Drawings from the Outer Realm
& Peculiar Video Game Music Reviews
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.'
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
One More Keg
Dancing on a Star
Despondent Sea Siren
Light as a Feather
The Great Eastwood
My Heart Will Decide
Deflate The World
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.
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.
Let The Earth Shake
Sound of a Superhero
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.
The insanely far-out and intensely super-charged cosmic whirlwind of Japanese rock band Boredoms, wildly surpasses that of many other avant-noise related bands from the Japanese music scene.
Indeed, blistering across the sky on a floating temple of cosmic power are other madcap Japanese bands Ruins, Koenjihyakkei, Acid Mothers Temple, High Rise, Zeni Geva, Melt-Banana, Afrirampo etc. but Boredoms seemingly take the crown for being extremely exciting!
My brains are pummelled and electrified by their terrifying wall of sound, rising ever higher and higher before cascading down onto my frail spine releasing all manner of animalistic advantages and jungle post-apocalyptic rhythms. This tribe of Japanese pranksters unveil voodoo of the most sublime colour. Their easel is awash with such fractured and riotous sound. It drips down to form new civilisations and environments. The Boredoms are our saviours.
A vague past dithers, yet prevalent members persist. Yamantaka Eye screams and shouts a call of the untamed whilst throwing in noise and samples, mixing and matching at the terminals. Multi-instrumentalist Yoshimi P-We pounds the drums, a potpourri of percussion, keyboards and trumpet. With them is second drummer Yojiro Tatekawa and guitarist Shinji Masuko. They charge henceforth with deferential decorum.
Life of drum seems to be a motto in this new world, rhythms are carved out intuitively, the four of them finding a way to connect all corners of a psychedelic domain. They continuously experiment with the ultra-possibilities of sound. For example, the Boredoms recorded the sound of their drumming underwater for the Seadrum/House of Sun album. They also used newly developed contact microphones to record the sounds made by the human body while dancing.
Then came the Boadrum concert initiated by Yamantaka Eye in 2007. The concert saw him bringing together 77 drummers to perform at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in new York City. The number 77 was rumoured to be significant when Eye climbed The Konark Sun Temple in India and counted 77 steps.
This theory continued with the 88 concert in Los Angeles the following year. The third in the series, 99 took place at Terminal 5 in New York City on 9th September 2009 and featured 9 drummers from influential noise bands such as Hella, Oneida, Pit er Pat and Volcano The Bear among others.
But where the future leads and what the light will shed remains to be seen.
Coming from the well stocked stable of Drag City bands, Weird War marches forth making a decent racket combining that of dirty rock ‘n’ rock and hyperbolical tomfoolery!
It is the brilliant mind of musician Ian Svenonius who is commanding Weird War. He takes the cosmic project to a place of sheer euphoria and enlightenment. The bass throbbing way down low, the electric guitar swaying sieve-like through a sewer of sexual tension, the drums rocking and rolling, out of control, non sequitur abandonment. Spearheading this dollop of electric funk is a pop sensibility full of catchy, tongue grabbing notes that ooze from the sides. The time is now to wig-out!!
Svenonius is steeped in a brief history which sees him arriving to Weird War territory following many bands and projects. Firstly, he formed hardcore outfit The Nation of Ulysses in 1988 who released a couple of LPs on Ian McKaye’s legendary Dischord label. The ’90s saw Svenonius forming the funky post-punk outfit The Make-Up. Their brand of stripped bare sound is electrifying and soulful and an indication as to where Svenonius was heading.
'Believe me, you could do a lot worse'
Then came the Weird War. Exploding onto the Washington D.C. scene, the band sparked off some sort of crazed, hippie, drug injected rock ‘n’ roll mayhem with their debut self-titled LP. Yet, Weird War’s ideology is somewhat different to their full-on sound. Speaking of their musicality, Svenonius tells music website Drowned In Sound that they are ‘The sole answer to the hype-based careerism, empty formalism and vacuity which has infected what was once a genuinely creative underground rock ‘n’ roll scene.’ A natural progression saw Weird War briefly becoming the Scene Creamers for one album, the I Suck On That Emotion LP. They reverted back to the name Weird War when a French graffiti collective threatened them with legal action for the use of the name Scene Creamers!
This insecure interlude meant that Weird War returned with their best album yet! Titled If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em, the record is a monumental cosmic trip of sexual fire and energy, encompassing not only scintillating guitar dirges and soil soaked bass but significant politicised messages. Mixed with good time rock ‘n’ roll interpretations for the modern age, tracks such as Moment In Time, Chemical Rank and single AK-47 swell with colossal euphoria and pumping assault which serve to slaughter your bodies on the dance floor, slowly forming a graveyard. The title song featured the suave vocals of Royal Trux junkie-diva Jennifer Herrema and featured a deliciously perverse record sleeve which paid homage to Lou Reed’s Live - Take No Prisoners LP in a deranged manner.
'A rope round the neck causing strangulation'
To me, Weird War is like watching dictators dancing at a seedy ’70s rock disco on the edge of a black hole. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin intimidating one another with their dance moves. Final LP Illuminated By The Light saw Weird War traipsing a more merry and exuberant path into pastures fresh. Rising in the oven with the fantastic sounds of T-Rex, Funkadelic, Frank Zappa and a mutated Lou Reed.
The music video for Mental Poisoning is one of my favourites, for its excellence at capturing and imitating the Weird War sound perfectly!
Indeed, war is ultimately strange but not as strange as the Weird War.
