Friday 17 July 2020

We Are All Connected

If you'll allow me, I'm going to indulge once again in the slightly more niche ideas I've been kicking around in my head. I've been thinking a lot about the concept of fan-works and the inspiration they offer. Fan-works are usually visual art, but sometimes they cross over into audio as well which is what we'll be talking about today, but first a bit of background.

It should come as no surprise to some readers that I am a big fan of Serial Experiments Lain. It's a series from 1998 that only seems to have gotten more prophetic about technology with age and has some incredibly visceral visual depictions of mental disorders that I really resonated with. Anyway, Lain has potentially the most fan-made music out of any fandom I actively follow, which is equal amounts surprising and expected really, and it runs the gamut from a Bootleg remix of the show's opening theme, that was then remixed again by one of the musicians responsible for the series' music, to the usual affair of 'inspired-by' compilations. And this was all before the landmark choice to make Lain "Open Source" until 2028, making the creation of fanworks not only easier, but essentially officially sanctioned. That is an incredible choice, and one very fitting for the source material.

As mentioned before though, people have been making fan works even before that point, and I'm going to talk about a few of them here. First off; I'm Real, I'm Here from Echochamber. This release is a perfect starting point as it doesn't lean very heavily on referencing the source material, making it very accessible if you're unfamiliar. But also playing into my initial point, it's a great fan work because it is very much evokes the atmosphere of the source material but with a more modern and personalised by the artist twist. I'm Real, I'm Here runs through a whole host of moods, from full on hip-hop, straight up Vaporwave and to Minimal House pieces like the one I'm going to post. I listened to it straight through for my first time and the whole experience flows together supremely well. Gorgeously lush in parts, intensely claustrophobic in others, it would definitely be my most recommended LP to check out from this post.

It's a very well balanced LP, despite spanning a ton of genres it never feels like it's particularly weighted one way or the other, save for the more hip-hop influenced pieces. I'm keeping it on he more accessible side for now with another one of my favourites which transports me back to my very short lived Progressive House phase. It's odd for me to describe a tune like this as nostalgic, but that time I was into Prog House is only getting further away! As above there's no obvious nods to its inspiration material here, which is a bit of a blessing as it lets me focus on the content itself. Occasionally when tracks like this come on I begin to vibe with them in an extra special way, a way that reminds me why I love electronic music and more specifically the myriad of House-y offshoots. This one in particular is excellently crafted; I adore that sweeping intro, there's not a single element out of place throughout, and to boot it doesn't suffer from having 3+ minutes of 4/4 tacked onto the front and back like some Prog House tunes in my library.

It's no surprise that such a surreal and psychological series like Lain, that also is steeped heavily in technology attracted the more... extreme side of electronic music genres. We're not going to dive straight into the deep end yet however. Let's talk about the self-published compilation Subhuman. True to the Dōjinshi format, Subhuman was available in limited supply from a comic market on December 30, 2009 (and I think from the label's site in limited quantity too?). Despite this the compilation is not incredibly difficult to get your hands on, and it's definitely worth a look. The opening track, fittingly called 'Depersonalization', is a lovely slice of dark and gloomy IDM tinged trip-hop. The breakdown at about 4 mins in is absolutely delightful.

I'm totally betraying the opening sentence of the last paragraph though because I'm not posting the more abrasive tunes from this comp. Tracks like "The Accelerator" for example have Current Value style hard Drum & Bass as the dish of choice, but the artist behind that track and the Compilation at large; 3x6, also has a more traditional drum & bass appearance on this comp. Both I'm Real, I'm Here both sport samples rom the series scattered throughout (though none of the tracks I've picked do!), on paper I'd be inclined to call this a little on-the-nose but in practice it works incredibly well; none of the samples feel forced or shoehorned into make it more of a fan-work, operating more like a knowing wink to those who know the source material. One last thought here: truth be told I remembered this as being one of my lesser liked tunes from here, but something about it is just hitting slightly different today.

Rounding us out for today I will now take a dive into that extreme side! The final compilation I'm talking about is La-Incarnation, from Otherman Records, a tiny (seemingly defunct) netlabel from Japan, who in their own words are "Leading Japanese Breakcore Scene". This one is the real mixed bag of the bunch, I can't recommend it as easily as the other two as it is often a challenging listen, but I still like it (it's also name your price if you want to scoop it for free). It's taken me a good while to narrow it down to a couple of songs actually, trying to strike a balance between a good demonstration of that atmosphere and not being too experimental. First example is fairly tame, what I really like about this album is that it feels very distinctly like when you used to stumble into weird websites way back when; full of strange screen-names and site-specific slang. There's plenty of Chiptune on this compilation but this might be my favourite example, the smooth intro giving in after a minute or so to slightly glitchy bleeps and bloops that are straight out of a Keygen song only cements that technology fuelled atmosphere.

The intro and main body having wildly different flavours is a trend in my picks, at the risk of spoiling the experience it's why this one won out. It reminds me an awful lot of when I first listened to Clark's The Autumnal Crush, specifically being completely blindsided by the sheer intensity of it. If you're playing the song as you're reading this you've probably raised an eyebrow. "Intense?" I hear you say "Seems like it's just a regular downtempo type tune" and you would be right, but there is a sudden switch up after about 3 minutes that certainly lives up to that breakcore quote the label said initially. It's definitely an experience that is better if you're NOT expecting it like I wasn't on my first listen but I couldn't really talk about it without spoiling. On some days it really hits something inside of me and it's incredible, other days I have to reach for the skip track button when I remember that part approaching. Today I can appreciate them both in their chilled and face melting moods respectively.

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