Cyberpunk Music Dossier – March 2017

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No preamble this month. You came here for the music, and there’s going to be a lot of it.

Cyberpunk Community Soundtrack – Volume 6

“It’s a world where you’re judged by what you say and think. Not by what you look like.” The Cyberpunk Community Soundtrack is now in its sixth consecutive year and supported, this year, by Neon Dystopia. It’s free to you, human being on the internet, thanks to the hard work of seventeen different artists and the internet handle ‘Cyberbite’.

A number of the artists who’ve contributed to release of the CCS have been mentioned on Neon Dystopia in the last twelve months; Alonewolf, Planet Damage, Cryounit, Neon Shudder, and if that means anything to you then it ought to be that the CCS is the result of a lot of independent artists working late into the night drinking low-grade soycaf to fuel an ambition to soundtrack the future before it arrives. While I’m passingly familiar with most of the artists who’ve contributed this year there’s stuff in this release that’s entirely new to me – Big Brother’s blend of street-level rap and sampling, Incisors Vex’s blend of electro and video game samples, Un-Luck’s minimal ambiance.

I won’t guarantee you’ll like everything here. Such a large sample size distorts any attempt to craft a musical narrative but does provide a deep archive to investigate.

Absolute Valentine – Sunset Love (Deluxe Edition)

It’s been well established that I’m a mark for Absolute Valentine, and on that note, this re-release of Sunset Love was an absolute pleasure for me to listen to. There’s no doubt that Police Heartbreaker is the stronger album, but there are times where Sunset Love really does shine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to re-visit the original version for a comparison to this remastering in the way that I did for SUNG last month, so if you already own Sunset Love in its original form you’ll have to tell me how it compares in the comments.

Supernova Run was my personal favorite; the middle of the song hangs off of a set of well-balanced synth lines given time to build into a crescendo. There’s a seam of euro dance energy that winds through the whole album, and again, while I feel Police Heartbreaker is the better album that’s not a mark against Absolute Valentine or Sunset Love because judged by any other metric you’re going to want to put this on and enjoy it.

Brahm – Ratimis

Ratmis’ a little different to the usual genres that get a look into the Cyberpunk Music Dossier. Think of this as experimental ambient hip hop with a stack of dystopian reference material off to one side. Brahm, aka Chaz Barber, uses all the best old technology to produce his vision of a future with one city ruled by a dead AI. ASR-10 sampling keyboard, Korg MS2000 synthesiser, floppy disks, vinyl.

If the monthly dossier stuck solely to what I found enjoyable you’d quickly get sick of it, and eventually, so would I. Ratmis is well outside of my normal operating parameters but on listening through for a reconnaissance pass I started to appreciate what Brahm had achieved. It’s dolorous at times, down-tuned, the kind of music that describes a dead city. The vocal sampling fits the mood throughout. By way of criticism, there are times that it sounds too sparse, as though a beat is missing, but all I really know about music is what I like and I think I kind of like this.

Daniel Deluxe & Volkor X – DESYNC (Original Sountrack)

I don’t think I’ve got the reaction times to play games like DESYNC anymore, sense of pride notwithstanding, but I’ve still got the ears to listen to the soundtrack. The soundtrack has enough strong tracks to stand alone without the game, and I strongly suspect that if I played through DESYNC I’d come away with a strong impression synchronised to the memory of what I was listening to at the time in the same way that my memory of Hotline Miami is forever connected to its soundtrack.

The Link was my personal pick as the most interesting track on the soundtrack. It’s darksynth delivered at a steady pace, but with the introduction of some sounds that really don’t feature into any darksynth I’ve listened to before; the bubbling of gas through water, the splash of something liquid against metal. Perhaps if I played the game it would make more sense to me, but I certainly had to stop and double-check what I’d heard.

DESYNC is filled with strong synthwave, although I feel the latter half of Daniel Deluxe’s contributions are his strongest ones. Volkor X takes the lead on two tracks from his contribution. They’re great – aggressive, adrenaline fuelled attack tracks ready to keep you in the zone during an intense shootout, it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them. The game is available on Steam right now with a user tag of ‘Great Soundtrack’ and I’m in agreement with the frothing masses of the internet on this one.

Marsellus MOON – The Marsellus Moon Exploration

I really wasn’t sure if I was going to include The Marsellus Moon Exploration or not but erred again on the side of exploration. There’s a very Bootsy Collins sound to the bass in places – Become a Space Punk in particular – with a generous helping of funk to the whole thing. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this one as it’s not strictly within the boundaries of the music I usually present to you. Give Become a Space Punk a once-over and if that’s your kind of thing then this slice of German synthwave-synthpop-synthfunk-triphop-disco-oddness may have more in store.

