Equip performing while bathed in purple light
Credit: Randall Cole

Chicago producer Kevin Hein had been tinkering with computer music for about seven years when he fell in love with vaporwave in the mid-2010s. Since then, Hein has used the name Equip to release a string of singles, EPs, and odds-and-ends compilations that thread together the glistening 1980s moods of vaporwave with the immersive fantasy ambience of adventure video-game soundtracks. The worlds of vaporwave and gaming soundtracks overlap significantly, in part because figures such as Hein act as crucial connectors. In 2019, for example, Equip dropped a series of dreamlike singles featuring remixes from the likes of R23X, who helps run game-soundtrack label Yetee (“Cemetery Moonglow”); Nonlocal Forecast, a proggy vaporwave-adjacent smooth-jazz undertaking by Fire-Toolz mastermind Angel Marcloid (“Nocturne Catacombs”); and Esprit 空想, a sample-based side project from vaporwave heartthrob George Clanton (“Shadow Dancer”). Hein works with styles that lean heavily on nostalgia, but Equip’s imaginative excursions plumb worlds to which only Hein has the key—the digital harps and pan flutes fluttering through “Cursebreaker Z Lullaby,” on 2020’s self-released Cursebreaker Z, draw me into a universe entirely unfamiliar to me, and like a new map in a video game, it grows more enticing the further I get.

Esprit 空想, Equip, Vietesse X, Thu 12/30, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, $25, 18+