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.





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.



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.



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

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Getting Technical

Louisa Matthiasdottir - Fólk á göngu




Over the past couple of days I feel like I've come around to being my old self again. I found more art like the stuff I used to make (and I might return to some day) After a long period of being really into acoustic downtempo and (shock horror) guitar based music, I've come back around to diggin' techy sounding things once again. Starting off with some of my favourite purveyors of Drum & Bass, Commix. I loved Call To Mind, it's chock full of thick basslines and all around good stuff. How You Gonna Feel is a rare example of Commix with (non-sampled) vocals. Their choice was a little unconventional when it comes to Drum & Bass vocal accompaniments but it compliments their production very well indeed. Also serves once again a kick up my arse to finally pick up that compilation album they put out a few years back.



Moving from one to the other here with a fairy recent instrumental addition to my collection. Not that there's anything wrong with Yanagi Nagi's vocal stylings mind you, but this instrumental is equally gorgeous on it's own, and the instrumental lets it be heard in full. It's very clean sounding and a touch on the dreamy side to boot, I thought the piano was a little cliché at first but it has grown on me. It's fast becoming one of my go-to tunes to have on while I do things, but it's equally as enjoyable if you give it your full attention. I couldn't find a stream of the instrumental version anywhere to share, but here it is with the vocals (which I think don't always fit).



And finally, another techno cut that I missed out last time. That intro had my interest from the word go, it's certainly a unique sound if nothing else, and as it went on and added more and more elements my interest bar only went up. When the entire tune comes together it's a fantastic listen, there's even some reversed(?) vocals throughout just to chalk another mark on the uniqueness scale, the end result is the exact opposite of the minimal tunes I was griping over last week. My only issue with this one would be that the title might be more at home on some French House revival track, but the song itself more than makes up for that.



-Claude Van Foxbat

Spotify Monthly Selections April

I was tasked by a friend to recommend some house-y tunes for his holiday playlist, so naturally I jumped at the chance. I was actually fairly surprised at the selection of the classic French House I fell in love with that was available on spotify, kicking off with the oft-overlooked classic album Midnight Funk from Demon, segueing into some more funky stuff from Benjamin Diamond immediately afterwards, and keeping it that way with Modjo. I took a bit of a more modern turn with the next few which was a little risky but thankfully they went down a treat. More future funk styled stuff form Macross 82-99, showing off a little more of that eastern infulence speciffically, followed by a surprisingly non-experimental piece from The Flashbulb. Let Me Walk You To Your Honda has little in common with Benn Jordan's other productions, there might be a little IDM style lurking under those warbles but as far as I can tell this is the only House tune he's really made. Which is a shame because he's really good at it.





More classic selections rounding it out, you know I had to include the legendary Lazy from X-Press 2, which was a younger me's first proper introduction to David Byrne beyond my dad's record collection. All culminating in the gorgeously smooth Dusk You & Me from Groove Armarda. Sounds perhaps a little dated but man do I ever have the biggest soft spot for this style of Café del Mar morning after downtempo vibe.

-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 8 April 2018

A Mixed Bag

John Cage - Fontana Mix (Dark Grey) (1981)


Not gonna lie, the time to post snuck up on me this time. But luckily I'v been pretty good about keeping a steady source of new tunes coming in. Starting off with something that I was a little lacking in as of late with some good old fashioned Techno. I can be a bit picky when it comes to techno, especially when it comes to the compilation this is from there's a lot of crossover with minimal which ain't really for me. But there's some good stuff on here too, Floating Point wasted no time getting it's Underground Resistance / Galaxy 2 Galaxy on and with that had pretty much sealed the deal from the get go. (Note: Couldn't find a stream for this one, sorry!)

Bryan Zentz - Floating Point

Flipping it 180°, earlier this week Jean Sean dropped my a line with his latest. Or at least, eventually did after some email tomfoolery which is the story of my life. It came through a couple months early unfortunately, as the morning I got it in my inbox it was snowing again here in the UK, definitely one to dig out again come July. Saying again what I said over DMs, that sax in the last quarter is lush, it's been a logn time since I've heard any sax not being used for a cheesy chromeo-esque retro feel or straight up old school MIDI sax samples so it was doubly refreshing to hear.



Been digging back into Stenchman as of late too. Despite me being officially done with dubstep for many years now, I still make an effort to keep up with Stenchman, mainly because he's always coming back with a creative spin on things even if they are often quite crudely titled. Stench has a history of incorporating folky elements into his work, which you can hear a little bit of here in a tune from his house/garage alais Philestine. I really dig the sound of it overall, it's got this slightly rough feel that is a constant in all of Stenchman's output. Similarly, I really like how you can still hear bits of the man's dubstep work in Philestine tunes, especially on the basslines here. My only complaint is that the final fade-out is a little overdrawn but that's small potatoes really.



-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Can I Get A Re-do

Eyvind Earle - Through The Fog (1997)


Well I beefed it last time with the code for Ben Prunty's tune. You'd with so many years blogging under my belt I'd be beyond simple html goofs but nope. Anyway, this gave me a good excuse to post more of his work this week. Here's another piece of the FTL soundtrack, which despite being a battle theme is quite pretty. Though I suppose that goes for most of FTL's OST when it's not competing with missile launches, lasers and warning sirens for sound space. The build up is fantastic, and you get to hear little bit of the musical theme reincorporation Ben mentioned in my last post towards the end.



From one Ben to another (well, Benn in this case) with The Flashbulb. I did some more listening after last week's post and put the brutally depressingly titled Soundtrack To A Vacant Life back in rotation. It's a hefty album at 31 tracks but I think it's a perfect crash course in all things Flashbulb, I might be slightly biased because it was my introduction but hey. Here's the first tune that grabbed me from it, andthe first I ever heard of his work, the absolutely gorgeous Warm Hands In Cold Fog.



And finally a revisit to sci-fi, with a surprisingly trip-hoppy addition from Vangelis to the Blade Runner OST. It doesn't appear in the actual film, Vangelis put it and a whole bunch of songs together for the film's 25th anniversary, which explains the style difference. I think t still fits very well tough and I absolutely adore the sprinkling of spoken word throughout, it's like being a phreaker tapped into a whole bunch of phone lines at once and it doesn't get more cyberpunk than that.



-Claude Van Foxbat