July 23, 2014

Exploring with Pram

A list of songs by the band Pram

Dead Piano · Flesh · Inmate’s Clothes · I’m A War · Pram · Dirty Children · Cumulus · Water Toy · Blue Singer · Iron Lung · Loco · Radio Freak In A Storm · Loredo Venus · Milky · Dorothy · In Dreams You Too Can Fly · The Ray · Cape St Vincent · Life In The Clouds · Chrysalis · Legendary Band Of Venus · Gravity · Dancing On A Star · Nightwatch · Things Left On The Pavement · Windy · My Father The Clown · Blue · Little Angel, Little Monkey · Meshes In The Afternoon · Shadows · Loose Threads · Little Scars · Earthing And Protection · Cotton Candy · Three Wild Georges · Serpentine · Crystal Tips · Crooked Tiles · Eels · Sea Swells And Distant Squalls · The Day The Animals Turned On The Cars · Goosewalk · Sunset International · Bleed· Silver Nitrate · Sea Jungle · Carnival Of Souls · Eggshells · Omnichord · Cinnabar · El Topo · Bathosphere · Fallen Snow · The Clockwork Lighthouse · Sleepy Sweet · Cow Ghosts · The Doors Of Empty Cupboards · Sleepy Sweet (single version) · Sleepy Sweet (version) · Cinnabar (PCM version) · Carnival Of Souls Goes To Rio · The Last Astronaut · Space Siren · 60 Years Of Telephony · Loose Threads (drop stitch) · Cinnabar (instrumental version) · Omnichord (version) · Superchouette · Loose Threads (rhythm ace) · Space Iron (Mouse on Mars Remix) · Keep In A Dry Place And Away From Children · The Owl Service · Bewitched · Mother Of Pearl · Narwhal · A History Of Ice · The Mermaids’ Hotel · A Million Bubbles Burst · Cat’s Cradle · Picture Box · Play Of The Waves · The Way Of The Mongoose · Monkey Puzzle · Clock Without Hands · Bewitched (Plone Mix) · Play Of The Waves (Balky Mule Mix) · Omnichord (Tele:Funken Mix) · The Last Astronaut (Andy Votel Mix) · A Million Bubbles Burst (Sir Real Mix) · Track Of The Cat · Penny Arcade · The Pawnbroker · Paper Hats · Peepshow · Sirocco · The Archivist · Goodbye · Leeward · Distant Islands · The Empty Quarter · Salt & Sand · Iske · The City Surveyor · Sundew · Salva · Moonminer · Hums Around Us · Metaluna · Beluga · Blind Tiger · Mariana Deep · Compass Rose · The Silk Road

May 24, 2014

Soul Jazz Records Present a History of Calypso

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Walking through Brixton on any given day is met with rapturous bustle and energy. On a sunny day you’re likely to witness a hugely positive clash of zany character and vibrant culture. I love it when this happens, it feels like a community no matter where your roots lie. On occasion, Calypso steel drum musicians play uplifting pieces on the street. I usually have to stop and watch a few moments to immerse myself in the sound. There is something about Calypso that is so enriching and good natured. Those soft tones tinkle and lightly bounce around the mind summoning a reflection and the fantasy of an isle far, far away - all supported by an inexpensive cassette with backing beat and embellishments. 

You cannot deny the beautiful and swinging sound of Calypso, yet I can’t help but wonder that a cliché looms over it. Calypso isn’t just about steel drums, there is a whole history to be told. Where does the sound of Calypso originate from? What is its roots? Who are the purveyors and champions of this scene, if there was one.

Luckily for us, Soul Jazz Records has unveiled a new deluxe CD and double LP which looks into the Caribbean music style and its subsequent journey to Britain, Panama and the U.S. Titled, “Calypso ~ Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-69" the CD comes with 50 pages of informative memos and exclusive imagery on the artists, labels and humble people associated with making Calypso so captivating.

The extensive linear notes tell us that at its source the music style is intricately bound to the social history of Trinidad, it’s traditions, beliefs and folklore. Much like folk music itself, it’s about storytelling. The lyrical content behind the songs often veer on local topics and antics.

The sound of Calypso originates in Trinidad but can be traced back even further to the people of Kaiso in West Africa, who were brought over to the Caribbean as slaves. These people and their families were separated and were not allowed to communicate. Therefore, they would express tales of modern life and politics with a mixture of sexual innuendo, one-upmanship and comedy thrown in for good measure. 


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In the UK, Lord Kitchener was the most popular Calypso singer following his departure from Trinidad on HMS Empire Windrush in 1948. His track ‘Love in the Cemetery' seeks you out with a brazen Puerto Rican style beat and swinging trumpets.

Other artists on the album include; Lord Cobra, Lord Hummingbird, The Mighty Viper and Lord Ivanhoe. Soul Jazz has included a whole range of artists to tell the story of Calypso, the album vividly enticing and engaging with original sleeve art and pictures. Young Growler’s ‘Pussy Galore' is a fanfare of colour and rhythms whilst 'Voodoo' by The Cyril Diaz Orchestra is a mysterious and eerie thriller with bossa nova tinged percussion and triumphant brass.

One of my favourite films is the 1943 horror film, I Walked With A Zombie set in the West Indies. At times, some of the music in the film has a Costa Rican conscience to it, and later for the voodoo scene, insane and possessive drumming features. The music is not dissimilar to that of the new Soul Jazz album. Learning about Calypso and its roots is surely a fascinating one.

Calypso ~ Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-69 is available on 2nd June on deluxe CD and 2xLP. http://www.souljazzrecords.co.uk/

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The Resourceful Approach of Vinylize

Reimagining Redundant Vinyl

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I enjoy visiting charity shops and donating items to them. According to the Charity Retail Association, the number of charity shops in the UK has risen by 10% which is of course beneficial for the charitable organisations and the consumer in a time of austerity. A trip to any such shop in the UK is met with the usual assortment of bric-á-brac, an amalgamation of last season’s garments and piles upon piles of literature. The same goes for vinyl LPs. Dusty and creased records by artists such as Nana Mouskouri, Dire Straits, The Carpenters, Sade or Shirley Bassey can be rifled through endlessly. A never-ending menagerie of Top of the Pops compilations and classical recordings by Dvorák, Holst and Vivaldi et el can all be scanned… and not forgetting an ambush on old library music.

On occasion, one does find a rare gem, enticing enough for purchase, but with the general slog through these countless records, one begins to wonder whether these will ever grace a turntable again? Aged and outdated, surely there are ways in which these pieces of wax could be put to better use?

One company does just this. Vinylize is an eyewear company based in Hungary who dedicates itself to the production of high-quality eyewear frames made from discarded or otherwise redundant vinyl records. Its founder, Zachary Tipton felt inspired one day when he glimpsed his father’s record collection sitting in the corner of the garage. Three years later, Zachary along with his brother Zoltan established Tipton Eyeworks in 2004.

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Communist records obtained from the Budapest flea markets provided Tipton with its first series of frames. Other collections have used vinyl from old socialist albums pressed by Hungarian, Polish and Czech record labels such as Hungaroton, Polskie Nagrania Muza and Supraphon. Of late, Tipton recently acquired over 10,000 records from the now defunct, Zagreb based label, Jugoton after it became apparent that its regional distributor was clearing out all its stock.

The Vinylize philosophy isn’t just to make high-end frames though. They embody a core sustainability ethic too. The company believes everybody has a duty to recycle and reuse as much as possible. The team of eight employees use and reuse all packing and protective materials, whilst holding an office consisting of no paper at all. With each purchase of these stylish and opulent spectacles, you’re given a free record spindle and 7” single. Other items for sale include carry cases in the form of a warped 7” single and leather bags. A truly bizarre bust (with a likeness of Darth Vader) has been crafted from a single LP allowing the eyewear to rest on a glorified plinth.

The manufacturing process behind the frames is fascinating. When Zachary first started experimenting, he’d purely slice and chop the vinyl up to create initial prototypes. Since then, the process has developed. Vinylize opt for thicker and hard wearing vinyl, usually reserved for higher quality music releases. The pop records that were produced in the ‘70s (which invariably shoved up to seven and eight tracks on a single side) are considered unusable for its general thin formation and unappealing slimmer grooves. Nonetheless, every record selected is checked before it goes into production.

