Overview: Somewhere between going back to full time work, the original Half-Life, discovering a couple of games for possible review, and my own inherent laziness I’m surprised spammers haven’t totally taken over. At least I’ve been keeping an eye on things here… And have a chance to listen to some new tunes while working. Mind Teardown lead me to their debut and it’s been a pretty good listen. Nine tracks running in 25 minutes time, Dry Lung Overdrive will give your ears some sweet industrial/EBM sounds as the duo makes their musical statement for themselves, and their Euro-based Crime:Scene label (Might want to check out the label’s line up). You can also check out additional tracks they have on SoundCloud if this album is too short for your liking. In the mean time, let’s check the tracks:
Intro: Imagine waking up in the near future to the sounds of air-raid sirens as your radio proudly gives today’s weather as sunny with lots of radiation, highs expected to be near 110. As for the good news: THERE IS NO FUCKING GOOD NEWS!
Death Increased: A higher tempo track with distorted vocals. The chorus vocals really reverberate.
Machine Messiah: Some sharp guitar sounds punctuate this tune. Sort of like when Ministry went from synth to industrial.
Wreckage: Percussion begins with some nice hammer banging with this moderately paced guitar-driven work.
Whisper: A slower, somewhat softer tune. Makes for a nice change of pace.
Processing: This one sounds like some machinery doing… well, processing… stuff. Kind of funky actually.
Anthrax Junkie: Back to uptempo music. Fast beats abound with this instrumental.
Breakdown: Lots of percussion, like Ministry’s Twitch-era music, or a Stomp show.
Outro: More air-raid sirens while the announcement Everyone seen after eight will be shot. Sirens Corporation: Making Earth A Better Place closes out the album.
Conclusion: Mind Teardown has a debut that gives mid-80s industrial/EBM fans a good dose to keep them going with whatever cyberpunkish (or not) activity are engaged in. And this is just for starters…
While searching them on YouTube, I came across a link to an EP of theirs, Begin Self Destruction. I’m going the check it out, and keep listening the Dry Lung Overdrive while working, and at home. Good stuff.
The Ghosts of Zero by “The Digital Alchemist” (No audio track)
1. Geist Anthropic 1:4
2. Too Much Is Never Enough
3. Cenotaph, or We’ve Been Reduced To Lo-Fi
5. Love Simulacra
6. Cold As The Gun
7. …And Weave The Spider’s Web
8. Geist Threnodic 2:4
9. Best Served Flash-Frozen
10. Geist Eidetic 3:4
11. All The Good Things You Are
13. Made In Brazil | Living In Japan
14. Crossed Swords
15. Geist Intrinsic 4:4
16. Anodyne Fading: The Wolf Without
18. Deep In The Deep: Reaction-Diffusion Dies Tonight
19. Unto The Interface
Overview: Cyberpunk continues to inspire writers and readers some 35 years after William Gibson wrote his first short story. Now a new group of writers, artists, and musicians have come together as the Very Us Artists to create the latest cyber-anthology complete with its own soundtrack. It’s not so much a book and CD, but a multimedia package. But does it work as a whole, or should certain parts be omitted?
The (Back) Story: The prologue (The Ghosts of Zero) gives us the basic back story of the rest of the book:
Corporations became bigger than “too big to fail;” they became governments and nations unto themselves and the established powers were unable to stop them, especially when the corporations began absorbing military forces or creating their own as “security.” That’s when the Multinationals Wars(TM) started as the corporations screwed the law over and courts became battlefields. World economies virtually died out as currency was replaced by World Bank Currency, a.k.a. WBC, the W, or simply “dub.”
Technology advanced as the corps wanted the best weapons for “hostile takeovers.” Robots and nanotechnology soon appeared, but without Skynet or SHODAN (which was good news or bad news depending on how you wanted to see it). The Internet slowly died out as privacy and freedom was overrun by surveillance and censorship, but was replaced by Worldnet, though nobody knows how it came to be.
