Sunday, 20 May 2018

Soundtrack Sundays (Sorta)

William Scott - Five Pears (1976)


As has been the running theme for a while now, this week's selections are all based around soundtracks. That's not 100% true though, as this first tune doesn't actually appear on a soundtrack, but rather comes from the grammatical mess of an album called Ghost In The Shell Tribute Category: Techno Style. And that title isn't exactly accurate either, there's a whole host of genres on the two compilations released, with one song in particular bordering on being Gabba of all things. But anyway, we're talking about the second tune that System 7 and techno heavyweight Derrick May have on this compilation. I don't think I mentioned this last time but the sound on show in the two tracks they have here reminds me of why as a li'l Foxbat I became enamoured with techno and general electronic music in the first place, it all sounded so futuristic to my young ears. The compilation's from 2004 but I think it carries that 90's future tech sound and sensibility with it, it'd only be right considering the source material for the tribute after all.

System 7 Vs. Derrick May - Prototype 1 [click to download] |HTML5|


Moving onto something I recently dug out of my back-catalogue, The soundtrack for Metal Gear Solid 2 of all things. Truth be told it's actually really interesting to listen to on it's own, it's an odd sounding (on paper) mix of early 2000s cinematic score and electronic elements, due in part to the involvement of Harry Gregson-Williams. Not to discount the other contributions to the soundtrack though, Norihiko Hibino especially has plenty of tracks across the series that can fall under that category. Take Twilight Sniping for example, I can't say I ever gave it my full attention because the part of the game it plays in is pretty tense (and it only appears that once) but now hearing it separate from it's context it's surprisingly laid back, taking a form more akin to a slower Omni Trio track or the like. There's times where the reincorporation of the orchestral elements sounds a little off but overall I think it works out, that bassline is lovely for one.

Norihiko Hibino - Twilight Sniping [click to download] |HTML5|


And finally, yet another example from Soichi Terada. I think this'll be the third time or so I've told the tale of how he was one of if not the first examples of Drum & Bass I heard thanks to Ape Escape. And like Twilight Sniping above, it takes on a whole new life when separated from the context of the visuals. Coral Cave is a frantic tour de force of Terada's style; I'm fairly certain that it's got the fastest beat of all the Ape Escape OST, but carefully balanced with these aquatic themed synths firing off in the background. It's a short one at two minutes dead, but if you hit repeat on your music player it's clearly designed to loop fairly seamlessly as you might expect from a PS1 game. It's definitely one of the highlights of the OST, the whole thing is worth your time but check this one out for certain.

Soichi Terada - Coral Cave [click to download] |HTML5|


-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Reunions 2

A busy end to the week means I'm glad I shifted the post schedules to Sundays. After a slightly messy Friday of setting up exhibitions, meeting coworkers and friends, making a couple of new ones on the way and then grossly underestimating how quickly I could hoof it to the train station and exactly how long I'd been out, Saturday was a complete write off. Still, I had the foresight to prepare some stuff earlier in the week so here I am with the usual selections.

Billy Childish - Reunion Owl (2011)


I got real into the Adult Swim singles project, slightly disappointing that the past few years haven't had a download of all the tunes, so I took the opportunity to revisit the previous years. 2014's starts off incredibly strong, with a 7 minute disco infused offering from Giorgio Moroder himself, the opening synths immediately recalling The Chase, one of if not his mot famous tune. There's some gorgeous twinkling arpeggios laid on later that have more than a passing resemblance to Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy OST, though it's probably more the other way around given how long he's been in the game. It's interesting to hear Giorgio play with his disco roots with an updated sound, I remember thinking when I heard he'd be producing again that he'd take a Chromeo style slant to it. It's certainly not a bad thing, f anything it's refreshing to hear, and I'm just happy that one of electronic music's allstars is still around.

Giorgio Moroder - Giorgio's Theme [click to download] |HTML5|


Track 2 from 2014 next, at the time I was vaguely familiar with Machinedrum's work from soundtracks and the like, It's unfortunately yet another thing that's been tossed on my 'to pickup' pile that grows more than it shrinks. But I can talk about the tune itself! It lets you know from the get go with those delightfully retro piano stabs that this is quite heavily garage influenced (that's UK Garage as in house, not USA Garage as in rock). As a mid 90's baby who grew up in the north of England I have a real soft spot for the sound, it carries with it echoes of summers past, and hell a garage/house style tune is partially responsible for getting me this writing gig in the first place way back when. I do think that the repetitive samples are played up a little too much here, much more recently I think Luke Vibert did a better job on Luke Vibert Presents UK Garave Vol.1, but I'll happily take them both.

