Sunday, 10 November 2019

Wired Sound For Wired People

Part 2 of this month's cyberpunk shenanigans is one that I think I've mentioned before here but I'm not sure. It's another curated list of mine over on spotify, this time we're talking about the Cyberia Mix.
It has a really varied history, beginning as a love letter to the fictional club of the same name from Serial Experiments Lain, before being slightly adapted as an in-universe soundtrack to a setting I was work-shopping for the sci-fi tabletop RPG Shadowrun before finally becoming a mixture two; it's still a love letter to Lain, but I'm also planning to use it once again as an in-universe soundtrack for another Cyberpunk project with a heavy emphasis on the different genres on offer, which is why it's become much more varied recently.

Basically, anything cyberpunk-y and dancefloor ready goes in this list, but it has to be sufficiently 'techy' to make it in (or at least that was the criteria for the initial block you'll see above). You can see the progression of how I was using the playlist in the tracks that are selected, they're in no real order, I just add them as and when I find or remember to put something into it. Which again reflects in the choices; starting out largely minimal techno-y, with a dashing of Electroclash and Trance here and there, before taking a sharp left when Chikada 'JJ' Wasei actually released a sequel to the album that gives its name to the playlist.

From there the selections remain fairly consistent with some more genre additions with some hard Drum & Bass and a little Breakcore. Unlike other playlists I've put together with a certain 'feel', I don't think I've gone back and removed any tracks from this one (minus some unintentional duplicates). I feel like some of that techy feel is getting a little lost with my latest additions at the very bottom, which are mainly Trance. But to get super nerdy for a second, the project I have in mind is going to focus on the genres in particular, the crowd that listens to euphoric trance is going to be very different from the ones in the dark rooms with Dopplereffekt playing see?

Before I go though, a honorable mention to some tracks I wanted to feature but aren't on spotify, starting with a tune I intended to use to bridge the gap between the minimal tech and house to trance: Jackmate's Airraid. I've known about it via Erlend Øye's DJ Kicks compilation for years now, and never did I imagine it'd be so hard to find for streaming (which goes for most of the tunes on that compilation too). A good demo of the kind of sound I had in mind for the Cyberia Mix at it's inception though.

And finally, one of my all time favourite trance tunes that is sorely missed, Slyder's Neo (The One). It takes a little while to get going, but when it does it feels amazing every time. I know I've said this before about other tracks and all that regular cliché stuff, but I could seriously live in that moment of the build & drop at 4:50 for ever. Which is kinda the point of euphoric trance innit?

One more playlist to share, it'll probably be next weekend at this rate when that one goes up. I appreciate your patenience as I try and get back into the swing of things. Until then feel free to dig into my other spotify playlists and as always: stay safe, and enjoy the music.

-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Tears In Rain

I've been waiting to make this post for a couple of years now. Purely so I can use the image above. Yep it's time that I celebrate my favourite science fiction sub-genre and more importantly, the effect it's had on electronic music as a whole. This isn't going to be limited to a singular post mind you, I have a couple lined up for this month (again purely so I could use the above image). As for this post, well, there isn't really a plan for this one beyond some thoughts I've been having recently so apologies if it comes across a little rambling, lets get stuck in.

It's only fitting that I start with the actual namesake of this post (and source of the above image), Vangelis' soundtrack to 1982's Blade Runner has been a mainstay in electronic music circles for an incredibly long time, though curiously the soundtrack didn't see an actual release until 1994. Chalk it up to the film being fairly unpopular in its day, and the strength of its cult following in the years to come. Personally, I point to Vangelis' work for the Blade Runner OST as evidence that more films should be using electronic music in their OSTs. Granted, I am slightly biased because I love the film and electronic music and you could argue that it's thematically appropriate to the movie, but just listen to how iconic Blade Runner Blues sounds all these years later, especially compared to a generic orchestral score.

You should already be able to hear similarities going forward, most prominently being the work of Daniel Lopatin under his Oneohtrix Point Never alias. Beyond just the love of arpeggiated analogue that they both share, Daniel's signature sound in the early days of Oneohtrix Point Never revolved around using the exact same models of Roland synthesizers that Vangelis did on Blade Runner. Daniel's sound has since evolved and moved quite a ways away from this analogue noodling, but I will always hold a special place in my heart for these works, particularly those on the Betrayed In The Octagon release.

We're going to jump backwards a little bit now to talk about another series of releases I'm incredibly passionate about. In the early 1990's, Warp Records set out to revive what they called 'Electronic Listening Music', evoking images of Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd on the sleeve of the first compilation that would give the series its title; Artificial Intelligence. To quote Warp Records co-founder Steve Beckett on this decision:
That's why we put those sleeves on the cover of Artificial Intelligence – to get it into people's minds that you weren't supposed to dance to it!
— Steve Beckett
It's this vision and mission statement that comes to mind for me first when thinking of Warp Records, at this time electronic music in the popular sense was Acid House and Hardcore and the associated rave culture, so for Warp to push the envelope like this was an interesting decision. Not an entirely unforeseen one though, given the popularity of chill-out rooms and the release of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 that same year on R&S Records. Still, Warp stuck to this idea for the next couple of years and would release 6 albums and another compilation under the {Artificial Intelligence} label.