The (Front) Stories: At first, this anthology may seem like 19 separate stories set against the backdrop of the above scenario. But once you start reading the eighth story, you suddenly realize that there are more common threads running through the book than just the back story. In particular, the four “Geist” stories about a former pyra-play addict who risks everything to hunt down a creature called the “Geist” (as in zeitgeist, the spirit of the times). The Geist attacks systems like a mosquito feeding on blood, but in doing so causes major disruptions. The other stories gives background on the technologies, people, events, and the Geist itself.
Not all the stories as connected. Some are simply stand-alone, side stories. Even so, they further enhance the dystopic scene of the (post)Multinational Wars(TM) as couriers, Stomp Brawl (a future MMA) fighters, librarians, and even children fight for personal and human survival in dark and dangerous times. My personal favorite is the librarians who are trying to save the data from an ice-based computer that’s shutdown and melting.
The Soundtrack: Have you ever tried reading a book while music was playing in the background? Sometimes it helps to read with music from a radio, CD, iPod, or pirated MP3s playing as a “soundtrack” for your book. If only all books had its own soundtrack…
A CD with the book (or MP3s with the ebook) has 19 tracks that correspond with all the stories (except the prologue) ranging from ambient synth-instrumentals to outright rock songs. I listened to the disk after reading the book and the tunes brought back some memories of the stories. It would have been better if I was listening while reading to get the full effect. But with or without the book, they still make good ear-candy.
An example of the music from the Foreshadows CD: Bilian’s “Love Simulacra”
Conclusion: The Very Us Artists have made their case for the next generation of cyberpunk, and it’s a pretty bold statement. A broad collaboration that shows what multimedia should have been in the 90s. Even now there’s word of more than could be published in a book. Webshadows continues where the book leaves off.
Some might balk at the $36 US price tag for the book/disk combo, but given the amount of work that went into this project, the whole being more than just the parts, and current prices of books and CDs, the price is well worth it.
Update: Just got word from John LaSala, one of the masterminds behind the Foreshadows project, that he is willing to cut 10% of the price for the physical package. Just go to their website, purchase, and when asked for a coupon tell them ROBOTO10 sent you.
Ultrawired - Pirate Ketaware for the TLC Generation
1. Better not to joke - 3:51 2. Save the clock tower - 4:01 3. Cracking the power - 3:05 4. Banksters - 2:44 5. Lies Irae - 3:35 6. Blackout - 3:23 7. Get young - 4:10 8. No life belongs to you - 4:02 9. Two dimensional world - 4:08 10. Run motherfucker run - 2:51 11. Pwning the network - 3:44 12. We are the new ones - 4:09 13. Riding Ufos - 4:04 14. Thru the never - 4:54
Overview: DSI’s latest takes the path that Radiohead started, and Nine Inch Nails followed. Ultrawired was made available from the band’s site via torrent and file sharing, with physical purchase and PayPal donation options available. Seems appropriate for a band known for its cyberpunk sound and themes with images of underground hackers and other wired warriors working against the corporations.
More than that, this is a salute to the birth-era of cyberpunk and those inspired and motivated by those heady 80s technologies. From the press release:
An album inspired by the 80’s and early 90’s imagery, icons, idols and attitude. A shiny manifesto for the generation who lived in the era of technolgical revolutions. Starting from the arcade maniacs, and Back to the future followers till the social networks addicts and wikileaks rebels. The music will be a cocktail of sounds that mix the modern and futuristic approach of Dope Stars Inc. with the sounds and atmospheres of the 80’s & early 90’s music. Breaking any stylistic rule: Hard-techno, Rockabilly, Indie-electro, Punk-Metal, Retro-games music, Synth-Pop and Rock’n’Roll are just a few of the influences embodied in the new album. No way to put it into a precise category. A set of 13 (14, actually) songs made of different individual souls.
Better not to joke. We want the music for the rich and poor / hey you cannot block it anytime, so says this salute to file sharing, kicking off the ass-kicking with a solid beat.
Save the clock tower. There should be little doubt what this tune honors. Starting off with an electronic riff before rocking out, this track would have Doc Brown cranking the volume in his DeLorian while traveling the skyways.
Cracking the power. A warning to those who seek to silence the voices on the web, DSI is ready to fight back with this number. After all, We’re a mass of geeks ready to fuck you. You have been warned.