Cobra Strike Force – Ninja Domination

Cobra Strike Force have been around for a while, but not as long as their aesthetic suggests. Handclaps, cymbals, powerchords, piano lines and gated drums litter this album like an 80s movie prop jumble sale. Synthesizers emulate electric guitars attempting hair metal guitar solos. The downside to this, unfortunately, is that the EP comes across as lacking in focus beyond being inspired by the soundtracks to 80s action movies. That may be perfect for you; Ninja Domination is a ‘Best Of Cobra Strike Force’ album, but I found it a little jarring in spite of individually enjoying most of the album.

HOME – Resting State

I’ve had the first few hundred words of a review for Home’s last full album, Falling Into Place, sat waiting to be expanded on for a few months. At my current rate of progress, it should be finished sometime around the upload of consciousness into electronic lacunae for faster thought processing. In the meantime, there’s Resting State, a collection of demo tracks completed to varying levels of polish and of variable duration.

Much like the Cyberpunk Community Soundtrack referenced at the beginning of this dossier, Resting State isn’t an album I’d approach from a start-to-finish perspective. Pieces don’t blend cleanly into each other, and the durations range from thirty-second experiments to three-minute sketches. If anything I’d expect this to be a music palette. When a full album comes out I’d bet you’ll find the genesis of it scattered through the samples here.

What Home does well is lean to the relaxed end of the scale, presenting a sound suitable for reprogramming your brain after a tough day. 9 is an exemplar of that in the way in which Fata Morgana from Falling Into Place seemed written to relax. That’s not to say that every track on Resting State works for me, but to expect that would be to miss the intention. It’s been a year since Home put out anything new and Resting State is a postcard from Florida to remind you that something is on the way.

Alex – Youth

Youth, by Alex, is the first release of 2017 from stalwart scene label NewRetroWave. I’d criticize it for being short, but that would be unfair of me in light of the tight focus from this EP and the fact that I’ve had a lot of listening to do this month. Youth was a great listen for me from start to finish; bookended with strong instrumentals like waves on a beach at sunset. The style is a callback to the early days of the modern synthwave sound circa 2011. A beautiful pastel-hued cover from Mizucat tells you exactly what this album is about; teenage emotion.

 Dustin Cassidy – The Holoprojector

I really did try with The Holoprojector but something didn’t quite align for me. Vocals are a tough thing to deliver well, and listening to The Holoprojector I think that’s what kept me from enjoying this. It wasn’t the writing of the lyrics that put me off, they actually read reasonably well, but in reference to a previous review in this month’s dossier perhaps bringing in some outside talent would be a way to move forward? Musically it’s inspired by goth bands and sadpop, and I’d like to think that it’d be just right for a listener searching for a palette cleanser between albums by The Cure. Whether or not you like Dustin Cassidy’s shtick of alienation in Yokohama is down to you, but he’s very serious in its presentation.

Rosewood Queen – Purple Diary

Purple Diary was penciled in for last month’s Cyberpunk Music Dossier. That it didn’t make the cut is down to my interest on the first listen through. It’s an adjunct to the side of my usual tastes in synthwave, more experimental, more vaporwave than the retrowave I tend towards. That being said the first listen of Purple Diary attracted my interest and the second listen held it.

SILVER EYED WITCH topped the list for me both times through, bridging into DOWN THE STREETS. A doppler warble on top of a nonchalant whistle linking the two songs together. A rush of layered sound before stripped-back minimalism became the norm again with occasional reminders of SILVER EYED WITCH. Purple Diary has none of the vaseline-on-camera-lens softness of Japanese vaporwave, a sharply focused breath of cold air by comparison.

Mindscope – マ イ ン ド ス コ ー プ

Closing us out for this month’s Cyberpunk Music Dossier is Japan-based ambient drone/vaporwave artist Mindscope’s self-titled album, Mindscope. I won’t try to break this down into pieces because, unsurprisingly, there are no radio-friendly unit shifters here. What Mindscope offers is an unsettling glimpse of real objects seen in a dream. A sense of something perceived as real with the doubt that it isn’t. Avoid listening to this one alone, in the dark, without something to cling to.

How was that for you? Can you make your way through the metadata sift for another dossier next month, or will you be scouting out your own contribution to our intelligence gathering efforts? Regardless of what the month has in store for you, I hope your own personal soundtrack benefits from the hard work of this month’s contributors. Until the calendar clicks forward, stay safe.

5 Responses to “Cyberpunk Music Dossier – March 2017”

  1. I love how much of a moving target cyberpunk music is. Fear Factory make some of my favourite ‘cyberpunk’ albums, but I suppose part of that is down to my age. Modern stuff – synthwave and vaporwave really – is probably going to hold the same resonance to people figuring out what cyberpunk means to them today.

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