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Zachary laminates the record to biodegradable cellulose acetate using proprietary technology. Left to congeal overnight, they are then cut into shape with a table-saw and later milled into the frames with the aid of computer choreography. The frames are then placed in a sort of tombola and flung about with small wood blocks to ensure they acquire smooth and polished edges. A protective layer is removed and the all-important grooves of the bygone record remains intact.

The fact that these old and defunct records can be put to better use, rather than gathering dust or piling up in landfill is brilliant. European artists including DJ Haze, DJ Keyser and musician Suefo are just some of Vinylize’s fans, as is Elton John. It seems that Vinylize eyewear is the perfect accessory for vinyl connoisseurs or so-called fashionistas.

http://vinylize.com/

May 8, 2014

Vinyl Treatment, Most Desirable

Record Store Day attracts thousands of music and vinyl enthusiasts each year. Independent records stores, artists and labels collaborate to release limited edition runs of vinyl and CD albums, only available on that specific date. There’s also the chance for fans to pick up special promotional items, witness intimate performances as well as join in with games and other festivities. Indeed, people flock to the independent record stores. These events seem to always delight and are a mad collision of frenetic energy with a rush of excitement, thus showing a somewhat humble side to the independent music industry.

The 2014 Record Store Day was another success. This year I wanted to get hold of the first ever vinyl pressing of Katastrophy Wife’s 2004 album ‘All Kneel’ (the release only available until now on CD). I was victorious in my quest for the LP, getting my dirty mitts on one of the last copies courtesy of Rough Trade East. But then I started to ponder. I’d always questioned in previous years as to why this brilliant record was never released on vinyl the first time around.

Kat Bjelland was part of Babes In Toyland, a well regarded girl grunge band of the ’90s, their ‘Fontanelle’ album reaching number 24 in the UK album charts in 1992. I find it surprising that ‘All Kneel’ wasn’t granted the vinyl treatment ten years ago. It’s been widely reported in the media that vinyl sales are on the rise, signalling the demise of the CD. This follows the growth of digital downloads and more recently, the easy accessibility of streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and Deezer. Vinyl sales have increased substantially in the last few years, helped somewhat by Record Store Day. It brings communities/ people together to celebrate the physical format but the decline in CD sales is also simply down to the fact that no one really purchases them any more - individuals opting for the aforementioned streaming services or YouTube channels which come at no additional cost. Yet, those who are feeling somewhat retro or nostalgic have taken the bold decision to dust off a turntable and start or build upon their record collection.

My vinyl desire with Katastrophy Wife became a reality, but I started to think about all the other albums I love that have never been bestowed with the same vinyl treatment.

With this in mind, I present to you a selection of recordings I think should be re-released on vinyl LP. These bands and their records deserve to have their excellent sounds moulded into wax. Not only that, imagine the original sleeve art significantly larger, the sight of the record spinning on your turntable and its welcome addition to your other LPs…

01. Anjali – Anjali (Wiiija)

The début album proper by former Voodoo Queens front-woman, Anjali Bhatia is a complete exotica classic. Why this was never released on vinyl LP is beyond me, simply because the sounds on Anjali’s record harkens back to a time when music of this ilk could only be heard on vinyl. Anjali mixes the sounds of 1950’s lounge, Tiki and easy listening with sultry and sensual lyrics. Her sighs and cries inspect grooves all hush-like, while Henry Mancini-style theatrical fanfares glare triumphantly. A type of ’70s funk reverberates, all around a bleary galactic atmosphere of unease and intrigue. Anjali undeniably concocts a well-informed collage of influences. A vinyl version of this album would suit any bachelor pad or Mad Men set design.

Anjali

SIDE A: 01. Lazy Lagoon 02. Space Lust (In The Space Dust) 03. Arabian Queen 04. Dusk 05. Strawberry Mousse

SIDE B: 06. Mistress of Disguise 07. Nebula 08. Turquoise & Blue 09. Kulu 10. Twilight World 11. Kali Came

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02. Crack: We Are Rock – Cosmic Mind Flight (Tigerbeat6)

Little is known of this awesome, yet underrated electronic noise act from San Francisco. Their second release, ‘Cosmic Mind Flight’ was unfortunately never designated a vinyl version, which is surprising seeing as the Tigerbeat6 label is a dance music specialist, spreading the love with all manner of crazed techno and IDM. This album is fantastical and scintillating, a total electrifying experience upon the senses. Bizarre lyrics swirl among deviously fuzzy melodies and Casio keyboard hooks. 'Rainbows on frogs, horses with wings, all these shattered dreams, Krypton on glass or wicked water, yes I might be Satan's daughter' the two performance girls sing on ‘Sparrow Hawk Man.’ Snares punch you in the membrane and ever-increasing beats ride along into the weird electro world of Crack: We Are Rock. Hey Tigerbeat6, isn’t this due a vinyl reissue? Even if no-one knows who the hell these crazy San Franciscans are?

~~ In fact, there’s many CDs on the Tigerbeat6 label that should be pressed on wax, such as brilliant albums by; Dynasty, Zeigenbock Kopf, Eats Tapes, Electric Company, Knifehandchop, The Rip-Off Artist, Blectum From Blechdom etc.

Cosmic Mind Flight

SIDE A: 01. Wedlock 02. Our Friend Sisyphus 03. The Skull 04. Sparrow Hawk Man

SIDE B: 05. Black Horse Ride 06. Colonial 07. Baby Devil 08. Cosmic Mind Flight 09. County Cat

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03. Gang Gang Dance – Hillulah (Social Registry)

The experimental New York band, Gang Gang Dance released this four track live assemblage as a very limited handmade CDr, only available for purchase on their 2004 tour. It was later given a commercial CD release but I reckon the brilliant lo-fi mix of abstract noise and insane freak-outs could work perfectly on wax.

Hillulah

SIDE A: 01. Stanton St. / Knitting Factory 02. North Six

SIDE B: 03. Passerby 04. The Cooler

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04. Faun Fables first four albums ~ Early Song, Mother Twilight, Family Album, The Transit Rider (Drag City)

I am a huge fan of freak-folk band Faun Fables. Their storytelling through song works perfectly for me and their style of medieval tinged folk is breathtaking. But not only that, Dawn McCarthy’s beautiful singing deserves to be woven into the grooves of a vinyl record. It seems strange to me that their albums have never been released on vinyl. They are in some respects the perfect fit, being one of those bands that again, harkens back to a humble time, way before the dawn of the modern age and technology. Similar acts like Espers, Fursaxa and Six Organs of Admittance have had most of their material in the vinyl format but with Faun Fables being such an obscure act, maybe their sales would suffer if such vinyl existed. The Brilliant Chicago label, Drag City did unleash a vinyl version of their fifth album (possibly due to the monetary success of Joanna Newsom) but maybe we could witness vinyl re-issues of Faun Fables albums once a year. That is something I would definitely wait for.

Early Song

SIDE A: 01. Muse 02. The Crumb 03. Old Village Churchyard 04. Apple Trees 05. Only A Miner

SIDE B: 06. Sometimes I Pray 07. Honey Baby Blues 08. Lullaby For Consciousness 09. O Death 10. Ode To Rejection 11. Bliss

Mother Twilight

SIDE A: 01. Begin 02. Sleepwalker 03. Shadowsound 04. Hela

SIDE B: 05. Traveller Returning 06. Train 07. Beautiful Blade

SIDE C: 08. Mother Twilight 09. Lightning Rods 10. Moth

SIDE D: 11. Girl That Said Goodbye 12. Washington State 13. Catch Me 14. Live Old

Family Album

SIDE A: 01. Eyes of a Bird 02. Poem 2 03. A Mother And A Piano 04. Lucy Belle

SIDE B: 05. Joshua 06. Nop of Time 07. Still Here 08. Preview

SIDE C: 09. Higher 10. Carousel With Madonna’s 11. Rising Din

SIDE D: 12. Fear March 13. Eternal 14. Mouse Song 15. Old And Light

The Transit Rider

SIDE A: 01. Birth 02. Transit Theme 03. House Carpenter 04. In Speed

SIDE B: 05. Taki Pejzaz 06. Roadkill

SIDE C: 07. Earth’s Kiss 08. Fire & Castration 09. The Questioning 10. I No Longer Wish To

SIDE D: 11. The Corwith Brothers 12. Dream on a Train 13. I’d Like To Be

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05. The Residents – Tweedles (Mute)

You can’t really pigeon hole The Residents, they have abused, exaggerated, contorted, de-constructed and scarred every style of music you can think of into their urn of avant-garde splendour. The Residents have unleashed a myriad of concept albums, multimedia projects and collaborated with a whole host of guest singers and musicians over the years. The one redeeming factor here is to be fully shrouded in mystery. It has worked for them. Their 2006 concept album, Tweedles, about the inner thoughts of a sexual predator and his lack of empathy is strangely disturbing but it was sadly never given a vinyl pressing. This could’ve been a welcome salvation for some?!