The reason I think these albums appeal to me so is that for as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by just the actual sound of electronic music. I've shared that story of being enthralled by my dad's cassette of Kraftwerk's Autobahn and just how different it sounded compared to anything I'd heard before. Though I didn't fully dive into the world of electronic music until I was a teenager, it twinned nicely with my interest in technology too, a high tech sound for an increasingly high-tech world.

Which leads to an interesting contrast for me. To me, the Artificial Intelligence series has an almost positive sound to it, like technology is going to guide us through the 1990's and beyond. Maybe it's just the hindsight, but I can definitely hear the sound get more cynical, more jaded over time. This comes to a head around the 2000s, with Electroclash ironically embracing the shallow celebrity culture, Massive Attack taking on their now trademark melancholy tone with Mezzanine and most importantly for me, the release of James Stinson's Lifestyles of the Laptop Café, funnily enough also released on Warp Records.

While not officially part of it, to me Lifestyles of the Laptop Café represents the end of the Artificial Intelligence series; it carries with it that Electronic Listening Music sensibility for one, but the tone is now much more focused on very personal themes like disconnection and loneliness, with the technological element forming a backdrop to this. Again, maybe it's the hindsight (and to be honest my own personal experience in these areas) talking, but those themes have only gotten more relevant with time, even if the cover art has become a little dated in those 18 years. And in one final twist of fate, Lifestyles of the Laptop Café was originally released on September 3rd 2001, just 8 days before the world would change forever.

Well, this post took a direction I wasn't expecting. Aplogies again if it's a little rambly and more thinkpiece-y than my usual output. The other Cyberpunk Month posts I have in mind are much more structured so stay tuned for those if this one's been a miss for you. As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-Claude Van Foxbat

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Spooky Electric

Was planning to post this a little earlier, and have more tracks in it too but it's been very busy as of late. What's that saying about mice and men? Anyway, figured I'd best get it out there seeing as we're getting close and also I'm pretty sure it's the 31st already over in the states. So please enjoy my carefully curated list of vaguely Halloween-y tunes. There's no real order to them beyond the first 4 or so, so feel free to shuffle!

It's a real mixed bag of upbeat and downbeat too, the most recent additions being what precious little of Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill soundtracks there are on spotify. Hopefully there's some stuff in there that you dig, and if you'd like to follow the playlist I plan on adding to it a little more over the next couple days. I found it much harder than in previous years, but then again my library has grown considerably since then. Regardless, enjoy and I will see you all again soon!

-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 13 October 2019

A Return To Listening To...

Miwa Ogasawara - Ausgang (2007)

It's been a few since I did one of these. Probably a little rusty but there can't be much to go wrong. Starting off with a recent addition to my library that will not stop haunting me. And I mean that quite literally, I know I say it for a bunch of stuff in my collection but I could quite happily live in that melancholic intro for ever and ever (I even sampled it on my latest EP in the post below!). SiLC as a band existed only very briefly towards the turn of the millennium, though from what I gather from a bit of reading this was intentional, you can definitely hear that not-quite-pop feel that was so prevalent at the time but even with some slightly dated sounds, SiLC have been a very interesting addition to my listening. To be honest I'm just amazed I could find this on streaming.

The Flashbulb has come more into the fold for me recently too, I think the mistake I made last time was going all in on the IDM front and gathering as much stuff as I could that fit the admittedly broad definitions o the style. Since dialling it back I've a newfound appreciation for it and some other artist's work to boot. Love As A Dark Hallway is a much more easily digestible listen than my previous recommended Flashbulb release, Soundtrack To A Vacant Life, but its by no means less of a quality induction into his works. Keeping with that slightly haunting theme (fitting given it's October and all) we have Virtuous Cassette; which begins with some sounds straight out of Aphex Twin's Rhubarb. That is, before the beat abruptly slides into position around 40 seconds in, making the whole thing more in line with Wisp's rework of Rhubarb. That is not a complaint; I absolutely adore the smooth sounds throughout this LP and the beats, while contrasting, never feel out of place.

I mentioned on the podcast that I love to cosy, almost-DIY electronics of Hajime Hyakkoku's soundtracks and that has not changed. I've been purposefully metering them out in order to get the most mileage out o them but I have since listened to them all. This example in particular reminds me especially of Mitsuto Suzuki's solo albums in terms of sound, I think I mentioned those on a podcast or post previously too, they are hard to find but full of gorgeous pieces like this. As we head to the tail end of this year I expect to pulling more and more of these into rotation to give myself a little bit of audio warmth.

-Claude Van Foxbat