Machinedrum - Want Me [click to download] |HTML5|


My brief dip into the world of J Pop has brought me to Aimer. The EP this is from doesn't have the original version for the song for me to compare to, but I can tell you that this remix is super pretty indeed. In fact I think it comes out not feeling cold at all despite it's title, I do think it's a little let down in terms of structure but then again it is in essence a pop record so that's perhaps to be expected, and that only really sets in one you've looped it 3 or so times like I have when writing this post. Still, more than happy to have extra ammo for playlists when (and if) summer ever starts to roll around.

Aimer - Cold Sun (Ryo Nagano Remix) [click to download] |HTML5|


-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Post-Erity

Joaquín Sorolla - Girl With Flowers


Starting this week's selections off with an archival success story. You may remember a loooong time ago I mentioned a fairly obscure remix of on of my favourite tunes ever, Rippin Kittin by Alexander Polzin.At the time I praised Miss Kittin for having it available to stream along with most of her discography (and even tunes she only did vocals for). The link to buy the Golden Boy stuff was long since dead, but having it on soundcloud was better than nothing, especially considering I couldn't find this remix to buy anywhere, or even on YouTube or the like. I still grabbed a copy of it anyway, call it paranoia I've seen stuff disappear from soundcloud before and it's a real shame. Well it seems that my paranoia's paid off once again, I swung by Kittin's soundcloud only to find that the entire Golden Boy playlists she had had been wiped clean, along with a few others. Logic would say that they're in some kind of copyright hell, or best case about to be re-pressed and re-released. It's still a downer though but thankfully in the meantime I've got the version I swiped to keep me company, it's a fantastically sedate version of Rippin Kittin, turning it from an electroclash anthem to something a little more reflective.

Golden Boy & Miss Kittin - Rippin Kittin (Alexander Polzin Mix) [click to download] |HTML5|


Keeping it on the downtempo side of things for now, with yet another entry from one of my favourite soundtrack crafters Yoko Kanno. A far cry from the electronic infused, Björk inspired tracks she made for the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtracks, the tunes that appear on the Zankyou no Terror Original Soundtrack keep it fairly acoustic, though there's connections to Iceland in both the show and soundtrack (the lyrics to Von being in Icelandic, Director Shinichirō Watanabe actually citing Sigur Rós as an inspiration and the soundtrack was even recorded there). ís is probably the most famous piece form the soundtrack, it's used within the show to breathtaking effect and I knew I had to have it in my collection. It scratches an itch the same way that Washed Out's Life Of Leisure EP did when I first listened to that, and one that I didn't even know I still had.

Yoko Kanno - ís [click to download] |HTML5|


The new post schedule means that I missed quite the anniversary around 2 weeks or so ago now: Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children turned 20, having been released late April 1998. I don't have to to explain to those of you that have been with us a long time how important both this album and Boards Of Canada's work as a whole is to me, I wrote a multiple year long exploration of Warp's releases after all. To the rest of you who might not be as familiar, Music Has The Right To Children is an excellent dropping in point to the world of BoC, it's an essential addition to anyone's collection with a taste for downtempo and ambient. The gelling together of gorgeous retro synth work with slightly off kilter and surreal samples, all backed by almost trip-hop style beats is the synonymous Boards Of Canada sound, and they're on top form throughout Music Has.... Here's my favourite ambien interlude off the album, the short but sweet Olson, which a friend of mine described as "The musical version of a warm hug".