Tweedles

SIDE A: 01. Dreams 02. Almost Perfect 03. Mark of the Male 04. Life

SIDE B: 05. Isolation 06. Stop Signs 07. Elevation 08. Forgiveness

SIDE C: 09. Insincere 10. The Perfect Lover 11. Brown Cow 12. Sometimes

SIDE D: 13. Ugly (At The End) 14. Keep Talkin’ 15. Shame On Me 16. Susie Smiles

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March 4, 2014

Kwannon is a wonderful artist. Her music is woven upon a gentle thread, birthed from a far reaching spindle of mystery and enticement.
I was looking for something else, something to further my mind. I was already a follower of strange folk acts of a similar divine virtue, some being; Faun Fables, Fursaxa, Charalambides, and Espers. But with Kwannon, it was by sheer chance that my spirit would continue to sing and dance (in holiness?)
It is as adventurous as any freak-folk. There is a generous bow to Medieval chivalry while placid mist seeps through a night-time wood to reveal music of the ethereal. With humble attire and a hint for pagan rituals, Kwannon incessantly chants and beats out a rhythm with ancient percussion. Cryptic lyrics are foreboding yet opulent with operatic incandescence. It invokes a call of beauty, which gradually blossoms and unravels in sincere gesture.
Kwannon is Jenne Micale, a classically trained singer and former member of weird folk band Belladonna Bouquet. She uses even stranger instruments to fully realise and embellish her avant-garde project. The kantele, mountain dulcimer and harp are often employed, while influences ranging from theology, the pagan spirit, mysticism, Victorian and Romantic poets and the Carmina Gadelica also emerge.
If you have a disposition for the irregular, court Kwannon and her otherworldly dream for she is truly an original entity. Her albums are extremely limited now, so I urge you to discover her music, if you so dare to.

Kwannon is a wonderful artist. Her music is woven upon a gentle thread, birthed from a far reaching spindle of mystery and enticement.

I was looking for something else, something to further my mind. I was already a follower of strange folk acts of a similar divine virtue, some being; Faun Fables, Fursaxa, Charalambides, and Espers. But with Kwannon, it was by sheer chance that my spirit would continue to sing and dance (in holiness?)

It is as adventurous as any freak-folk. There is a generous bow to Medieval chivalry while placid mist seeps through a night-time wood to reveal music of the ethereal. With humble attire and a hint for pagan rituals, Kwannon incessantly chants and beats out a rhythm with ancient percussion. Cryptic lyrics are foreboding yet opulent with operatic incandescence. It invokes a call of beauty, which gradually blossoms and unravels in sincere gesture.

Kwannon is Jenne Micale, a classically trained singer and former member of weird folk band Belladonna Bouquet. She uses even stranger instruments to fully realise and embellish her avant-garde project. The kantele, mountain dulcimer and harp are often employed, while influences ranging from theology, the pagan spirit, mysticism, Victorian and Romantic poets and the Carmina Gadelica also emerge.

If you have a disposition for the irregular, court Kwannon and her otherworldly dream for she is truly an original entity. Her albums are extremely limited now, so I urge you to discover her music, if you so dare to.

March 3, 2014

Drexciya
Faceless techno, anonymous or nameless in an aquatic world of ambiguity.
I’m drawn to the shore of the wild sea, walking trance-like into waves of electronic fuzz. I’m engulfed by the barren ocean. I am violently pummelled down 40 fathoms into some sort of vortex, alien but very much of this earth. Straight down in a whirlpool of desolation, to emerge in a land called Drexciya.
This land is like a secret utopia, disillusioned by the ways of above territories, mocking the self-righteous spectacle of conventional existence. Down here, I explore the piercing sine-waves fluctuating around my elastic skeleton. Down here, I wade through hi-tech scaffolding of marine melancholia. Rubbery bass-line bubbles tickle my membrane and develop like a disease inside my already infected mind.
I am a Wavejumper
Poseidon will surely display some aggression towards me? The sea goddess, Amphitrite will surely seduce my soul to tatters? Surely, I can only rely on Neptune to drive the currents?
There are only two Wavejumpers in existence…!!?? Noble James Stinson and possibly Noble Gerald Donald. They form Drexciya and save my life.

Drexciya

Faceless techno, anonymous or nameless in an aquatic world of ambiguity.

I’m drawn to the shore of the wild sea, walking trance-like into waves of electronic fuzz. I’m engulfed by the barren ocean. I am violently pummelled down 40 fathoms into some sort of vortex, alien but very much of this earth. Straight down in a whirlpool of desolation, to emerge in a land called Drexciya.

This land is like a secret utopia, disillusioned by the ways of above territories, mocking the self-righteous spectacle of conventional existence. Down here, I explore the piercing sine-waves fluctuating around my elastic skeleton. Down here, I wade through hi-tech scaffolding of marine melancholia. Rubbery bass-line bubbles tickle my membrane and develop like a disease inside my already infected mind.

I am a Wavejumper

Poseidon will surely display some aggression towards me? The sea goddess, Amphitrite will surely seduce my soul to tatters? Surely, I can only rely on Neptune to drive the currents?

There are only two Wavejumpers in existence…!!?? Noble James Stinson and possibly Noble Gerald Donald. They form Drexciya and save my life.

November 15, 2013

The strangest of realms embody many pathways, all inside the imagination of one. It’s cold and taut, mirroring the sublime and the regal. Angular shapes and apparatus weld their way across the damaged membrane of your skull. The strident and deliciously repulsive sounds that chisel, tap and scrape away at your scalp will leave you in a state of confusion - much like Mortal Kombat. Do we not like to dwell in the realm of scary emptiness, fitfully scattered with remnants of our past? 
As Autechre, the duo of Rob Brown and Sean Booth have tread a vast range of terrain, edging further and further towards the rim of the universe. One wonders where their fragments of sound will echo or slowly resonate, all in a realm at the core of humanity’s thinking or as far away as one can deem
Incunabula ∙ Amber ∙ Tri Repetae ∙Chiastic Slide ∙ LP5 ∙ Confield ∙ Draft 7.30 ∙ Untilted ∙ Quaristice ∙ Oversteps ∙ Exai

The strangest of realms embody many pathways, all inside the imagination of one. It’s cold and taut, mirroring the sublime and the regal. Angular shapes and apparatus weld their way across the damaged membrane of your skull. The strident and deliciously repulsive sounds that chisel, tap and scrape away at your scalp will leave you in a state of confusion - much like Mortal Kombat. Do we not like to dwell in the realm of scary emptiness, fitfully scattered with remnants of our past?

As Autechre, the duo of Rob Brown and Sean Booth have tread a vast range of terrain, edging further and further towards the rim of the universe. One wonders where their fragments of sound will echo or slowly resonate, all in a realm at the core of humanity’s thinking or as far away as one can deem

Incunabula Amber ∙ Tri Repetae ∙Chiastic Slide ∙ LP5 ∙ Confield ∙ Draft 7.30 ∙ Untilted ∙ Quaristice ∙ Oversteps ∙ Exai

September 9, 2013

An Observation in Overt Vitality: The Sound of Tekken is a Fanciful Sockdolager!

The evolution of Tekken is fascinating for the discerning fan. If you grew up as a teenager since the fighting games inception, you’ll have witnessed a real progression between what the game was and what it is now. The music to the series has always served my curiosity and equally enticed. The music is exciting, bizarre and furiously outrageous in places, playing on the many emotions you can feel during a virtual fight, and if romantically placing yourself within those on-screen polygons, it will mimic the sentiments in those worlds too. I can sincerely say that the Tekken music is locked in my memory vault as genuine video-gaming music classics. Indeed, there have been highs and lows as well as peaks and the inevitable retraction as the game moves and frenetically evolves trying to keep up with the times, in the hope of influencing a new generation. This critique aims to document not only the games, but moreover my obsession with its unique music.