Banksters. Ironically, for a track that came before the Occupy movement, they seem to have the idea of what to do with the banksters (Shoot the bastard). This track has a speed/thrash feel to it.
Lies Irae. Giving props to WikiLeaks and their supporters (Gonna be the leak of this age), this track opens with an operatic tone before the ass-kicking starts with symphonic hits following throughout.
Blackout. You think Victor Love may have heard about reports of hackers causing blackouts? Sounds like it on this track.
Get young. For you old-school video gamers (arcade vets like myself), this one may have you dusting off your old Atari 2600 or booting up MAME to relive those memories of your nth key Pac-Man patterns. You modern console-jocks may not understand it now, but you’ll figure it out… if you haven’t already. Videogames make you feel, just make you feel good. Needless to say, this is my pick.
No life belongs to you. The message is fairly simple; Nothing new yet another rich fight for the oil and the human rights. Humanity has been treated like a commodity like petrol, but the corporations are going to learn otherwise.
Two dimensional world. A slower paced tune about… Facebook? It seems to be about Facebook, or possibly about some bloggers out there. Backup your tracks / backup your face / who gives a fuck of the crap that you say. Might be a good thing I haven’t fallen for FB’s hype.
Run motherfucker run. The Running Man in music form. You got a stalker in the back of your brain / you’re in a fucking TV battle game.
Pwning the network. A little hacking action going on, I can tell I’m gonna get some lulz today. The pace is a little fast for my liking though.
We are the new ones. Another declaration of youthful rebellion, featuring Mario Savio’s “Bodies upon the gears” speech. Kind of catchy, even for this old fart.
Riding Ufos. A slower paced tune about the want of knowing what others know and are trying to keep secret (we want a rich and global existence / give us the knowledge of your world), and of changing their minds about their wrong ideas (shame on you / to keep all this nonsense / now you can not swear / let it be now or a fleet/ /is gonna take down your beliefs).
Thru the never. About as close to a power ballad as I’ve heard from DSI, an invitation for self-introspection (Take a night to know yourself / take a night to know your thoughts / just to ride a dream) and a chance to let the hope be back into your soul. Just what the cyber-doctor ordered.
Conclusion: DSI has been putting out some good cyber-rock since their formation in 2002. Ultrawired keeps that streak going with a Ketaware selling-strategy that the RIAA needs to take note of. Based on this CD, DSI has the ability to be around for some time.
Damn, two and a half months without posting… not good, especially for controlling spam. Well, to let you know that I haven’t totally forgotten what I’m supposed to be doing here (despite my growing laziness), here’s a video for the latest Christmas jingle originally found on The Huffington Post.
Since we’re being so festive(us), here’s another holiday classic from Johnathan “Code Monkey” Coulton.
“The first users of tools were not men (a fact appreciated only recently), but pre-human anthropoids. The old idea that man invented tools is misleading, more accurately tools invented man - so began the symbiosis.” - from the liner notes.
1. Man-Amplifiers - 5:15 2. Techno Geist - 5:42 3. Axiomic and Heuristic - 4:48 4. NYC Overload - 6:28 5. Transitional Voices - 7:30 6. Bitstream - 5:55 7. Fractalize - 5:06 8. Final Program - 4:17 9. Dark Attractor - 5:16 10. Memories of Sound - 4:39
That’s “d-vah,” Russian for “two”. Originally founded in 1978, Clock DVA became part of the industrial music scene in 1980 when White Souls in Black Suits was released on Industrial Records, though at the time they had more of a guitar-driven sound. Breaking up in 1983 then reforming in 1987, the band went totally electronic with Buried Dreams. Man-Amplifiers was released in 1991, featuring songs (and liner notes) about cybernetics and how they are changing humans (This could probably be compared to Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine).
This is one of the rarer CDs you’ll want for your collections (actually, Clock’s whole discography is very rare) so be prepared to pay a premium unless you want to try the torrent route. However you acquire this CD (or their whole catalog), cyber-music fans will find something to love. Just check out the tracks:
Man-Amplifiers. The opening/title track starts off by declaring We are machines / a system of mind (I wish I could find the CD’s lyrics somewhere online) setting the tone for the rest of the CD.
