Sunday 5 April 2020

Coffeecore Extended Universe

Prior to this post, I wrote about some soothing gifs of coffee and tea being poured, dubbing the subsequent aesthetic #coffeecore. But what do the citizens of the universe of coffeecore do when they're not drinking coffee? Who else lives there? Enter the saturated-pastel-alternating suspended time of the Coffeecore Extended Universe...


This first .gif is from an 80's anime with the delightful, and fully not pornographic name, of 'Dirty Pair'. The anime itself defies logic in the best way, but this spoon tap isn't illogical at all, placed in front of a kind of sky-by-way-of industrial-blue that crops up a lot in illustration of this period. Everything is safely and extremely processed here. Consider the candied cheery plucked from the cocktail glass in the second image. Like the tray of bling it is perfect pre-arrayed. The hands are all somehow processed too. Once you enter the Coffeecore Extended Universe, I presume you get your hands re-processed for purity. They are always freshly manicured and washed. This is femininity.


In the Coffeecore Extended Universe, you work from an early 90's office that has a soothing, embodied soulessness. You love the grind. It is an open plan office, which is novel, but at the same time has comforting pre-fabricated divisions in the form of semi-cubicles. Look at your cool screensaver. Look at it.

You have a red chair and a landline, the extension for which you know as a two to three digit number. You put people on hold and gesture effusively at your token plants and two mandatory photos of your mythical family. You wear pants with pleats and are vastly overpaid.

On Fridays you eat fast casual and drive your Toyota home slightly drunk with a cassette blaring. You label the tape "Car Tunes" with a blunt tipped marker.


You take many and regular coffee breaks. Sometimes you walk around the corner to the pâtissier. The man who runs the shop is actually French and you practise the same three phrases from high school with him, about which he is generous. You sit on a tall stool behind the front plexiglass window, watching the rain hit the sidewalk and slowly eating your cake. You know Carol will forward all your calls to someone else and you do not care.

Sometimes you drink coffee, utterly black but still luminous, in a small porcelain cup.

You cherish it with your perfect hands. The blouson sleeves of your polyester workwear garment are strangely functional. It is like the 80's, but the economy runs on soft overhead light. You do not question The Light Economy. Your sleeves have buttons that actually work. Sometimes you take an extra pastry back to eat only semi-furtively at your desk.


You know you are doing something valuable because each of your keys makes a resonant noise, somewhere  between a click and a plonk. You can wear white shirts, because in the Coffeecore Expanded Universe, you never spill anything at all, much less spill it on yourself. All your moves are deliberate, as if done for the eye. 

Not your eye.

After work you sit in the hotel bar next door, still wearing your cuffs folded up around your slightly boxy, and yet still somehow soft blazer, an improbable shade of lilac. Your drink is fancy and fizzes as you agitate it with a long, elegant straw. In the background, the lights of the untroubled Coffeecore Metropolis dazzle vaguely against the lobby like a Bach concerto played on harpsichord. They play a light jazz version of this same concerto in the elevator, a MIDI loop. To take this elevator to the bar on the mezzanine level is what it is to be alone, aware of one's aloneness, and yet not at all sad.


On the weekend, you go to a little bistro near your invariably and magically tidy apartment. It has metal tables and a patio that overlooks a small urban garden. Your stir your hybrid tea lemonade, and listen to the ice hit the sides of the durable glass as it sweats. You say hello to friends. You write things efficiently and in elegant, looping script in a small notebook, which in turn lives in a purse that you deposit in the same spot on the hall table every day. It is sunny, but not so sunny that you have to do something definitive about it. You can, if you so desire, peruse the cafe's copy of the weekend papers, wearing Ray Ban sunglasses.

On Sundays, maybe you are so lazy you just make instant coffee, and put some of it in a canteen to take to the park later. You can't resist drinking some now though, and you pour it through the blocky square plastic spout with a small heart under where the coffee comes out.  When you're working from home, you make real coffee in a pot. Your manicure is now square and a dark maroon, almost oxblood, because although the world is entirely pastel and non-threatening, you are absolutely ready to face it. You have a detailed pocket calendar, one of those kind with a system built in. Once a year, refills of the paper are delivered for latching under its faintly plasticine faux-leather exterior.


Back at the office, in the kitchen you pour your nondairy creamer like one of those Tibetan monks that do intricate sand mandalas, only to scatter them afterward. But here, everything is permanent. Everything is also at once ephemeral. This is what it means to live in the Coffeecore Extended Universe; to live on loop. You chat with Carol and Fred and Dave. How are Dave's kids? What did Fred do on the weekend? You admire Carol's new cardigan, because cardigans manufacture our deepest and most effusive selves.

"Thanks babe," she says, as she winks conspiratorially, and then gives you a little hug.
Dave's family went to a waterpark. He bought the expensive park picture of them on the big slide. This is how you mark the passage of time. You attend a meeting in the regional manager's office as the light changes and you all sit on the couches. He receives a fax. The season is always the same. You can see the other Coffeecore Offices from the window and sometimes you imagine their parallel lives. You jostle each other on the train, and at street crossings. No one is ever very far apart.


Your life is at once entirely superficial and endlessly rich. The printer never runs out of toner. Load tray letter A4 is not a cry for help, but a sign that progress or something important is happening. You like to clutch the pages when they are still warm from the machine. You go to the supply closet for paper clips, and admire each other's signature mouse mats. The screens hum. The floor is always either shining tile and a sunset, or a carpet with a crisp, short pile that smells like chemicals in a good way. At a certain hour in the evening, which is somehow also every hour, it turns a warm pink and you type like you live in a bottle of drugstore perfume, Dusky Rose.


If you are alone and lonely and sad about it, it is because you live in our universe instead of the Coffeecore Extended Universe. In the Coffeecore Extended Universe, loneliness is itself an aesthetic state to attain. You see yourself seeing Sailor Moon see herself in the fogged up urban window, eyes as big as saucers. If you lean your nose against the glass in the Coffeecore Extended Universe (and there is so much glass) it never smudges, only reflects. Frequently, to demonstrate that the world is real, it makes a point of raining.

Other Coffeecore Reading On Indoor Voices:


  1. This was wonderful. (The tags: also wonderful.)

  2. This was extremely soothing. Thank you for your service!

    1. I loved your piece too, I feel as if we mutually soothe at a distance.

    2. Awww, I completely agree!

  3. This is lovely... Thanks for posting it...
    Do you remember the gorgeous black&white #coffeecore loveliness in Aronofsky's #Pi?

    1. Not only do I really love (and am moved by) that film, I listened to the soundtrack over and over on CD for while in high school.

    2. here it is, aspect ratio a bit off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFmWhwyA0NU

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  5. "Look at it." Thank you for extending the coffeecore universe.

    This mix from Visible Cloaks came to mind while reading: https://soundcloud.com/visiblecloaks/music-interiors

    "Mix of Japanese new-age/ambient/minimalist music, mostly emanating from the corporate infrastructure of the 1980s asset bubble. FM synthesis, prefab "lifestyle" soundscapes and the illusion of nature in a hyper-urban environment."

    1. ooh thank you, chilling to this right now and it is very much this vibe I was channeling. Also vapourwave/lo-fi/mall-core/soft lo-fi study vibes.

  6. FYI, since this got so many views for some reason, if you liked the weirdness of this, consider this other weirdness I wrote afterward, in a similar but distinct vein, about the idea of each arcology in SimCity2000 as a fictional Borgesian world: https://indoor-voices.blogspot.com/2020/04/consider-arcologies.html