'There ain't nothing wrong with you! - I ain't lying'
'There ain't nothing wrong with you! - That mental poisoning messed up your mind'
Les Georges Leningrad
For an extended period of my late teenage years I was obsessed with the French-Canadian outfit Les Georges Leningrad. There were three bands that I became infatuated with at this time. Oakland’s femme-punks Erase Errata started me off, which in turn led me towards San Francisco electro-punk trio Numbers. Les Georges Leningrad seem to come from nowhere though, dropping like a retarded, angular stench of an avant-garde ball into my lap. The French-Canadians toured with the latter bands and it was then that I went on the rampage trying to discover as many West Coast bands I could muster. After all, these bands served as a community, helping one another, feeding off one another’s creativity.
But Les Georges Leningrad set themselves overtly apart from the West Coast bands by being über-über-strange (no, that’s not a type) Les Georges Leningrad could be classed as one of the world’s weirdest acts in recent years. You could describe them as the modern Day Residents, extracting some of the attributes found in the Los Angeles Free Music Society.
The band comprises vocalist Poney P, ecstatic drummer Bobo Boutin and lastly, Mingo L’Indien who acquired scratchy guitar and role of keys crusher! The band curiously take it in turns to play their instruments, also hailing the drum machine as an integral ingredient too. The band actually had a fourth member in the form of bassist Toundra LaLouve, but supposedly sacked her following the release of their first album Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou simply commenting (if I remember correctly) that she took too many drugs for their liking!
Their debut album Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou released on the short-lived obscure label Les Records Coco Cognac is a whirlwind of truly bizarre and whacky sounds, structures and so-called songs. Poney P does a precise job of supplying freaky-deaky screams and screeches, yelps and yells. There are lo-fi samples galore, recalling the much loved days of the Butthole Surfers. There is a tinge of riot grrl, a swab of electro-punk and a sitz bath of no-wave anarchy!
Songs such as Bad Smells, Georges Five, La Chienne and Didi Extra can only be believed if heard. Glancing at the band might help to make sense of it all. The band use gaudy stage costumes for their live setup, paper costumes complete with sexual organs and extreme masks to disguise their identities. It’s no wonder that readers of weekly newspaper Montreal Mirror voted them twice as ‘Freakiest Local Act’
The bands history is peppered with mystery as the members constantly opt to give contradictory and incomprehensible answers in interviews thus leaving the audience lost. Probably just the way they prefer it. For the release of their second record, Sur Les Traces de Black Eskimo, Les Georges Leningrad unveiled what they describe as Petrochemical Rock - labelled by Pitchfork.com as ‘a spastic blend of dub, disco, post-punk, and no-wave.’ It certainly is dark, yet fancily dance-driven.
Speaking of the sound on Sur Les Traces de Black Eskimo, Bobo Boutin explains to Canadian site Exclaim! (and journalist Kevin Hainey) in usual ludicrous attire that ‘It’s petrochemical rock! Our structure was calling for more beats, butts and blisters. An act of exhaustion that people can dance to like firecrackers, sweaty cowbell, bloody thumbs, flooding tears, specs, spits, horny sticks, sticky licks and consumption. Fucking cranny old school of rhythms! Beat is music! We are pro-biceps and pro-dirt. I would like to play drums with bones at Kevin Hainey’s funeral!’
Luckily for me, Les Georges Leningrad played London around the release of their second LP (which is on the brilliant Montreal label Alien8) I can’t remember the venue but I do remember that Bobby Conn was a support act whereby he gently caressed my face. I stared on in awe. I then had to slink away in embarrassment. Between bands I purchased the new album, some stickers and a ‘t’ shirt (which I still have) from the merch store. I told Poney P how much I adored the band. The two guys I also spoke with and shook their hands firmly, thanking them for enriching my life. I only later realised that they don’t really understand or speak fluent English. A drug-riddled band played next and then a delay to the Les Georges Leningrad set. They eventually emerged at 12:30 or something. The set they played was incredible. A huge rave-up of carnage and noise, their paper costumes tearing at the seams, Mingo L’Indien sliding some sort of box machine to form drum beats, Poney P racing across the stage to stare everyone in the face with bold, piercing eyes. My euphoria and naivety somehow mixed to form emotive dancing! It was a Sunday night and I missed my train home, and therefore spent three bus rides dreaming of this insane and wonderful band.
I am being extremely enthusiastic about Les Georges Leningrad, but they epitomise everything I search for in a music act.
Don’t just take my word for it though. Look out for their records and buy them!!
> Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou
> Sur Les Traces de Black Eskimo
> Sangue Puro
Dig those cowbells!!!
Send me rough distortion.
Send me searing feedback.
It will typically send me over the edge of this cliff, spiralling down, gaining momentum where I will invariably smash my already broken frame into the mud.
And down there, knee deep in this swill, I must allow myself to try and wade forward, allowing myself to be sucked into Pandora’s box. I will never return.
I dwell in that box, slowly getting smaller, the walls drawing inwards, the ceiling cascading down onto my head. This paranoia and claustrophobia envelops my mind.
The Magik Markers send me on my way at three in the morning. A gigantic crimson wind settles on the sunglow dew which rests flatly on the burnt tangerine steam, amid all open air fields of red wetness. It all swirls like an epic monolith in front of my eyes. It fears high regard and it fears crumbling.
I hear in the distance, Elisa Ambrogio calling, preaching words of importance and rescue, willing me back… yet this tidal wave of despair drags me onwards.
The Kingdom of God and its land of nobility is far away. It is unobtainable.
…So I let this distortion enrapt me.