Techno Geist. Let the spirit rise. With a bouncy beat, it’s hard not to let your spirit rise as that all-important question posed by the CD is asked: Did man invent machine, or machine invent man? Then again, man is a machine that goes beyond.
Axiomatic and Heuristic. A bit of a down-tempo tune.
NYC Overload. Do yourself a favor, don’t watch this video (from Clock DVA’s video compilation Kinetic Engineering)… LISTEN instead…
If the music makes you feel like you’re standing in the middle of the Big Apple, surrounded by the visible hustle-and-bustle of the streets and the invisible hustle-and-bustle of data transfers, your system might be experiencing a bit of NYC overload.
Transitional Voices. Can you hear them? Can you feel them? If so, they may make you want to dance to this ditty.
Bitstream. A bit of electronic noise leads into a tune with a funky bass line. But is this about surfing for porn, or looking for a date off Craigslist? You are a number, a number of desire. Maybe it’s just the mathematics of emotions coming through the wires.
Fractalize. Now this is a bouncy number. Almost danceable.
Final Program. Not exactly the “final” program on this CD, Adi Newton wants us to escape the final program and escape man’s emotions.
Dark Attractor. Mostly electronics with some synthesized voices. Can’t really tell what they’re saying though. This is probably what it would sound like in the wires.
Memories of Sound. Performance perfect is perfect performance, so says a female voice at the beginning of this dark, brooding number with bits of THX-1138 mixed in for good measure.
Conclusion: Not often that something is mandatory for your cyberpunk media collection, but Man-Amp’d is a mandatory MUST HAVE. And if you can get the CD complete with booklet, you not only win the Internet, but the whole Universe.
This CD has been labeled a “parody” of… something…
1. CyberPumpkin and Energizer Honey Bunny / Misirlou - Tinfed - 3:44 2. Electro Body Music - Society Burning - 1:25 3. Jungle Boogie (feat. Arjan McNamara) - Killing Floor - 3:48 4. Let’s Stay Together - Christ Analogue - 3:42 5. Bustin’ Surfboards - Society Burning - 3:46 6. Son of a Preacher Man - Collide - 4:42 7. Chemlab’s Dead, Baby/Bullwinkle Part II - Society Burning - 4:18 8. Mos Eisley Download Contest - Society Burning - 0:31 9. You Can Never Tell - Hotbox - 3:01 10. Lonesome Town - Nimpf - 3:32 11. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon - Purr Machine - 4:28 12. If Love Is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags) - Society Burning - 4:43 13. Bring Out the Hack/Comanche - Society Burning - 2:55 14. Flowers on the Wall - Non-Aggression Pact - 5:09 15. User Friendliness Goes a Long Way - Society Burning - 1:00 16. Surf Rider - Society Burning - 2:56 17. FAQ 25.17 - Society Burning - 0:48 18. Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon - 16Volt - 4:37 19. You Never Can Tell (feat. Jude Graham) Hexedene - 4:30 20. Flowers on the Wall - Society Burning - 3:21
Introducing the soundtrack to a movie you’ll NEVER see! OK, you may have seen the movie already, or at least heard of it. This CD is a parody of that movie. No, not a “Weird Al” Yankovic-style parody, but a cyberpunk take on the movie’s soundtrack. The music is given a cyberpunk/industrial/electronic twist while the spoken tracks (in italics) gets technical enough to make nerds’ ears happy. The CD can also be considered as something of a “showcase” featuring Re-Constriction artists, though Society Burning has six of the music tracks and all of the spoken parts. But putting that aside, let’s see if this disk is one for your soundtrack, or if it’s just a bad joke…
Track one opens with a quick spoken part with a couple of lovers expressing their affection for each other, before they threaten to terminate every last motherfucking job on the mainframe. Then the music kicks in; light, simple, but good.
Track two (Electro Body Music) is the first of four totally spoken tracks. Just two guys talking about buffer overflow on Telnet before moving on to how industrial music in Germany is called “Electro Body Music” and how they use flange instead of reverb on the drums in Belgium.