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TEKKEN (1994) & TEKKEN 2 (1996) ~ The First Chapter
 
Translating as ‘Iron Fist,’ the first Tekken release for the PlayStation back in 1994 stated on its casing: "Seventeen of the world’s deadliest fighters, explosive martial arts, and savage attacks…" The uninitiated will undoubtedly look upon the series with a critical eye, pointing out that it’s merely mindless fighting, which essentially it does appear to be, but with everything there is more depth to what is presented. Delving deeper in true geeky fashion, pursuers will find a whole world of characters of varying virtual personalities, international locations, fighting and martial arts styles, storylines and plots and of course, the fantastically maniacal and intensely superb music.
 
The original Tekken release and its sequel Tekken 2 are very closely linked, not only in style, infrastructure and graphics but because much of the music was assigned to the sub-boss characters in Tekken 2. However, in the original, this music is set to locations around the world including Angkor Wat, Szechwan, Windermere and Chicago. In effect the songs sound resolutely Japanese being composed by a sound team at Namco in Japan. The overall sound of Tekken, if it were to be summed up is of a flamboyant and somewhat brash nature, electronically charged to spur on the on-going fight. There is also a twinge of melancholia and redemption in most of the tunes which only the listener can determine and discover of their own accord.

Tekken’s debut is like the sound of a dozen Japanese arcade systems crashing together with an array of Casio keyboards and Yamaha drum machine programs to form its own version of electro. The Namco sound team utilise what it appears to be some of the cheapest keyboard sounds of the day, which in hindsight twenty years on, actually sound delightfully retro. Chunky snares abruptly circle the mind while choppy chords strike and absorb the air, forming far-eastern melodies and patterns. The American hi-energy electro of kick boxer Bruce Irvin (Marine Stadium) is triumphant and sincere, pulling at you with its melancholic strings subtly swaying beneath an unapologetic reveille. The track attributed to Sumo wrestler Ganryu (Kyoto) is openly Japanese sounding. Woodblocks and gongs flutter amid distant chants while an Asian flute soars and descending chords advance. The Namco sound team do have a penchant for taking obvious traits of traditional music styles and pouring them into its brand of electro. The incredible track for the skilled female ninja Kunimitsu (Angkor Wat) in which there is a whole menagerie of worldly instruments revolving in as many sections feasibly possible is a great example of this ploy. Completely wild and crazy intense, the passionate strings ride, strike and glide quickly against a strident and constant beat, the marimba frantically pulsing and soaring to a dramatic conclusion. This is followed by the equally hyper Chinese stylised track for Xingyiquan master, Wang Jinrei (Szechwan) in which traditional stringed instruments are peddled amongst a Chinese wail pleading in-between. The merging of traditional and contemporary dance music here is interesting; an ecstatic use of colossal drum machines and confident trumpets with electro zaps drives the tune with insane gesture.

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Tekken has been highly successful as a PlayStation game, the first instalment selling well over a million copies. That is a lot of gamers hearing this highly charged music without really giving it much thought. Critics at the time praised the games use of depicting martial arts moves and styles appropriately, thus making them popular with these communities. The meditative track for Kuma (Acropolis) serves as an air of respite before intensity ensues. Another wonderful and possibly underappreciated track is applied to Anna Williams (King George Island) Mysterious and cool like it’s beautiful but deadly fighter, a hesitant beat builds up to a fanfare of trumpets and strings and is notable for being more reserved than the other tracks in the game. So, the aforementioned tunes are just a handful that transferred over to the Tekken 2 sub-bosses and very much reflect the early ’90s in terms of video gaming music, the composers successfully carving out a style of their own and moreover unique to the Tekken series. With the release of Tekken 2, the same sounds are deployed as a continuation, but the songs are fully formed composed pieces. The music of Tekken 2 is far more directional and more sophisticated losing the unabashed high-energy of yore. The composers were guaranteed a far greater budget following the success of the first game and it seems they were given the freedom to play around with sounds and structure. Tekken 2 certainly shows this advancement without losing what players loved about the game in the first place.
 
Elements of traditional music are kept intact but are far more exuberant than previous. Most evidently on Heihachi Mishima’s ‘As Bald As…’ which features slick Koto drumming and drones or mysterious eastern virtue. ‘Into Another Dimension’ for the cyber-ninja Yoshimitsu boldly features the calls of a Noh play actor, Gagaku court music and the sounds of a Shō with various percussion before launching into a vibrant techno track! ‘Emotionless Passion’ for devious son Kazuya Mishima somehow sounds as though it has sprung from the 1980’s with its seductive Japanese melodrama. The peaceful song for eco-fighter Jun Kazama in ‘If You Only Knew’ is somewhat out of place for a fighting game but proves that Tekken has a spiritual and joyous side and this ditty reflects Jun perfectly.
 
The Tekken 2 soundtrack is packed with amazing styles and tunes to mirror the personalities of the fighters, signifying where they come from and their mind-set. A stand out track exists during gameplay in the form of ‘All Seeing Eye’ for the sub-boss fight. A sublime piece of electronica with a far-eastern shimmer, on the rare occasion that it might be heard, its dark and mysterious overtones pulse and fluctuate building up an atmosphere of anticipation and unease. An angelic chorus gives way before retreating revealing a mid-section of subtle basses and keyboard tinkering’s ramping up the unease and anxiety. Marvellous! Probably a favourite among Tekken fans is the self-titled track for Michelle Chang. A return to retro with an über-electric sounding keyboard, the melody soars, sings and reaches high like an eagle. A choir hums and coos with optimistic, yet humble attire before spasticated keyboard jabs poke you enthusiastically and heavy snares take over. Classic! Another notable track of worldly charm is ‘Ibis’ for the Korean tae kwon do fighter Baek Doo San. A ramshackle of pounding drums and magnificent strings strike and slice against the brain in hypnotic style allowing for an ecstatic whine of a melody to lose all discipline and dive all depths of the abyss as possible! Utterly wild.
 
TEKKEN ~ Nobuyoshi Sano & Keiichi Okabe
01. Intro 02. Fire in the Heart 03. Kyoto 04. Kunimitsu 05. The Master 06. Kuma 07. Divine Fall 08. In The Mechanical Brain 09. Cast of India 10. Chicago 11. Death Valley 12. Lava Lounge 13. Outro
 
TEKKEN 2 ~ Nobuyoshi Sano & Keiichi Okabe
01. Are You Ready? 02. As Bald As… 03. All Seeing Eye 04. Two Different Sides 05. Artificiality 06. Into Another Dimension 07. If You Only Knew 08. Emotionless Passion 09. Can’t Help Nobody 10. Michelle Chang 11. New York 12. Virtual Killer 13. Hollywood’s Scandal 14. Ibis 15. Angel 16. Devil 17. Sense of Harmony

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TEKKEN 3 (1998) & TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT (2000) ~ A Definitive Peak
 
Tekken had become hugely successful among gamers on an international scale and by 1998, the PlayStation was the video gaming console of choice for nearly everyone from the ages of 14-35! With Tekken 3, Namco would make video gaming history. Tekken 3 was unlike any other fighting game, some arguing that it remains the greatest fighting game/ beat-em-up ever created. Its sheer style, graphics, character design and gameplay goes unmatched. So with this, the music took a complete change of direction, shifting from the pop and electro/ techno sounds of Tekken 2 to become more guitar based integrating rock and punk formations. The music remains wholly electronic; the guitar sounds merely being sampled, warped and twisted into submission to create that all-encompassing Tekken ethos of high energy. Moreover, it feels mature and grown-up and as though it would like to be taken more seriously. As a soundtrack, it also possesses a very underground feeling in which some of the sounds are completely strange and experimental, while the drum loop and percussion library has clearly been ransacked for all it’s worth. Each character in the game is also designated an individual track for the first time so there is a lot to sift through.
 
