Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Whiteout

Forgive me, for I am about to do another one of my classic extended talks about the latest example of sounds perfectly suiting the aesthetics of what its soundtracking - like I did with VA-11 Hall-A and Hotline Miami before it. Today we're talking Neon White, a speedrunny shooter dealio from the creator of Donut County - a bit of a thematic shift to say the least. I was charmed by the demo a few months back, while I haven't gotten around to playing the full thing yet, I've been keeping tabs on it and more specifically, the soundtrack.
It's by Machine Girl, who have cropped up on my recommends a few times but as is so often the case with me, I haven't really bothered to check them out in any detail really - a quick browse through their discogs page will give you a quick visual rundown: a dazzling mixture of retro anime, PC-98 screenshots and vibrant colours, like a Vaporwave record dropped in sugar. Take Lillith for example, the track used in the announce trailer (or at least a tweaked version of it) - the first 20 seconds of which are a bit of a fakeout that gives way to a burst of breakcore that doesn't let up for the remainder of its runtime. A crash course in the world of Machine Girl, and setting us up for the sounds to come.



It'd be easy to assume that they'd just collect a bunch of tracks like that and call it a day, not the case here though - instead we have 51(!) tracks split over two albums to compliment the experience. We open with Glass Ocean, very obviously from the same school of sound as Lillith but a little bit softer, a bit more dreamy perhaps - more Drum & Bass than Breakcore. I also feel like Machine Girl are leaning into their videogame influences here something heavy, to be expected as it is a soundtrack to a videogame after all: the arcade-esque vocal shoutout of "Aim for the heavens!" and the wild synth noodling at 1:50 doing wonders to cement that feel.



It's not long before the intensity is ramped back up tho, next track on the list Virtual Paradise rockets back into that territory, perhaps even straying into more conventional IDM in parts as well. It too is the perfect soundscape for the gameplay, ripping through stylised environments in a flurry of violence; "Feel the rush!" as another well placed vocal sample says during a breakdown in the latter quarter. I've talked before about how soundtracks are a great way to introduce people to genres they might otherwise have missed, I'd love to see how many people find out they like this kind of electronic by playing the game!



I'm purposefully drip feeding myself tracks in order not to overdo it before I even have the chance to sit down and play it myself (likewise, expect more from these OSTs to come up in the near future) - thought I'd shift gears for my last choice to one of the more sedate tracks that accompanies the conversation parts of the game. Even then it's not by much, Heaven Central Authority starts out nice enough, but its not long before it all gets a bit shelf rattling with a deep bassline and some Trap trimmings. I've seen people mention in the reviews that these albums are basically really extended Machine Girl albums so if any of these tracks pique your interest you will find plenty more where that came from, and a reminder to myself to eventually check their fill discogs out myself.



And that'll be all for now, hope you like some of these cuts as much as I do, and even if the game doesn't interest you I would still recommend the soundtrack as it stands alone - there's even one review over on Bandcamp saying pretty much that. This week is shaping up to be pretty chaotic so it might be a little while before I'm back with more - but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 12 June 2022

(Not) The Final Friday - Part Two

It's been about a month since I did part one of the final Friday, so not only is it high time I actually get around to part two but also between then and now Bandcamp laid out their plans for the continuation of Bandcamp Fridays going forward. In short, it's not every month from now on, which is a fair compromise to make I'd say. With that out of the way, let's take a look at what I had leftover from last time.
Hasui Kawase - Kozu, Osaka (1924)


Let's start with somethin' new, DMX Krew dropped this album the day before if I recall right so I took a look at it. The cover was quite inviting, long time readers will know I love me some electroclash and this cover would have been right at home in that era of sleazy glamour - and I would be very interested in hearing Ed take on some of the themes explored in that sphere. You don't have to wait long for that to be true, opening title track Party Life is very much in that spirit - look no further than the chorus for a summary of the vibe: "This Party Life, it doesn't mean a thing to me - or you". I've mentioned in the past how DMX embraces the cheese of the retro electronic that forms his usual output, but something about Party Life feels very earnest - perhaps I've been too flippant in the past, Ed's vocal really suits this sound.



