostalgia inquiry Retromania. [2] But I want to go further by suggesting that the eccojam might be the artform (or genre, or what you will) that best describes and challenges perceptions of our political and economic position in the early years of the twenty-first century, although itself not without its inherent problems. It was invented by Daniel Lopatin – now a successful and highly regarded electronic musician working under the alias Oneohtrix Point Never, but back then “a total 9-to-5er” in an office cubicle – in around the mid-00s, mostly as a diversion from the menial day-to-day drudgery experienced by virtually (or virtually by) everyone in his occupation. [3] Posted to YouTube, Lopatin experienced an unexpected degree of success with his experiments, including the Chris De Burgh-sampling “nobody here”, which accumulated views into the tens of thousands.

Fast-forward to 2010, and Lopatin has become a genuine underground music celebrity, having released amongst other things the celebrated 2CD compilation of synthesizer works Rifts as Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN), and a further album under that alias, Returnal. His next release is another compilation, this time of his sample-based eccojams, using the pseudonym Chuck Person. Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 was a limited edition cassette released by The Curatorial Club; only 100 copies were made available (to date it has never been reissued, or officially released on any other format). Inevitably several rips were uploaded online by fans lucky enough to get their hands on an original tape, and as of January 2016 the different versions have combined viewing/listening figures on YouTube of around 200,000. [4]

The fact that the vast majority of listeners (including myself) have only experienced Eccojams digitally rather than in its original analogue format can only be by design, the same reason why it never received an mp3 equivalent. On an outdated medium, it exists as a modern-day artefact, assembled in a DAW and translated to analogue. [5] It is up to the online community, that utopic population, to share their own uploads with the wider world, which is only an approximation of the contents of the cassette. [6] Several versions of Eccojams exist online, including a popular one at the “wrong speed” (as if there can ever be such a thing), and another, the “Asterite Edition”, an unofficial remaster by an avid fan. [7] Whilst not the only distinguishing factor, speed functions as a key identity in each version of Eccojams. The slow version posits Lopatin as a successor to DJ Screw, a famous Houston DJ who was both celebrated and derided for his “Chopped n Screwed edits” of hit Southern rap songs; these songs were usually just the originals slowed down to a narcotic pace, completely antithetical to the ecstasy-fuelled Hi-NRG expectations of the usual club sound. Although a certified influence on Lopatin’s output as Chuck Person, [8] I would suggest that this association is misleading, as it predicates slowness as the principal quality of the eccojam’s alteration, and marijuana as the principal drug. [9] Instead I want to return to the idea of acceleration, and propose that Prozac is as important as weed in orienting the eccojam’s escape velocity.

Prozac (as well as caffeine) is the drug of neoliberal capitalism’s gargantuan accumulation. In Heroes, Franco “Bifo” Berardi describes the effects of Prozac culture on the global economy over the last twenty years as being a direct result of the expansion of the economy, the internet and the haemorrhaging expectations of the cognitive worker’s individual consciousness:

Economic phenomena have long been described in psychopathological terms (euphoria, depression, slump, ups and downs . . .), but when the production process involves the brain as the primary unit of production, psychopathology ceases to be a mere metaphor and becomes instead a crucial element of economic cycles. Throughout the 1990s the overall economy expanded literally euphorically. Prozac culture became an integral part of the social landscape of the internet economy, which was expected to unfold in the manner of infinite growth. Hundreds of thousands of Western operators, directors and managers took innumerable decisions in a state of chemical euphoria and psychopharmacological light-headedness.

But although the productivity of the networked brain is potentially infinite, the limits to the intensification of brain activity remain inscribed in the affective body of the cognitive worker: these are the limits of attention, of psychic energy, of sensibility. While networks have produced a leap in the speed and in the very format of the info-sphere, there has not been a corresponding leap in the speed and format of the mental reception. The receivers, human brains of real people made of flesh, fragile physical organs, are not formatted according to the same standard as the system of digital transmitters. The available attention for the info-workers is constantly being reduced, involved as they are in a growing number of mental tasks that occupy every fragment of their attention span. They take Viagra because they don’t take time for sexual preliminaries. They take cocaine to be continuously alert and reactive. They take Prozac to block out the awareness of the meaninglessness of their working activity and life. [10]