The cosmic shades that represent cyber-ninja Yoshimitsu in ‘Elevator Rock’ swerve like devious slits to the eye with galactic force and can’t be pigeonholed at all. Likewise, it’s difficult for me to pin any sort of genre to the sublimely trashy sounds in Forest Law’s ‘Year of the Dragon,’ the only link can be a Japanese one, possibly for its synthesisers bubbling away in the background conjuring up sincerity. Notable track ‘Through The Sky’ for Mexican wrestler King starts in this fashion before launching into a hybrid of rock and electronica lunacy. Past era genres are utilised too, reworking them for the Tekken style. For instance, the Nina Williams track ‘Smooth’ is slinky and sexy reverting back to a sort of ’70s funk as is the case with ‘Stair Hook’ for tae kwon do street fighter Hwoarang where acid funk is the order of day. The Mardi Gras frivolity of ‘Envy’ for capoeira fighter Eddy Gordo is jubilant and a riot of colour, albeit with a straight-face. A revolving bass and driving beat puts listeners in a trance while scratching of wax urges some hip-hop dance moves.
 
It’s as though Namco knew they were onto a good thing and there is plenty in this soundtrack to keep Tekken fans amused. Moving onto some of the hidden character tracks we’ll find that the music becomes even stranger and wilder. For example, ‘My Laser’ perfectly depicts the cyborg Bryan Fury. You’ve never heard anything as insane in a videogame. A shuffling hi-hat commences amid electronic interference and feedback and as gloopy pulses present themselves the busiest bassline ever known to man takes over the brain. This is surely a lesson in drum ‘n bass, industrial, avant-garde and gabba! Gun Jack’s ‘Neoprene Slide’ is made up of colossal machinery fragments and long dirges of bass and low-end synths. The minimal electronica of Anna Williams ‘Glitch’ is enticing as elevator shaft like drones and flickering pulses shuddering up the spine accordingly.
 
You’ll notice that all of the music in Tekken 3 has layer upon layer of detail going on. The song-space is full of various sound fragments filling up every possible area. The listener may need to work hard (if they so desire) to decipher or take it all in. Another trait to these songs that I’ve noticed is the excessive use of jerkiness which fills in the gaps between a so-called chorus and verse sections. It’s a strange quirk but works nonetheless in this soundtrack, piecing the music together. Bringing us back down to earth then is the gallant 'fuck you' swagger of Heihachi Mishima’s ‘Trouble at the Casino’ with its unhinged Tarantino-esque attitude, police sirens and relentless guitar hook. If there was to be an anthem it would probably be in the form of ‘Route 66’ for Julia Chang (adoptive daughter of Michelle Chang) Once we pass the strange elastic introduction, a scorching techno track is unleashed with vibrant guitar melody. A crazy mid-section pushes and probes us with lightning effect and serves as a peak to an incredible soundtrack.
 
I remember being a teenager at school when Tekken 3 was released and the excitement surrounding it. However, I was probably the only one that noticed the soundtrack for what it was worth and what it set out to achieve. The style and links to the characters made perfect sense to me. I used to record the music from the unlockable Tekken Theatre Mode onto cassette tapes. Thankfully 20 years later, we’re able to download the music. Tekken 3 was certainly a peak in the series and everyone waited with anticipation to see what Namco would do next.
 
TEKKEN 3 ~ Nobuyoshi Sano & Keiichi Okabe
01. The King of Iron Fist Tournament 3 02. Turn It On 03. Street Violator 04. Year of the Dragon 05. Elevator Rock 06. Imitate the Situation 07. Through The Sky 08. Piston 09. Smooth 10. Stair Hook 11. Envy 12. My Laser 13. Glitch 14. Neoprene Slide 15. Slanted Eye 16. Scintillating 17. Route 66 18. Trouble at the Casino 19. The Transformation 20. Gon 21. Elastic on Retro

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Following the massive success and rapid rise of Tekken, the game now seen as a serious contender in the fighting/ beat-em-up category of video gaming, it was around early 1999 that Namco announced a new side project in the form of Tekken Tag Tournament. The gaming press were buzzing with vivid and vibrant previews of the arcade version. Accompanying imagery featured shots of on-screen fights with well-known heavyweights such as Jin Kazama, Forest Law, Paul Phoenix and Ling Xiaoyu as well as the character select screen featuring some twenty initial fighters and an additional 15 or so to unlock! The fans saw this as a trilogy of sorts as fighters from the past were seemingly brought back from the dead to fight once again in this off-shoot. My highlight was the return of skilled female ninja Kunimitsu who I had been obsessed with for a few years. The game borrowed the same interface and similar graphic engine to Tekken 3 making this another classic among gamers. This was a great ploy on Namco’s part to keep the momentum going while the company probably focused on devising how they could transform Tekken for the fourth game in the series.
 
But back to the music, Tekken Tag Tournament features the same high-adrenaline techno and pensive electronica as before. The guitar-ladened indie style of Tekken 3 was deleted somewhat to be replaced with aggressive sounding synthesizers. The game features a lot of comedic elements so some of the tracks take on a less serious mentality, mimicking this thinking. Ling Xiaoyu’s ‘Dealing the Disco’ is like licking electronic candyfloss with its revolving bassline and ’70s throwback beat. Likewise, ‘One Time’ for the school yard setting is fast-paced techno, intensified by repetitive chord strikes and ringing bell samples. The bubbling bass and swerving melody of Forest Law’s ‘Kung-Foo’ is sheer hilarity as the whining chords reach the outer limits of the mind.
It’s not all comical abandon though as some of the tracks are extremely emotive and sincere. The Namco sound team, comprising of Akitaka Tōyama, Satoru Kōsaki and Yū Miyake elect the use of piano, electronic strings and the very Japanese sounding synthesisers you might associate with contemporary Asian pop. All of which, when pieced together form profound pieces of sound for an otherwise historic fight. Another component the composers have integrated for the first time is the use of warped vocals and dialogue to create sounds that fill in the gaps. Yoshimitsu’s ‘No Hope’ features the repetitive phrase 'no mind, no ear, no nose, no shape…' This lyrical content is open to interpretation and probably not even meant to be understood or deciphered. Some of the vocals are so doctored that it merely becomes a strange sound lost among a landscape of sound, as heard on the insane ethnic techno of Eddy Gordo’s ‘Sunset’ whereby human voices are so distorted or altered that they sound like unearthly instruments.
 
To gauge the sincerity that I find in this music, the listener needs to embody an open mind and deservedly an open heart. The beautiful serenade-like piece ‘Yearning,’ surprisingly for the brutally archaic Ogre is full of echoing piano keys and brass supposedly reverberating around the temple setting. This piece pulls at the heartstrings as the game reaches its climax. The fantastic dance track ‘I Just Wanna Run Away’ for tae kwon do fighter Hwoarang is probably the best of the set. A swelling bass revolves while all manner of percussion clatters, followed by earnest strings and the lyrical content 'I just wanna run away' repeated until we submit. The music used for the credits is one of the most passionate tracks I’ve heard in a videogame. Beautiful strings introduce themselves in melancholic fashion followed by a very Japanese-sounding string section all flowing with a focused hip-hop beat. The chorus forces you to melt into its all-encompassing grasp and you’ll long for something or someone!
 
The disjointed electronica of ‘Unknown’ signifies where the music of Tekken could be heading, the sounds pulsing inwards and outwards in minimal accordance. Fans patiently waited.
 
TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT ~ Akitaka Tōyama, Satoru Kōsaki & Yū Miyake
01. You Could Almost Feel The Sky 02. Shatter 03. No Hope 04. One Time 05. Dealing the Disco 06. Full Round 07. I Just Wanna Run Away 08. Sunset 09. Ricochet 10. Kung-Foo 11. Falling Flower 12. He Spoke 13. Yearning 14. Unknown 15. Cease Revenge
 
TEKKEN 4 (2002) & TEKKEN 5 (2004) ~ The New Wave
 
With the release of Tekken 4 in 2002 a new wave of fighting game was introduced to the franchise. The style and presentation of the game takes a very minimal stance and generally seems reflective although very much more mature. The game features walled fighting situations and stages such as the lush jungle, claustrophobic laboratory and fun beach scene. For me however, this is where the series loses momentum and takes a step back, the music reflecting this. The soundtrack is convincing enough with its super slick sounds formed perfectly, but the songs lack a certain shrewdness and all-important oomph of previous soundtracks. Standout track ‘Fighting Your Own Mind’ set to the jungle scene features a didgeridoo working its way around a harsh techno beat and glitch ridden electronica sounds making way for a triumphant brass melody. Likewise, the show tune glamour of ‘Jukebox’ pierces the air with striking trumpets and strange, distorted vocals amid a seriously funky bass and a searing, ’70s inspired pipe organ. The guitars are back for Tekken 4 and actually do a better job by being more focused, eliminating the crazy techno that was found in Tekken 3. ‘Double Crossed’ ‘Criminal Control’ and ‘Strength in Numbers’ are all heavy rock with live drumming programmed electronically.
 