Boards Of Canada - Olson [click to download] |HTML5|


-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Rezurrection

Time for me again to slip on my nerd glasses and talk at length about videogame soundtracks. This time with another important one in the development in taste for the younger version of myself, you see when I've talked about Graeme Norgate's soundtracks for Timesplitters being formative for me because there weren't many games incorporating electronic music in their soundtracks I've actually been telling a little lie because he isn't the only one around that time responsible for that. There are two other main sources I can think of off the top of my head, Grand Theft Auto III with it's Drum & Bass and Trance radio stations in MSX and Rise FM respectively and the other biggy which is the delightfully trippy on rails shooter known as Rez



Unlike the other game soundtracks I've talked about though, I think Rez has earned it's place in the history of electronic music. To understand why you have to look at the development of the game itself, starting with the original inspiration for the game itself, shamlessly quoting wikipedia:
"In 1997, Tetsuya Mizuguchi (ed: Producer/creator of Rez) was on travel(sic) in Europe and had been taken to the Street Parade in Zurich, during which there was a large electronic dance music concert attended by around 300,000 people. Mizuguchi was taken in by the sights and sounds around him from this, and recognized how this experience was similar to the inspiration that Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter, had used to "[paint] a canvas of the sounds that he saw".[8] He saw this tie to his previous ideas and envisioned a game where one would shoot down enemies in time to the beat of music that would put the player into a trance, forming the basis of Rez."
But that's not all, during development the game was being worked on with placeholder tracks from the likes of Underworld and Fatboy Slim, and the team reached out to all kinds of techno and electronic musicians to get them on board for the game and rumour says that even Aphex Twin was on board for a while, but none of his work appears in the final game. It's a shame that not all these artists made it into the final version of Rez, if it had I think it would rival the early Wipeout games soundtracks as home of electronic powerhouses of the time.

And that's basically the gist, and if you look up gameplay (with helpful subtitles by ChipCheezum) I think they did a bang up job. For a young Foxbat who was super into tech, electronic music and cyberpunk sci-fi (but didn't know it yet) I was drawn to it for reasons I couldn't explain. The soundtrack to Area 1 as seen in that video remains my favourite out of the whole thing, and everytime I hear those opening stabs I fall in love all over again. Those of you who've watched the video will notice that the album mix here is slightly different than in game due to it adding more elements as the level goes on, I do actually prefer the album version truth be told. But you know how the archivist in me is, I have both the album version and a rip of the in-game versions just in case I ever feel like switching it up.

Keiichi Sugiyama - Buggie Running Beeps 01 [click to download] |HTML5|




And while I think it's the opening level's music that defines Rez, and even the marketing material makes reference to the trance-like nature of the game and audio (see above), it does stray from the Trance genre from time to time. The other big hitter from the Rez soundtrack is Adam Freeland's Fear which is more in line with the kind of stuff I imagine they were using from Underworld as placeholder tunes, it plays out more like a Big Beat tune from the era, something more akin to The Chemical Brother or the like. It's a little repetitive for my tastes, but it really comes into it's own past the halfway mark, the introduction of that super smooth backing around 2:50 really does it for me. And of course, bonus points for the quite obvious Dune references with the "Fear is the mind killer" samples.

Adam Freeland - Fear (Rez Edit) [click to download] |HTML5|


Unfortunately a few of my other all time faves don't appear on the compilation, and I'm not really comfortable posting the gamerip because the quality ain't great and I have no idea who to credit with the songs. To round things off we have a little bit of a wildcard. Now it wouldn't be a game influenced by electronic music culture if it didn't have a comedown section now would it? Well, Rez pulls no punches in this area, there's no post-dancefloor lullabies here. Instead you're treated to the abstract glitch of Oval, it's a tough listen I'll give you that, but ride it out and it actually all becomes quite pretty starting around 43 seconds or so. I'd say it's not really my cup of tea but I've actually grown to love it over the years, it would certainly explain some of the more abstract pieces in my collection from the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never.

Oval - P-Project [click to download] |HTML5|


Speaking of influence I find it funny that there's so many references to the demo scene and VJs in the history of Rez's development, as some of you may or may not know, I actually do that kind of work freelance on the side, and there's been many a time I've watched a little bit of Rez gameplay for some colour inspiration, or ideas on how to merge audio + visual that much better. Much like the music video for Daft Punk's Around The World, each element in Rez is linked to a piece of the overall composition which is pretty spectacular when used in an interactive experience, and the music video for The Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar also has each element of the song represented by a visual cue. And it's things like that that continue the cycle, always know your roots, and always give props to those who've inspired you and so on. It shouldn't have taken me this long to write this all down but better late than never I suppose.

-Claude Van Foxbat