I don’t imagine for one moment that Lopatin has ever worked as an investment banker or a stockbroker, but it doesn’t defy reason to assume that he felt the top-down effects of his employers’ (or their employers’, or their bankers’, or their financial advisors’, or indeed their governments’) deregulated euphoria from within the working environment of his office cubicle, and projected these effects outward into his music, like any effective artist. In many of the uploaded versions of Eccojams (for example the Asterite Edition), the tempos of each sample are roughly equivalent or even faster than in their original tracks. Their editing too is of a schizophrenic character: you may hear an uninterrupted loop for three or four minutes before it disintegrates into chaos as it buckles under the pressure of its monotonous day-to-day existence, revealing capitalism’s distorted, untameable underside. True to form, the eccojams’ lyrical content is also vague and provocative in meaning. They sound off under waves of echo, becoming an abstraction of pop music’s underlying message as read between the lines. “Don’t give up, you know it’s never been easy,” could be a line from a motivational speaking training video, a neoliberalist sanctuary of affirmative action which can be interpreted much more darkly when paired with “Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you,” the language of want and need. It’s very easy to pull out eight or so lines at random and turn them into a Burroughs-style cut-up poem; it is hard, however, not to make it sound like a cry for help:

… There’s nobody here …

… nothing left … but you just … do …

… when I make my … I’ll be fine …

… Don’t give up … You know it’s never been easy …

… Where’d you get that information from? …

… angel please don’t go … I’ll miss you when you’re gone … please stay …

… let it go …

… the feeling … my head … [11]

Hearing these lines repeated incessantly and nonsensically draws attention to both modern, glossy pop and prescribed cognitive labour’s abject meaninglessness and proliferation of themselves. If we take Theodor Adorno’s viewpoint, we could say that pop’s tendency towards standardisation is a result of its inherent derivativeness, which is needed as an example of any mass-market product in direct competition with others. [12] In this case Eccojams becomes a kind of mockery of standardisation, subjecting each loop to similar processes and highlighting the thematic similarities in the original songs’ lyrics. But who would write such a poem as the one above? In Japan, there is a term for young people who lock themselves in their bedrooms, resist all points of contact with the outside world, and perform a kind of social suicide – hikikomori. “If one reflects on the incredible levels of stress that social life implies,” says Berardi, “the spreading of this phenomenon is not particularly surprising. On the contrary, hikikomori behaviour might appear to many young people as an effective way to avoid the effects of suffering, compulsion, self-violence and humiliation that competition brings about.” Speaking of his personal experiences with hikikomori persons, Berardi “found that they are acutely conscious that only by extricating themselves from the routine of daily life could their personal autonomy be preserved.” [13] A related analysis occurs later in the same book, this time within the rapidly-constructed metropolises of South Korea:

In a cultural space already eviscerated by military and cultural aggression, the [South] Korean experience is marked by an extreme degree of individualization and simultaneously by the ultimate immaterial cabling of the collective mind. The individual is a smiling, lonely monad who walks in the urban space in tender continuous interaction with the photos, the tweets, the games that emanate from a personal screen. The social relation is transformed into a cabled interconnection whose rules and procedures are hidden in the coded linguistics of the web. Perfectly insulated and perfectly wired, the organism becomes a smooth interface of the flow. In order to access the interaction, the individual must adapt to the format, and their enunciations must be compatible with the code. [14]

The relationship between Eccojams and the curiously Asiatic [15] phenomena of self-withdrawal and alienation can be further explored by considering the influence the tape had on a group of musicians who came to be known collectively as “vaporwave”. “The typical vaporwave track”, notes Adam Harper, “is a wholly synthesised or heavily processed chunk of corporate mood music, bright and earnest or slow and sultry, often beautiful, either looped out of sync and beyond the point of functionality or standing alone, and sometimes with a smattering of miasma about it.” This music evolved from a number of individuals’ studies of the music of Lopatin and collaborators such as James Ferraro, who can be said to lead the charge in this respect (the latter specifically with his 2011 album Far Side Virtual). [16]