As you can tell, the songs no longer represent a character but a fighting location (which are interesting enough) yet I personally feel this is why the music doesn’t quite work for Tekken 4. The minimal concept ensued with a pared down fighter list. New fighters such as Steve Fox, Christie Monteiro and Craig Marduk were passable and old favourites such Jin Kazama, Nina Williams, Paul Phoenix and Yoshimitsu returned, but it still felt like something was missing. The bouncy and elastic dance track ‘Go Easy On Me’ for the beach scene seeks out retro sounding game show sounds and comical sine waves set to female coos and crooning. ‘Fear’ is an interesting take on industrial as a contemplative music genre and the similar grace of ‘The Inner Shrine’ works nicely too. Namco’s dedication to updating the format is faultless but the overall product was a slight disappointment, a journalist at suave gaming magazine Edge summarising Tekken 4 as 'over familiar and curiously uninspired.'

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TEKKEN 4 ~ Akitaka Tōyama, Satoru Kōsaki, Yū Miyake
01. False Delegation 02. Double Crossed 03. Fighting Your Own Mind 04. Go Easy On Me 05. Jukebox 06. After Removing 10 From A 07. Fear 08. The Inner Shrine 09. Criminal Control 10. Uninhibited 11. Touch & Go 12. Strength in Numbers 13. Edge of the Universe
 
A momentous shift occurred with the release of Tekken 5 for the Sony PlayStation. It became apparent that Namco made a key decision to revert back to the early Tekken releases, which was great news for fans if considering the lacklustre demeanour of Tekken 4. A whole host of characters were re-established, a fluid-like fighting system adopted while shamelessly gaudy and flamboyant graphics depicted our fighters in all their glory. More importantly, we were treated to some startling music which attempted to recapture the wild abandon of the original games thus making the franchise so great. ‘Schizo-Fist’ deploys a rubbery techno beat set against rural sounds of far-eastern woodwind, while the traditional sounds on ‘Ka-En-No-Mai’ are similar albeit incorporating a stringed pipa frenetically building up to a shy solo. There is a real mix here, the guitars returning once again but this time taking a nu-metal direction (which is something I usually deplore in videogame soundtracks) with some tracks embodying all manner of skewed lyrical content. The throbbing bassline and swaying sine waves of the menacing ‘Unforgiven’ submerges the listener with intrepid industrial unease. Equally, the brashly static ‘Broken’ launches into an anxiety-driven techno/ metal mash-up.
 
The pace is quick in Tekken 5, a live fast and die young mentality for a new generation of not so innocent adolescence. You can forgive Namco for trying to recapture what Tekken was all about, and it does to some extent work, but it can get tiresome as it seeks out the extroverted vein in us all. As with Tekken 4, the music represents fight locations and not the fighters which is a shame. In fact, the desired mystery surrounding the fighters in Tekken 5 is lost due to the copious amounts of storyline cinematic during gameplay explaining their lives and plots. Who wants to hear Nina and Anna Williams, born and bred in Ireland with American accents! There are gems; the blissful ‘Formless Like Water’ peddles a Susumu Yokota house music vibe, while the James Bond styling’s of ‘Antares’ are succulent and the dramatic and operatic ‘Moonlit Wilderness’ is elevating. But for every gem there is a distressing dud. As a result I try to forget they exist and exclude them from my soundtrack compilation. For example, the trance tune set to the poolside location is deplorable while the music set on an iceberg is merely pointless and does nothing to capture my heart. It is frustrating but these downsides usually sneak in when excess is in operation. Namco’s efforts to redeem the past are a somewhat failure simply because the previous music of olde was completely wild in its infancy and not forced or strived for in the case of Tekken 5.

TEKKEN 5 ~ Hiroshi Ōkubo
01. Neutrino 02. Schizo-Fist 03. Amoral 04. Unforgiven 05. Moonlit Wilderness 06. Formless Like Water 07. Ka-En-No-Mai 08. Who’s Afraid Of… 09. Gold Rush 10. Broken 11. Antares 12. Jinpachi 13. Ground Zero 14. Volts Within

And this is where my Tekken journey halted. There’s only so far you can travel with a series of videogames before you lose interest and an individual’s awareness becomes stale. To be honest, I sought out Tekken 4 and Tekken 5 out of sheer curiosity, it merely being a coincidence they featured amicable soundtracks worthy of my ears. I have no idea in which direction Tekken is heading towards in these contemporary times, I only know it has spawned one of the worst movies of all time!

Tekken, in terms of music and its style is very hard to place; electronica with a brassy and unapologetic bearing so as to mimic the fighter’s traits and situations, later going on to form various hybrids. I’ve been told that much of the early Tekken music resembles ’70s prog-rock (which I found a rather surprising comment!) but nonetheless it indeed borrows many traditional elements that merge with technology, creating a new genre of music altogether. The whole series is definitely entertaining containing some of the best videogame music around.

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TEKKEN ~ Arcade Classics (1994-1998)

It is worth addressing that the arcade versions of the Tekken games featured completely different translations of the PlayStation remixed or rearranged music. Fans of Tekken might endlessly debate over which platform embodies the superior songs and sounds but ultimately they are all fantastic. Indeed, the arcade music is essentially the same piece of music but transcribed with different keyboards sounds, more frantic and abrasive beats and drum loops. The experience is overall euphoric, the zaniness never ceasing for the on-going fight.

The original Tekken and sequel Tekken 2 featured the same cheap sounds which as stated previously seem rather nostalgic and retro - think of as many orchestral hits on a keyboard as you can! The highlights from my compilation of Tekken 2 arcade mixes includes the high-octane reworking of Yoshimitsu’s ‘Into Another Dimension’ in which a curiosity shop of samples and instruments strike around the atmosphere while Jack-2’s ‘Artificiality’ feels more developed than the arranged version. The comical arcade versions of tracks such as ‘Michelle Chang’ and ‘New York’ are high-paced avalanches of keyboards and beats splashing the ears with colossal sound.

With Tekken 3 however, the arcade version/ arranged BGM differed so much that sometimes you couldn’t trace any similarities proving that the Namco sound team really poured their souls into the characters and the music to represent them. Forest Law’s ‘Year of the Dragon’ is evidently disparate to the arranged version, hard-core guitar motifs dripping down the wall. The arcade versions for Tekken 3 feature more prominent guitars in a punk vein, while other tracks are seemingly more laid back, the beats pacing along with a shoot-the-breeze swagger. The Nina Williams track ‘Smooth’ becomes a rave classic, intensifying with a section of alarms descending and ascending with a quirky stutter. The masked Mexican wrestler King and his ‘Through The Sky’ becomes a strange amalgamation of genres. A guitar hook, heard once in the rearranged version is utilised to astounding effect, thus turning the track into a childlike playground, mixed with a rock stadium sensibility all with a skittering trip-hop beat.

The individual’s perception of this music differs; depending on which version of Tekken you discover first (i.e. playing in an arcade or on PlayStation) You can’t really define what the true version is. My ultimate favourite from Tekken 3’s arcade tunes is definitely Lei Wulong’s ‘Piston.’ It makes me want to dance around the room with wild attire, it’s splashy hi-hats, jerky guitar riffs and melodies with fluctuating bassline twangs and soaring, passionate Japanese synthesizers make this a WINNER!