Killing Floor keeps Jungle Boogie funky, while Christ Analogue gives Al Green’s Let’s stay together an electro-shock to his soul. Bustin’ Surfboards trades surfing ocean waves for electronic waves… or just surfing the nets. While Son of a Preacher Man goes from southern blues to industrial rock.
Some more dialog as a girl finds a sampler, then Bullwinkle Part II takes the same surf-to-industrial path as Bustin’ Surfboards. Mostly drums, mostly groves.
The Mos Eisley Download Contest features a robotic voice speaking Japanese (could be Klingoneese?). Meanwhile, Hotbox gives Chuck Berry’s You Can Never Tell a shot of rock and… reggae? That’s what it sounds like to me. Interesting.
Lonesome Town now sounds like it could be any cyberpunk village you care to mention. Purr Machine gives Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon new meaning, mostly due to the female vocals. Another version of the truth: I prefer the 16 Volt version. If Love Is A Red Dress sounds a bit more vicious than the original.
Quick dialog before Comanche. Non-Aggression Pact gives us the our WTFF? moment with the bizzare vocals of Flowers on the Wall. I could try to explain but… the FUCK???
User Friendliness features a guy who doesn’t use Windows because it’s too complicated (ಠ_ಠ). And Surf Rider thrashes its way into our eardrums, literally.
FAQ 25.17 gives us our last bit of dialog, and the funniest moment of the CD. It just one guy talking about how high-resolution modes can strain an 8MB system (remember, this CD came out when graphic accelerators like 3Dfx were considered high-end), and how you need to use eight-bit color lest ye overload your piece-o-shit video card!
The “Bonus Tracks” (tracks 18-20) are rather odd additions since they are actually better than the main versions, especially 16 Volt’s version of Girl…
Actually, it was this song/video that brought my attention to this CD.
Hexene gives You Never Can Tell some electro-soul-and-funk to make it good, while Society Burning’s offering of Flowers on the Wall has a rocking edge with understandable vocals.
Cover Charges. How you feel about this CD may depend on how you feel about cover tunes and/or parodies. I have a few favorites on this CD. You should find this CD worth a listen, especially if you like cyberpunk/industrial.
“As time goes on Transverse City looks less like science fiction and more like home.
“I received Warren Zevon’s Transverse City back in 1989 when it originally came out, but I confess I only really got it recently. The fact that it took more than a decade for this fine album to sink in my say something bad about me, but it also says something great about the foresight and ambition that marked Warren Zevon’s work on Transverse City. Having taken a long, hard and inspired look at himself on his 1987 comeback effort, Sentimental Hygiene, Zevon seemed ready here to take on the world at large with this trippy song cycle that suggested the intellectual influence of Philip K. Dick and George Orwell, and the musical influence of everything from Kraftwerk to Igor Stravinsky, with a little refried California rock and a bit of British art rock thrown into the potent, dense mix. With characteristic guts, Zevon dared to combine a cyberpunk concept, a mindbending modern soundscape, and a crowded house of well-known musical guests from Neil Young to Chick Corea, Jerry Garcia to Dave Gilmour. The resulting album didn’t become a big hit, but its futuristic songs here have already stood the test of time.” - David Wild, 2002 (From the 2003 liner notes).
Track Listing: 1. “Transverse City” – 4:19 2. “Run Straight Down” – 4:05 3. “The Long Arm of the Law” – 3:47 4. “Turbulence” – 4:08 5. “They Moved the Moon” – 4:31 6. “Splendid Isolation” – 4:35 7. “Networking” – 3:02 8. “Gridlock” – 4:34 9. “Down in the Mall” – 4:28 10. “Nobody’s in Love This Year” – 4:17 11. “Networking (Acoustic Demo Version) (2003 Bonus Track)
Excitable boy is excited. You must have heard at least one of Zevon’s songs; It’s played to death every Halloween. While it is his biggest hit and best known song, Zevo took a stab at cyberpunk music thanks to an interest in William Gibson’s works. Of course the album didn’t sell, mostly because cyberpunk was still an underground sensation at the time so many didn’t understand the concept.