Turning back the clock for the next one with a bit from Kaito circa 2002. I really gelled with this record, coming hot off the heels of my fall back in with Swayzak I must have been in the mood for a little bit more of that tech house flavour, Special Life more than delivered with it's mixture of Deep / Tech House, with a little sprinkling of Trance on top for extra. Some tracks perhaps a little long in the tooth, but they're usually so catchy that I don't mind - the whole album feels very sleek and polished, a real embodiment of that hi-tech vibe making the rounds in the early 00's. Perfect for soundtracking, if you like the opening track, go ahead and dive right in and you will not be disappointed. Of note as well is the sister album to Special Life - Special Love, which is made up of ambient versions of the tracks from this album - all lovely listens and as the bandcamp page mentions, a great DJ tool.



Keeping things House for the time being, I also scooped the other entry in Macross 82-99's Sailorwave Trilogy. There really isn't a lot to say that I didn't already mention last time - just when I think I'm done with House for a while, a track like Sakura will come on and inevitably get me toe-tapping again. Wearing his heart on his sleeve here, Sakura isn't shy about it's Shibuya-kei and J-Pop influences, but it's not saccharine sweet like that combination might suggest. Tracks like this share a lot with the kind of House we were posting around the 2010s, the whole 'French Touch' revival with artists like Louis La Roche and company so be aware there is a bit of bias on my part when picking them out - I recommend checking out the whole thing for a little more variety, spread across the trilogy there are small moments of ambient, vaporwave and little lo-fi breaks to enjoy!



And finally, something a little more uptempo to round out. I went down a bit of a DnB rabbit hole recently after the last big VGM roundup I did. I went searching for something a little more in the vein of Soichi Terada's work, it's a big world out there and for all the D&B in my collection, it's basically a drop in the ocean. Enter The Self Evident Truth Of An Intuitive Mind, an album I heard nothing but good things about, held up as a classic of the genre but I had never heard of it until not too long ago. This remastered version on bandcamp is extended slightly from the original release and is also a complete steal at a minimum of $1. I've chosen Trapezium as my track of choice, it's a short sharp demo of the breakbeat butchery on display here, with the lovely opening showing off the more melodic side of the album as well. I was originally going to post opening track Circle, but it does take a little while to get going - it's a fantastic album opener don't get me wrong, but I wanted to get straight to the chase as it were. Definitely give it a spin if you're looking for a little more D&B, if you listen to it front to back as intended it all flows together all silky smooth like, which is why this one cuts off so abruptly.



And that'll be all for now, apologies for the delay between parts, as I mentioned before we hit a rough streak at my IRL work and a bunch of posts fell through the cracks, I'm well on my way to being caught up now though. I hope between part one and this post you've found some new tunes for your library, I've certainly enjoyed what turned out to be a revisit to them! I'll be back soon enough with more but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Right on Time

Every year I plan to put this track up, and every year I miss it by a day or so before I realise. But not this year! A little let down by it not being on BC so we'll have to make do with a YT player this time around, but small potatoes really. Join me as we listen to June 9th by Boards Of Canada on the date in question - if you're familliar with the BoC boys, you'll find this one quite a bit different, hailing from the early days of their career on Skam records, it's much more techno than the ambient trip hop that they'd later become known for. There's some real gold among those early releases, tracks like this one and Chinook have this very different feel but there's still that underlying BoC DNA in there.



It can be a pretty deep rabbit hole to go down, there's a lot of BoC material before their first 'official' releases (and more than a couple of forgeries as well) - it's incredible to be able to chart their progression over the decades, the tunes mentioned above are from around the time they were switching gears into the sound they're known for today so it's a little bit easier to hear there. And that's all I've got for you today! Apologies for the super short post, I'll be back this weekend with a more substantial entry but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Same Name Game 2

You ever stumble across a note that you'd left yourself and just plain forgotten about? that's what this post is. Around the same time I made the first version of this post I must have made a second draft for a sequel that then got buried under other posts. There was nothing to it other than a cursory list of tracks so I figured I'd come in and flesh it out, and here we are.
Claudio Bravo - Mystic Package (1967)