TEKKEN 2: Arcade Remix ~ Nobuyoshi Sano & Keiichi Okabe
01. Are You Ready? (Metallic Mix) 02. As Bald As… (Hawk Mix) 03. Can’t Help Nobody (Sincere Mix) 04. New York (Slapdash Mix) 05. Into Another Dimension (Woodblock Mix) 06. If You Only Knew (Field Mix) 07. Two Different Sides (Brief Encounter Mix) 08. Artificiality (Shifting Mix) 09. Virtual Killer (Ice Mix) 10. Michelle Chang (Robust Mix) 11. Hollywood’s Scandal (Bullet Mix) 12. Fire in the Heart (Internal Thump Mix) 13. Kyoto (Starlight Mix) 14. Kunimitsu (Slice Mix) 15. The Master (Plaque Mix) 16. Ibis (Poacher Mix) 17. All Seeing Eye (Shudder Mix) 18. Divine Fall (Capitalism Mix) 19. Kuma (Xerxes Mix) 20. In The Mechanical Brain (Loose Screw Mix) 21. Cast of India (Marble Mix) 22. Chicago (Rubber Mix) 23. Death Valley (Brink Mix) 24. Lava Lounge (Fiji Mix)
 
TEKKEN 3: Arcade Remix ~ Nobuyoshi Sano & Keiichi Okabe, Minamo Takahashi & Yū Miyake
01. Enter The Tekken 02. Street Violator (New York Hustle Mix) 03. Elevator Rock (Double Edged Katana Mix) 04. Smooth (Showdown Mix) 05. Through The Sky (High Altitude Mix) 06. Piston (Shoot-Out Mix) 07. Stair Hook (Bomb Da Bass Mix) 08. Dr. Boskonovitch 09. K.O!! 10. Year of the Dragon (In Flux Mix) 11. Scintillating (Fairground Mix) 12. Envy (Cut & Scratch Mix) 13. The Transformation (Complicit Mix) 14. Trouble at the Casino (Super Corporation Mix) 15. Turn It On (Zoetrope Mix) 16. Tiger

May 8, 2013

A Euphoric End > Music for a Tragic Demise

Death, Suicide, Kamikaze, Martyrdom!

The subject of life ceasing to exist can be somewhat taboo. In general, people might find it a hard topic to discuss, depending on the context. Yet, our throwaway culture has devalued life in the last 25 years or so and humans will endeavour to kill one another, and they will continue to pursue war. Disagreements brim amid such hypocrisy and hate.

And suicide. The cliché of misery and depression surrounding this area is rife. I believe the act should embody not a miserable bearing but a kind of euphoria whereby the last moments of the individual should consist of an ecstatic virtue, reaching a higher plain. They seek and plough for bardo.

Music should play a key role here. To reach this level of heightened euphoria, one should envisage the music inside the brain. The meticulous, malevolent and downright sinister burrows of our brain cells twist and align in all sorts of absurd directions. This singular life we own, if ending should finish in epic proportion. Whatever the manner.

Here are my top compositions. Ideal for personal demise

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01: Keiichi Suzuki - A House on Fire and Massacres All Over - 10:46

Taken from the Takeshi Kitano directed film Zatoichi (my favourite film ever) this epic piece of electronica is beautifully reflective. The drones are other worldly, slowly drifting alongside a prodding bassline. After a time, these strange drones clear to reveal a graceful and light organ motif, pacing in the same manner. It’s as though our eyes become flooded with light in the dark night. This is where the adventure/ scenario develops. I envisage myself as the proud ninja, chased in the heavy rain by Japanese warlords, shoguns and samurai, henceforth as the colossal drums strike. A ramshackle of snare and flickering hi-hats mimic my battle with my enemies. Another clearing in the music appears, It is then that I am struck. A blade slices my shoulder, my abdomen and cuts my throat. I frantically clasp at anything, the earth, my gushing throat. I try to pull the opponent to the ground, but I am too late. Finality has been granted.

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02: Michael Nyman - A Watery Death - 05:34

Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to the 1982 film 'The Draughtsman's Contract' is elegantly poetic. On the surface is typical Baroque High Society, all gallant and dignified. Yet underneath, lies a tapestry of violent deceptive charm. Deliciously pilling on fraud, corrupt misgivings, adultery and sexual tension.

The 2005 reworking of 'A Watery Death' is an incredible composition where a sense of foreboding suspense persists. There is an interval where an I told you so realisation and mentality slides its way into our thinking. Following this comes a triumphant swagger which alters this festoon of regret. The listener will become confident and comfortable. Slight anxiety seeps in through the cracks of the psyche but as the title suggests, the listener cannot walk on water - or did the listener know that all along. Or is this some act of vengeance? Anyhow, the inevitable result is a soggy, moss strewn mess. Discovered by an individual, it is unveiled by a fanfare of sarcastic trumpets. This moment doth declares that the listener has succumbed.

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03: Pulp - This Is Hardcore - 06:27

Another somewhat reflective and despairing piece of music by the brilliant pop band Pulp. Make what you will of the lyrical theme, it’s not always so black and white. But when the cascading melodies and strings and piano stabs tumble down on my brain, it’s unbearable. My skin tears and my emotions rip. All you can do is free-fall from the 12th floor of some tower block into the dark abyss.

'And Then It's Over'

04: Leila - To Win Her Love - 04:14

A broken heart, unrequited love can play a large part in the pursuit of pain. The natural ache within the confined chest, tugging at the spirit with subtlety can amount to a tsunami of uneven understanding.
As evident in the lyrics by guest artist Luca Santucci, he explains wholeheartedly, amid Leila Arab’s rubbery bassline spiralling out of control that…

'I will fly to the sun on Icarus wings'
‘Walk barefoot over nettles that sting’
‘Stone by stone, rebuild the Berlin wall’
‘I’ll climb a skyscraper, then watch myself fall’

05: Björk - Thunderbolt (King Cannibal Remix) - 08:07

Already supremely epic musically and lyrically, the King Cannibal remix of Björk’s 'Thunderbolt' succeeds in taking the wanderer to further places cosmically beyond the realms of possibility. The galactic bassline swirls like a nebula gaining power and significance. The eventuality of lightning hitting my spine, does so with utmost epic proportions. As this occurs, King Cannibal unleashes a crescendo of trance-like chords and scintillating jubilation. In reality, I trudge along. Throws of wind, rain, and walls of catastrophic destruction waste me away into nothingness.
 

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06: Antiloop - In My Mind - 03:28

I randomly discovered this ’90s trance hit by Swedish duo Antiloop on YouTube. 'In My Mind' possesses a genuine sincerity, usually devoid in songs of this nature. The accompanying video is fascinating too. Featuring a young woman in a ski jacket, sunglasses and massive headphones she strolls slowly down a street, through piercing sunlight. What I find most interesting is her supposedly lack of care in the world.

Adopting this formula, I envisage walking down a street in slow motion, bystanders knowing my intentions, but staring in fear and curiosity. The beats race past me and I am confident with my stride. I approach a mountain or volcano and climb. The hectic beats continue to race as the melancholic chords fiercely revolve around my mind. Humanity is over. I fall backwards, arms open into the magma within and let it engulf me.

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07: Keiichi Suzuki - The Wasteland Massacre and the Reminiscence of Geisha - 12:25

Another wonderful composition taken from the Zatoichi soundtrack by musician Keiichi Suzuki. It is utterly beautiful embodying such emotion and poignant gesture. It’s as though it has its own blood circulating freely in the foundations of its hypnotic strings, highly placid piano tinkering’s and gentle percussion.
Everyone should undertake hearing this piece of music in an attempt to understand what their existence is about, and whether it has been worthwhile.

During the film, the lives of certain characters is being unravelled – the music playing an integral role in expressing this. It is touching and sentimental.

Neither murder or suicide, this is a piece of music I will shove into an alcove of my mind, ready to hear as I breathe my last breath. Whenever that will be.

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April 16, 2013

I’m Drawn to the Danger of Falling for Combustible Edison’s Charms

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A List of Combustible Edison Songs

Cadillac • The Millionaire’s Holiday • Breakfast at Denny’s • Intermission • Cry Me a River • Impact! • Guadaloupe • Carnival of Souls • The Veldt • Surabaya Johnny • Spy Vs. Spy • Theme From ‘The Tiki Wonder Hour’ • Let’s Keep It Friendly • Monopoly Queen • Alright, Already • Bluebeard • The Checkered Flag • One Eyed Monkey • Solid State • Les Yeux Sans Visage • ‘52’ • Short Double Latté • Mudhead • Morticia • Objet D’Amour • The Corner Table • Lonelyville • Blue Light • Summer Samba • Satan Says • Metropolitan • Christmastime Is Here • Sleigh Ride • Hellraiser • Vertigogo • Utopia • Call of the Space Siren • Laura’s Aura • 20th Century • Cat O’ Nine Tails • Pink Victim • Dior • Hot & Bothered • Mr. Pushkin Came To Shove • Seduction • Tickled To Death • In The Garden of Earthly Delights

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April 11, 2013

Destination Faux: The Wacky Sounds of Supersonic Racers and Street Racer

It is amusing to look back on the amount of cheaply published PlayStation video games released during the mid ’90s. Many of the games lacked substance and longevity, yet they somehow served a purpose of temporary enjoyment for the casual gamer. A plethora of racing and motoring games (that filled the early stages of development bracket) swamped the shelves back then. Time has been unkind to these titles as many remain cast in a past shadow. If not fantastical or futuristic in scope they certainly based their gameplay around realism.