Re-released the same year as his death, Zevon’s Transverse City sounds like a brand-spanking-new soundtrack of our modern world instead of a 30 year old slab of classic rock. You don’t need to be a Warren Zevon fan nor a cyberpunk fan to enjoy this album, but it might help to be a bit of both for full enjoyment. So let’s take a trip down into town to see what’s going down downtown…
Transverse City. Warren Zevon plays keyboards on most of the tracks. For the opening title track, his keyboard playing sounds almost Japanese. A rather nice touch to a song about a city past the shiny Mylar towers, past the ravaged tenements, where life is cheap and death is free. You’ll also get to hear the hum of desperation, the song of shear and torsion, and Jerry Garcia (the head Dead-Head himself) on guitar.
Run Straight Down.
Zevon sings about walking through the decaying city wanting to head home to watch the decline on T.V. instead of experiencing it first-hand. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour plays lead guitar. If you listen carefully (it’s most noticeable at the beginning) you can hear a monotonic, almost robotic voice delivering a rhythmic delivery of 4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene, Dimethyl sulfate, chloromethyl methylether, 2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin, carbon disulfide, Dibromochloropane, chlorinated benzenes, 2-Nitropropane, pentachlorophenol, Benzotrichloride, strontium chromate, 1, 2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane. (That shit sounds dangerous, like some super-adrenaline-and-caffeine-charged-heroin… or that “cream” they put in Twinkies.)
The Long Arm of The Law. Seems like no matter where you go these days, the blue meanies are looking to lay a beat-down on someone. If the first words you remember hearing are Nobody move, nobody gets hurt, you better live like a fugitive and don’t protest your innocence, only the dead get off scott free.
Turbulence. Turmoil back in Moscow brought this turbulence down on me. Told from the POV of a Russian soldier in Afghanistan, 1989 was the year of Perestroika in the former Soviet Union, which also lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall. All our soldier wants is to go home, singing in Russian about “missing our mothers” (that’s according to a couple of translations of the Russian lyrics).
They Moved The Moon. A bit of a sad song, written after a breakup. Zevon suddenly feels like his everything in his life has been re-arranged so nothing makes sense anymore (They changed the stars around). Definitely a breakup song.
Splendid Isolation. The message of this song is quite obvious: Leave me alone. (Michael Jackson in Disneyland / Don’t have to share it with nobody else / Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand / And lead me through the World of Self). He even goes so far as to put tinfoil over his windows to block the outside world.
Networking. Zevon has been known to have a rather unusual sense of humor. Here, he has a major nerd-gasm while dropping some tech-related puns like I’m user friendly / I install with ease / data processed, truly Basic. He may have even predicted his CDs being file-shared: I will upload you, you can download me. I’m certain many of you have already.
For the re-release, an acoustic demo version is included. The same lyrics, only stripped-down with Zevo, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica. Sounds something like Neil Young might have tried.
Gridlock. An ode to the evening rush. The morning rush isn’t too bad, but the evening rush… can I possibly tell you how much it sucks? Well, Zevon can tell you about it better… and in song form with Neil Young on lead guitar. Stuck on the edge of the suburban sprawl / Everybody’s chocking on monoxide fumes / I feel like going on a killing spree / and Roll down the window, let me scream. You have my sympathies, Zevo. Crank this one up to 11 while you’re stuck on the interstate parking lot.
Down In The Mall. Nothing like a little conspicuous consumption, especially at a mall seven stories tall with a four floor parking garage. Zevon goes on a shopping spree so he can put it on a charge account we’re never gonna pay. Like what people are doing this holiday season…
Nobody’s In Love This Year. Prepare to have your heart broken with this down-tempo bit of bitter-sweetness. When lovers no longer communicate with each other, there’s no need to wonder why the rate of attrition for lovers like us is steadily on the rise.
Conclusion: Unlike other efforts at cyberpunk albums, both intended and unintended, Transverse City has become a true time-tested cyberpunk work (though it’s too early to say anything about recent acts like Dope Stars or Ayria). Then again, this is the only album that was written by a proven musical genius like Warren Zevon. This is classic rock that cyberpunk fans, even those who are not into Warren Zevon, can get into.
At least it beats listening to Werewolves of London for the zillionth time.
Click the image to download the album from the artist’s site.