“The text surrounding vaporwave – the artist names and track titles – is almost entirely in declamatory, brutally attention-craving capital letters, and often employs Chinese and Japanese lettering whose inscrutably (to me and most other Westerners, at least) enhances the music’s sense of tapping into the airwaves of global techno-capitalism and overhearing its business as usual, meant for someone else.” [17] The utilisation of Asian alphabets and characters, vocal samples and imagery in music videos and album art indicates the importance of shrinking globality and the acceleration of the proliferation of techno-capitalism in the spheres of art and ordinary life for the vaporwave producers. Lopatin himself made allusions to the Soviet states of a displaced time and place with the alias KGB Man and the OPN album Russian Mind (2009). [18] Is there an argument to be had here about Orientalism and the appropriation of non-Western iconography as a result of simplifying and exoticising the Eastern Other? Absolutely, but again it’s more complicated than that. For one, as alluded to before, the identities of most vaporwave producers are unknown, so it’s difficult to label any unidentified individual as Western. Another important point is that there is a certain relationship based on economic-cultural identity between, say, 1980s America and 2010s South Korea; these are the eras, roughly speaking, that these countries entered into rapid periods of economic growth adjacent to a technological renaissance and recalibration of the scope of cultural possibility, of which the creation of an innovative new musical identity plays a huge part. [19] And there’s also the “shrinking globalism” argument; that the advent of Web 2.0 and humanity’s adjustment to it has engineered interconnecting bridges across different cultures throughout the world. [20]

None of these provide a stable defence against the more problematic issues surrounding cultural reappropriation, however they do demonstrate that there is a feeling of affinity, even envy that Eastern mainstream cultures are currently at their height of innovation, compared with the sense of “lost futures” which Western culture was never quite able to fully realise. Building somewhat on Reynolds’ Retromania, Mark Fisher solidifies this melancholia-tinged social condition as “hauntology”, a term borrowed from Derrida’s Specters of Marx to illustrate “the agency of the virtual” of the spectre of a proto-futurity which was never to exist. [21] Eccojams can be said to be a hauntological statement, when considering that

[i]n hauntological music there is an implicit acknowledgement that the hopes created by postwar electronica or by the euphoric dance music of the 1990s have evaporated – not only has the future not arrived, it no longer seems possible. Yet at the same time, the music constitutes a refusal to give up on the desire for the future. This refusal gives the melancholia a political dimension, because it amounts to a failure to accommodate to the closed horizons of capitalist realism. [22]

Whilst fundamentally unable to avoid confrontation with the nostalgia mode, what differentiates hauntological music from “retro” pastiche is its political engagement with the past’s relationship with the future. [23] All of Lopatin’s music can be viewed in this way: Rifts, for many their first taste of OPN, was routinely compared with the Geman kosmische synth-work of Tangerine Dream; Replica (2011) butchered the TV info-mercial into chopped-up weird taunts and sleep-deprived soundscapes; and Garden of Delete (2015) invented a whole new genre of what could have been called hypergrunge, taking Lopatin’s experiences touring with Nine Inch Nails and smothering the poseur-pop of PC Music with heavily-processed metallic distortion, resulting in a prepubescent nightmare. [24] Part of what makes the hauntological package supplied by Eccojams so effective is its directness: the up-front nature of this particular experiment is something which appears more unconsciously in later works by the vaporwavers, or producers like Jam City or Lee Gamble, as exciting as their developments may be.

Ironically, however (put perhaps not altogether unsurprisingly), Eccojams already to an extent feels like a product of the past, which seeing as it was released only half a decade ago tells us something about the speed of life (and fibre-optic cable). It appeared at the moment when the mixtape was starting to gain traction over the traditional album format in terms of innovation (but, on the whole, not popularity): we can hear its influence in recent album-inspired production mixes such as Sharp Veins’ The Earth Splashed [25] or Fluxogramma#27: ‘Designer Environments’ By Djwwww & Sentinel [26] (both 2015). These mixes abstractify elements of Eccojams in bolder and even more unique ways, in the same way as Lopatin’s project essentially built on ideas circulated by Philip Jeck, Oval and the aforementioned DJ Screw and reapplied them to its cybercapitalist environment. All are necessary products of this particular cultural environment, simultaneously made of it and able to identify passages of resistance and escape within it. Eccojams shares an inherent quality with all fundamentally valuable art: it echoes.


[1] Marx, K. and Engels, F. (2004) The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Moore, S. and Engels, F., London, Penguin Books Ltd., p7. Digital copy available online at Adam Harper also made a similar remark in his article for Dummy Mag about the musical genre vaporwave, which I will be returning to below.

[2] Reynolds, S., Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past, London, Faber and Faber Ltd., pp80-83.

[3] Lopatin apparently likes to downplay his input in the creative process of authoring the eccojam: “I’m just participating in stuff that’s happening all across YouTube, kids doing similar things all over.” Ibid.

[4] Excluding plays of individual tracks, etc.

[5] A DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, is a piece of software that anyone can freely buy on the market and use to produce or edit music on their computer. Examples include Ableton, Logic and Pro Tools. Anyone making music in this way will be using a digital output or signal, which then has to be translated into analogue if it is to be released on an analogue format, such as vinyl, or in this case a cassette tape (but not CD). This is in contrast to some of the pre-digital sources on Eccojams, such as “The Four Horsemen” by Aphrodite’s Child, which have been recorded in analogue (on tape) and subsequently converted to digital for CD and download versions (and then manipulated by Lopatin). What’s interesting about Eccojams is that much of its source material is from the eighties, the period where analogue recording was being phased out in favour of digital, and both types of studio setup were being used in parallel. These sources are a combination of analogue-to-analogue, digital-to-analogue, and digital-to-digital (e.g. “Too Little Too Late” by Jojo) recordings, all of which have been digitised, digitally edited by Lopatin and converted back into analogue for recording onto cassette tape. Finally the analogue signal of the tape has been re-digitised again by fans in order to upload the “tape” onto YouTube. This constant analogue-digital fluctuation has degraded the quality of the original recordings, including Eccojams itself, considerably, yet, for the most part, intentionally. It is no longer possible to hear the exact piece of music the eccojam is derived from anymore, due to the compression of the analogue signal during the analogue-to-digital conversions, and the loss of ones and zeroes during the reverse, digital-to-analogue conversions. This is not dissimilar to the function of human memory, which instead of preserving a perfect (visual or aural) picture of the past, experiences degradation and loss of clarity as memories are “reformatted”. The past is nothing but a distortion. For me personally, understanding this is more important than any quest for “fidelity”, or the fruitless search for the highest possible quality of sound.

[6] For reasons outlined above.

[7] More information about this version can be found at

[8] Reynolds, p81.

[9] However I will concede that this the case for the edit of 2Pac’s “Me Against the World” on the second half of the tape, which has an overtly “screwy” quality.

[10] Berardi, F. (2015) Heroes, London/New York, Verso, pp53-4.

[11] I’ve used approximate lyrics here, close to what can be heard from the original samples without looking them up (the people’s encyclopaedia, Wikipedia has a list of samples used on their “Chuck Person’s Eccojams Volume 1.” page). The lyrics, as they appear in the eccojam, are obscured to the point where an approximation will suffice in extracting their meaning, and allows for potential “happy accidents” through mishearing.

[12] Adorno, T. (2000) “On popular music”, in Soundscapes, Volume 2 / 1999-2000, available online at Adorno was writing this in 1941, when the main forms of popular music were jazz standards in the swing or sweet styles, therefore his ideas about the “standardization” of pop are best understood in this context.

[13] Berardi, pp159-60. Berardi resists the idea that hikikomori persons suffer from forms of autism or Aspergers, as behavioural psychiatrists have tried to suggest: “such a purely psychiatric definition may be little more than an elusive way to avoid the social problem that is implied in the behaviour of so many of Japan’s youth.” This is a social problem that, as of 2010, has affected the behaviour of 700,000 individuals, with an average age of thirty-one, in this way; and the Ministry of Health in Japan warn that another 1.55 million are supposedly at risk (this in a country with a population of around 127 million).

[14] Ibid, p193.