The Wipeout series springs to mind as one of the more successful brands which reached iconic status. Elsewhere, famous and indeed more grounded titles such as Gran Turismo, Rage Racer, Need for Speed, Colin McRae Rally and TOCA Touring Cars were undoubtedly well-produced with believable (at the time) graphics and overall portrayal. They were also perceived as very serious and concerned with emulating Formula 1 style tables and charting.

To balance this equation then, two comical racing games from my early days of PlayStation gaming rev through to add a little bit of fun. Geared towards children or young adults, Supersonic Racers and Street Racer embody a very amusing edge. They embrace tomfoolery and slapstick revelry with such innocence and nostalgic, childlike attire that they easily work, but only because of their fantastically entertaining soundtracks! Both of these racing games rely heavily on international locations for their unique racing routes and layouts. They draw upon the clichés of global destinations strewn across western eyes, also incorporating a series of worldly characters that drive around in colourful and downright silly vehicles. All this vivacious and vibrant lunacy drives the games forward exuberantly. I surely wouldn’t have given these games much thought back in 1996 if it wasn’t for the hypnotically charismatic music.

Supersonic Racers is cleverly executed and wields a wholehearted experience. Going by the name of Dare Devil Derby 3D in the states, the songs contain a genuine sincerity that is often lacking in games of this nature. If overtly cartoony, their zany brilliance is refreshing and emotionally agreeable. ‘Dancing on a Star’ ‘Light as a Feather’ and the beautiful lament of ‘Despondent Sea Siren’ grace the air with diligence and sincere compassion. If they don’t totally match the crazy car chases on screen they certainly serve their purpose as a contradiction. ‘My Heart Will Decide’ set against the claustrophobic and oppressive busyness of the Metropolis level is another that perfectly pulls at the heart strings with its melancholic and reflective keyboard notes while the Christmassy ‘Take Off’ is jubilant and festive uniting the music with ski slopes and tundra.

With an arsenal of keyboards and minimal drum loops, video game music composer Gerard Gourley set out to create songs of loveliness, chopping up different string motifs based on global themes. The songs themselves don’t go much farther than the two minute mark, but are better off because of this. Simple melodies and structures leave you wanting more. The pirates inspired ‘One More Keg’ rolls out an accordion style melody interjected by whimsical flute and marching drums, the brief melancholic interlude piles on the emotion before striking up a rebellious band of triumph. Likewise ‘The Great Eastwood’ for the Cowboys & Indians race circuits ride along much like a rickety locomotive. Subtle harp plucks spot themselves about the atmosphere while silky strings mediate a flow and Mexican mariachi percussion interjects. It all comes together nicely. The Arabian inspired ‘Mesopotamia’ rides a relatively elusive carpet of meditative mystery suitable for a belly dance. Strings slowly weave in and around archaic ruins, encouraging dramatic fanfare, all echoing of a unique adventure.

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I’m hard pressed to find any reviews for Supersonic Racers since the internet was still in its infancy. However, I did manage to find one review in the archive of gaming website NowGamer. My perception of an awful review was opposed when I discovered that it was actually given a great write up. The journalist opens by commenting ‘Bloody marvellous. It’s so refreshing to finally see games on the PlayStation that have lasting playability, stalwart games that you can boot up months after purchase and still enjoy to the full.’ And it is true; the game is victorious due to its accessibility. Light-hearted and memorably fun music certainly plays a key role in this too. There is the option of altering the music to play a selection of field recordings set to the various locations, or players can opt for a trio of unconvincing techno tracks, which are generally harmless.

There isn’t much to Supersonic Racers gameplay-wise; it’s simple and fun. But it possesses an inventive allure and great sense of humour. The soundtrack stands on its own as a heartfelt and genuine repertoire. I do feel somewhat that it went completely unnoticed at the time of release so I’m hoping gamers will rediscover its wonder today.

Supersonic Racers

Super World

Foliage

Hammer Horror

One More Keg

Take Off

Dancing on a Star

Despondent Sea Siren

Light as a Feather

The Great Eastwood

My Heart Will Decide

Mesopotamia

Culture Clash

Deflate The World

Rewind

Gee Whizz!

Zzapp Acceleration

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Moving onto the more obvious and trashy Street Racer which I gather was quite popular among gamers at the time. Street Racer was developed by Ubisoft for various gaming consoles and successfully made the jump to PlayStation. Although the graphics, structure and general presentation of this racing game seem cheap and rushed, it does feature some interesting characters that all have their own abilities, weapons and racecourses. It’s funny how similar the aesthetic between Supersonic Racers and Street Racer is whereby they feature comparable locations, music styling and almost exact gameplay.

Referring to NowGamer again for a review, the journalist states that ‘There is much more to Street Racer than initially meets the eye. Take a selection of left and right hand slaps, two special weapons and a turbo button, and what you have is an all-out manic racer with no holds barred.’

With this in mind, I’m happy to say that the soundtrack to Street Racer is again very cartoony and vibrant, but it twists the funny bone in large perpendicular circles. Composed by the elusive Brian Marshall, he gathered a petting zoo of global sounds and threw them down in order to represent the cultures and characters. ‘Azeri Sky’ for the Persian character Hodja shimmers and sways in clichéd Arabian style to a bubbling bass and punchy beat. The Halloween stimuli of ‘Haunted Hoax’ takes werewolf howls and thunder & lightening sound-effects across a Hammond organ led techno marathon while ‘Vanity Fair’ for Italian poseur Raphael is a brilliant piece of euro pop-cum-house trash. The trumpets fanfare while a piano backing tinkles away, leading players to tap their feet as sentimental strings glide over your mind.

The tunes are certainly catchy, more so hilarious and instantly likeable, following the same format for each. Consisting of an introduction, they repeat the melody before dithering away to form some sort of break/ interlude before embarking on an elongated outro of repetition, embellished by various percussion or little fragmented instrumental trimmings.

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The Street Racer soundtrack doesn’t possess the same sensitivity or emotive charm of Supersonic Racers but is overtly flamboyant, steeped in hedonism. There are moments of clarity though beginning with the tune for Pamela Anderson look-a-like and only female character Surf in the song ‘Surfer Girl.’ Embracing grunge-like guitars and mildly assertive drum loops the melody is scintillating and mesmerising, urging the heart to bleed in reaction. Another great track is ‘Sound of a Superhero’ to represent the German pilot Helmut. Utilising a sample from classical opera ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ by Richard Wagner, the intense strings soar over a hyped-up, elastic techno sound, somehow managing to represent the feelings of fear, regret, euphoria and determination in one big display of individual splendour.

The electric ‘Sanyo’ which represents none other than sumo wrestler Sumo is a fantastic swirl of colour that encourages us to dance with vibrancy. An obvious oriental melody plinks and plonks its way around a techno backing. This track is very reminiscent of the 187 Lockdown dance chart hit ‘Kung Fu’ from the ’90s, or even more so New Order’s ‘Blue Monday!’ There are some great rocking tunes too such as ‘Highway Toll,’ title music ‘Burning Rubber’ and the alternative gameplay mode ‘Rumble’ showing that the grunge era made an impact on our composer as well as cheap-sounding electronica.

Street Racer

Burning Rubber

Attributes

Azeri Sky

Haunted Hoax

Let The Earth Shake

Highway Toll

Vanity Fair

Surfer Girl

Sound of a Superhero

Sanyo

Rumble

Curtain Call

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In retrospect, both of the racing games above really don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. I’m certain that not many gamers will remember them. However, they are full of fun and genuine nostalgia for a time when childhood was innocent and sacred. They also evoke the feeling, which NowGamer describe as ‘That evil “I’ll get you” attitude, that’s bound to destroy friendships.’

Temporarily anyway, you might as well buckle up.