Track Listing: 1. Quiet - 2:10 2. Asphalt Dawn - 3:06 3. From the Ground Up - 3:08 4. Bad Deal - 1:24 5. Mass Transit - 3:54 6. These Doors Are Open - 1:45 7. It Never Stops Raining Here - 5:05 8. The Path of Least Resistance - 4:29 9. Arena - 1:41 10. Macrocosm - 2:42 11. Insertion Point - 3:29
Overview: Cyberpunk music is often described as “music with a feeling of living in a cyberpunk world.” Some would prefer that music with lyrics that tell a story; Others prefer just the music. If you prefer instrumental “ambient” cyberpunk, Colin Timothy Gagnon has an album for you to download into your ear canals. Released late last year, here’s how he describes his work:
A collection of tracks composed between 2002 and 2008 in the style of late ’80s and early ’90s video game music. I was reading a lot of seminal cyberpunk fiction when I composed the earliest of these tracks, and I imagine those authors expected the future to sound a little like this.
To me, ambient music is much like the “magic eye” autostereograms from the mid-90s; You may get it right away and the effect is spectacular, or you struggle with it and never get it. Fortunately, Gagnon’s site has a built-in player that will allow you to test the tracks to see if you like them. For now, let’s see what the individual tracks have to offer.
Quiet. The opening track is more tension than actual quietness, with echoing drums. I can probably hear this tune playing in the background while exploring Neocron’s Industrial and Outzone sectors.
Asphalt Dawn. Daybreak over the gritty city. Don’t think I quite got this one, but it does sound uplifting, like watching the sun rise.
From The Ground Up. Not sure about this one. Maybe looking up at the towering buildings
Bad Deal. A transaction has gone sour and now you need to run.
Mass Transit. Try listening to this the next time you’re on a subway or bus on your way to… wherever.
These Doors Are Open. I can imagine waking past a club and hearing a tune like this near the front door.
It Never Stops Raining Here. The opening does sound like water dripping from the roof after a recent rain.
The Path of Least Resistance. Funky bass line at the start, soaring the rest of the way.
Arena. Music you would expect at any sporting event. Bring on the gladiators!
Macrocosm. A term for how one interprets large-scale patterns, maybe like the rifts in this tune.
Insertion Point. You arrive at a spot, ready for action when the music picks-up the pace.
Conclusion: Whether or not this album is cyberpunk enough depends on how you interpret ambient music. Best advice: Visit Gagnon’s site and listen to the tunes via the player application, and make you own call. I’ll be listening to this work to see if I can get it.
1. Omegadrones - 6:49 2. 21st Century Slave - 5:36 3. It’s Today - 3:27 4. When I See You Smile - 6:00 5. Digital Warriors - 5:25 6. Megacorps - 3:35 7. Criminal Intents - 3:32 8. Neuromantics - 4:43 9. Outlaw Thrones - 5:14 10. The World Machine - 4:34 11. It’s For You - 3:40
If you’ve never heard of Italy’s cyber-rockers Dope Stars Inc. (DSI for short), you’ve been sleeping in kool-aid for far too long. Victor Love, Fabrice La Nuit, and Darin Yevonde have been rocking and shocking the system since 2004-05 with a the look, sound, and lyrics that could have originated from any William Gibson / Bruce Sterling novel. Just look for and listen to songs like “Infection 13″ and “Vyperpunk” and you’ll see what I mean. For their 3rd full album, DSI has pulled out all the stops with 21st Century Slave, what can be considered a soundtrack for cyberpunk, complete with a manifesto (from DSI’s site):
21st Century Slave: A new manifesto for Digital Warriors, Outlaw Technologists and Console Riders of the 21st Century to survive in a World Machine where sheeple are being totally brainwashed and enslaved by Corporatocracy’s agenda and vicious propaganda.
Around half a century ago a primitive and promising silicon-form of intelligence, the artificial one, was born to be the guide of a new age. We called it Computer. And the world would never be the same again.