The main limiting factor for this one is that some of the tracks aren't on my usual bandcamp players, but that's not the end of the world. It's also not the case for this first one either. Kicking off with a bit from Kavinsky's delayed debut. After a string of home-run EPs I was very excited for Kavinsky to drop an album, which eventually came to be in OutRun. OutRun is... fine. I told myself at the time its just because I was getting a little sick of the retro electro aesthetic but even on revisiting it my opinion remains the same. By far and away the best tracks here are the ones that were already on EPs that came before, but there are a couple standouts in the original camp as well. Don't let that put you off if you've never listened to Kavinsky before, the album is a great starting point. Since originally making notes for this post the man has announced a second album as well, and the single from it is very nice. Here's one of the standout originals, Blizzard.



From there we hit up Light Club, with one of the many tracks from Hotline Miami that are seared into my brain. Their Blizzard is a perfect addition to the sequel's soundtrack, very befitting of the more surreal direction that it took. Slightly off kilter, I think I could best describe it as nervous trap, a great choice to set the atmosphere for the scenes with dialogue. Sadly, like a lot of artists from the Hotline Miami OSTs, there hasn't been a release from Light Club in nigh on 10 years at this point, though a quick thumb-through of Discogs tells me that one half of the duo is still pretty active. I always think that's a bit of a shame, if you really dug the vibe of the OSTs like I did and go looking for more you can find that well dries up pretty quickly. Having said that, some of them are still at it, M.O.O.N. of Hydrogen fame has just dropped a new album for example.



A duet of Close Your Eyes next, first with Circ. I've talked about Circ's one and only album at length in a Retro Review and my feelings remain pretty much the same - if you like slightly kitsch early 2000's electropop as much as I do then you will find a lot to love. Echoing my thoughts from last time as well, the standout moment is still that incredible and obviously euphoric trance inspired breakdown around 2 minutes in - between that and the rest of the track its a great little capsule that is a distillation of the era's 'dance music' sound (see also, the very of-the-era music video) in my mind it's in the same ballpark as records like Mylo's Destroy Rock & Roll for example.



Speaking of, we're going to head over to The Chemical Brothers' Push The Button next, an album that I've thought about doing it's own retro review of. It's a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion, but one that's a little overlooked at the same time - look past overplayed tracks like Galvanize and there's some really great moments on here, my favourite being the spectacular closer Surface To Air. Close Your Eyes follows a similar kind of arc though, a real slow burn that builds to a post-rock-esque crescendo - not always my preferred way of things but sometimes it hits the spot just right, and when it does it's lovely.



Trying to make up for the back-to-back YT players with a little bonus, first things first kicking things more downtempo with my local hero Nightmares On Wax. Taken from Thought So... it has a little bit of a different sound to the albums before and after it, and a big part of that is probably down to how the thing was recorded - the whole album is a series of sessions recorded along the way as N.O.W moved from the U.K. over to Spain. This gives the whole thing this really interesting jovial 'live' quality, it feels like one big jam session and you're along for the ride.



And finally a bit of UNKLE, specifically their first album when it was a collaboration between James Lavelle and DJ Shadow. Psyence Fiction is a great little album, it was supposed to be getting an anniversary reissue a couple years back if I remember right but nothing seems to have come of it. Regardless if you are at all into 90's trip hop or are even just a fan of DJ Shadow it's certainly worth your time, Shadow's influence is very pronounced on it. Unreal is one of my favourite tracks from the LP, and there is also a sort of 'bonus' version on the end titled Be There, featuring Ian Brown of The Stone Roses on the vocal front. It feels very natural in its execution, it's not like the vocal has just been hastily overdubbed or anything - Ian's voice suits this sound really well, it's a collaboration I'd have liked to have seen more of, with UNKLE or a similar act.



And that'll be all for this time, I think I used up all my 'same name' ammo for a little while now! A little bit more of an eclectic mix this time around, but I hope you've enjoyed these tracks as much as I have putting this all together. I'm hoping to get back on track with the posting schedule so keep an eye out for more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF