Wednesday 9 March 2022

Digital Deep Dives

Falling down the rabbit hole once again, I am back with another tale of random stuff I've found on my travels around the 'net. We're once again dipping into the world of the Serial Experiments Lain fandom - an anime series from 1998 that only seems to have gotten more prophetic about technology with age, combine with some some incredibly visceral visuals and excellent soundtrack choices and you have the recipe for a cult classic. The unique atmosphere of Lain still inspires creative works to this day (no doubt helped by recent anniversiary events): everything from fanart, albums and EPs to even whole websites, one of which even emulates the PS1 game in its entirety.

Naturally, it's the albums we'll be focussing on here - these take many forms given the themes and visuals of the series: incredibly abstract, lush ambient, face-melting breakcore and of course, your more traditional 'IDM' sound all get represented across the various fan made productions out there. We'll be going fairly middle of the road here with the latest addition to my collection of fan works in Virtual Cyberia Experience. Cyberia is the name of a nightclub in Lain, so you might expect it to be in the style of the techno stuff made for the series by Chikada 'JJ' Wasei and others. While it's not quite the same as those primo pieces of 90's tech, the team behind this one does a decent job of updating things in their own way for the first quarter or so. An early highlight is Matterflow, which wastes no time in getting down to business. Fully embracing that 90's vibe a la ThorHighHeels, please enjoy some breaks that would be right at home playing next to some low poly VJ visuals.

Ther person behind most of the tracks on this compilation, Neurolucifer, isn't totally unkown to me though, they previously appeared on another Lain fan compilation - Wired Sound For Wired People. By contrast a much more experimental record, exploring noise and minimal atmospheres fairly regularly, they're all thematically appropriate for sure. Neurolucifer's contribution is one of the more conventional tracks on here - I don't mean that as a knock or anything, part of the reason this one stands out so much is that it is that in a sea of experimentation. It's pretty much what I'd expect from a pitch of the concept, of course a Lain themed compilation has to have some IDM infused stuff on it. Mesh fits that bill to the T, it reminds me a lot of some of the stuff that comes out from Touched Music - not too wild with snare rushes or anything, but certainly more techy than your standard electronica affair.

Some contributions play in the space in interesting ways - Navi starts out fairly haunting, but by the midpoint becomes a kind of trap infused remix of an Operating System tour theme, which is again very fitting considering the naming of the track. The switch up at around 1:20 reminds me a little of the more melodic ambient pieces Mike Morasky made for the Portal soundtrack with the similar hi-tech arpeggios. These two selections also do a really good job of being 'inspired by' without relying too heavily on the source material - you don't need any knowledge of Lain to enjoy them - there are a few samples from the source mateiral here and there but they're more like subtle nods than anything, they won't stand out as particularly out of place even if you don't recognise them. Some of the fan works out there don't strike this balance as well, but I sympathise as it's something that I too have stuggled with when making my own productions, it's a fine line to walk between paying homage to your influences and avoiding coming across as overly pandering.

Which brings me back around to the other inspiriation for this post, it wasn't supposed to be all Lain stuff but I added some to pad things out, to make up for me having to source this through less professional means. Another random artifact I found on my travels, one from a super small scale Japanese label that I can't find much info about called 'Aerophonon'. They only had 14 releases and each one is some kind of remix album/EP of game music, originally on CD but as of 2014 or so you can get most of them for free from their site, which makes this actually fairly easy to get your hands on these days (I'll link it later). We don't upload music directly to the site anymore though, so I've had to go with a YT embed for this one. It's for the full EP but I've timestamped it to my track of choice.

Hyuponia is made up of tracks from Klonoa, another cult classic but this time from the videogame world. As with the Lain pieces, you don't need to know anything about the source material to appreciate - my first choice of the lot is the Howling Desert Dub, which comes out sounding like a slightly dubby Ulrich Schnauss track, surprisingly heavy given the cutsey mascot platformer source material. Honorable mention also to the final track Turn In as well, again quite a hefty tune with some thundering bass behind it, something about it reminds me of all the various 'chillout' stuff I was consuming circa the early 00's, I think there's the spirit of that sound running through as an undercurrent. Lovely stuff, and you can get it yourself for free from the label's own page here, along with all their other releases - FLAC or MP3.

And that'll be all for now, this turned out a little longer than I originally had planned but I think it's worked out OK, sort of a return to form as well with me using a not-art image for the first time in however long - the art I used for this one is by Lain's creator Yoshitoshi ABe, taken from the original run of the An Omnipresence in Wired artbook for those curious, get a load of all that vintage tech! Hope you've enjoyed this small online excursion with me, I'll be back soon enough with more but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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