[15] By no means are the withdrawal from or re-orienteering of neoliberalist-tinged social relations phenomena exclusive to east Asia. But it is in countries like Japan and South Korea where the rates of industrial growth have occurred at an unparalleled speed, and, not coincidently, it is in these countries where these phenomena appear most frequently and acutely, according to Berardi: “Only two generations ago, starvation was a frequent and widespread experience throughout country [sic]. Then, in the space of only two generations, South Korea reached the same level of wealth and consumption of the most advanced countries in the West. But the price of this dramatic improvement has been the desertification of daily life, the hyper-acceleration of rhythms, the extreme individualization of biographies, and an unbridled competition in the work market.” pp193-4.

[16] Robin Burnett is a vaporwave musician who trades under a number of pseudonyms, including one called ECCO UNLIMITED, and cites the OPN album Replica as “one of [his] favourite records ever”. Another anonymous producer who goes by names such as New Dreams Ltd. and MACKINTOSH PLUS, is believed by Harper to “[explore] the territory of Oneohtrix Point Never’s renowned ‘Nobody Here’ loop” (which makes an appearance on Eccojams) on one particular project. When asked whether the term “vaporwave” has any significance to their music, the same producer replied, “I’ve heard the term used a lot but I don’t affiliate with it personally. When I started assembling the original LASERDISC VISIONS tape, we just called them eccojams – of course referencing Oneohtrix’s quintessential “Chuck Person” tape, the entire catalyst behind a lot of what we began doing.” Harper, A. (2012) “Comment: Vaporwave and the pop-art of the virtual plaza”, Dummy Mag, available at

[17] Some examples of this include the artist names/aliases ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░, esc 不在 and 情報デスクVIRTUAL. Ibid.

[18] Reynolds also points to a scene in the OPN DVD Memory Vague (2009) wherein “a young Soviet couple blissfully share a ‘his and hers’ portable cassette player with twin headphone sockets.” p81. The segment, “Heart Of A Champion”, can be watched at

[19] South Korea now enjoys one of the most successful, vibrant and creative music industries in the world, often in a style branded affectionately as K-pop. This is akin to Japan’s J-pop or even Nigeria’s Nollywood as an example of creative flourishing on an institutionalised scale as a result of increasing economic prosperity in developing countries.

[20] The most interesting musical developments of recent years have occurred when online technologies such as Soundcloud, Dropbox, YouTube, Bandcamp, and various online radio stations (NTS Radio, Radar Radio, Berlin Community Radio) and shows (Fade to Mind, BBC AZN Network, Tropical Waste) have  resulted in cultural cross-pollination, such as the Scandinavian dembow and reggaeton of Staycore, NAAFI’s Central American refix of Jersey and Baltimore club and ballroom, the Berlin-based melting pot of Janus, the uncategoriseable output of South Africa-via-US-via-UK’s NON Records, and countless others. Commentators, curators and DJs have grouped these sounds together under the umbrella term “global club” (in isolation, this name too carries a clinicism that would likely appeal to vaporwavers). Global club is a good example of the reciprocal nature of cross-cultural influence, though perhaps not quite one of Occidentalism.

[21] Fisher, M. (2014) Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, Winchester/Washington, Zero Books, p18. Italics in original.

[22] Ibid, p21.

[23] As opposed to retro itself, which “involves an element of exact recall: the ready availability of archived documentation (photographic, video, music recordings, the Internet) allows for precision replication of the old style, whether it’s a period genre of music, graphics or fashion. As a result, the scope for imaginative misrecognition of the past – the distortions and mutations that characterised earlier cults of antiquity like the Gothic Revival, for instance – is reduced.” Reynolds, pxxx. There exists a tendency in retro to observe the past idealistically, uncritically and ultimately blandly; coupled with an often radical shutting-out of the present and future.

[24] This album came with a prefabricated backstory leading up to its release, dubbed “an elaborate alternate reality game”. To read more about it, see FACT (2015) “Mystery Surrounds Kaoss Edge, 90s band cited as influence by Oneohtrix Point Never”, available at

[25] Available at This mix was eventually released on limited-edition cassette, similar to Eccojams.

[26] Available at


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