Electronic generated domains are the new frontiers. Cyberspace is the battlefield for the upcoming wars against the old and corrupted system that is naturally fading away. The System is collapsing. The System is obviously wrong. The only working System is the one we know as the computer generated one where we share our common interests and views: among the 0 and 1, among the stream of bit and bytes and an ocean of information that can’t be controlled and where all languages, subcultures and lifestyles are merging together. In Cyberspace we are free. In Cyberspace we are the kings. In Cyberspace we are a global Central Processing Unit. No other path to survive: Master Technology.
With technology we’ll be no more slaves of our Century. With Technology we’ll be no more sheeple ruled by questionable, hypocritical and oppressive authority and its obsolete principles. Technology is the cure: It’s the alternative. Technology is our terrific weapon and the network is our realm.
May the words of revolution spread unstoppable at light speed.
Free the energy. Free the information.
And then a day will come
For what you’ve done
For what it’s gone
For every death we’ll strike a bomb on Megacorps.
Of course, it takes more than a manifesto to make a CD cyberpunk, and DSI provides the sound and lyrics to make it so:
Omegadrones. The opening track has Victor declaring his readiness for the impending battle (I, the evolved machine / I, the adamant who thinks / I will battle), and features a sample of a famous movie line (from a movie reviewed here). By the sounds of it, he may be a machine who has seen through the corporate lies and has decided to join the humans.
21st Century Slave. Consider the title track a warning about what is being done to the sheeple… and to you. They just tell you: Eat this shit / And the big amount of flocks / Just don’t care about this.
It’s Today. We’re trapped in a world / That still refuses technology / It’s better to keep slow / And please corporatocracy. Wake up, sheeple, if you want to change the world.
When I See You Smile. Perhaps a reason for the war against the corporatocracy, other than just revenge? I know I’m not alone and I can fall / Straight down / Into your arms to find the force / And rise up. Certainly would make my cyber-war easier to manage.
Digital Warriors. This was the first track I heard from the CD… and I LOVE IT! This could be the hacker’s anthem: We are the children of the zero and one.
Megacorps. They own the crown, and Victor is looking to take it from them. It’s war in the streets with flamethrowers, pump rifles, and bombs.
Criminal Intents. The hackers get another crack (no pun intended) at the corporate system as My criminal intents / Will break the mainframe spear / That’s killing all you dear.
Neuromantics. All the fighting would drive a person insane if they didn’t have a break. For Victor, it seems to come from a bit of VR: A new reality connects through my brain / But all in all that’s the way I need to cut my pain.
Outlaw Thrones. A bit of concern shows regarding what “hope” can deliver. It’s just a dream / It can’t change the world at all.
The World Machine. Death will come for the corrupt leaders, even if it means waiting it out.
It’s For You. Another reminder of what he is fighting for: Someone to make the future for. It’s for you that is worth to die.
Conclusion. Dope Stars may be following the same path taken by the likes of The Cassandra Complex and Billy Idol, they just don’t tread lightly on that path. With several EPs and two albums of practice, DSI has struck a major blow for cyberpunk music. This is one CD you need to have in your collection, especially if you prefer harder music.
Trans: Latin for “across” or “beyond.” Commonly used as a prefix, IE “transcontinental” or “transhuman.”
Track Listing: 1. Little Thing Called Love - 3:13 2. Computer Age - 5:24 3. We R In Control - 3:31 4. Transformer Man - 3:23 5. Computer Cowboy (AKA Syscrusher) - 4:13 6. Hold On To Your Love - 3:28 7. Sample and Hold - 5:09 (LP), 8:03 (CD) 8. Mr. Soul - 3:19 9. Like An Inca - 8:08 (LP), 9:46 (CD)
Mr. Shakey does cyberpunk? It would seem to be a stretch for Mr. Young to do cyberpunk music, but he did do a little dabbling with electronica and new wave for Trans. Then again, he has been known to try different genres (like grunge music with Mirrorball), and Trans was another musical experiment, one that left his fans scratching their heads in puzzlement. A legendary musician, known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and for songs like “Hey Hey, My My,” “Ohio,” and “Southern Man,” had suddenly adopted the radical, synthesized sound of the early eighties.
Another version of the truth: Trans actually came about as the result of one of his sons being born with cerebral palsy, leaving him unable to speak. Neil found that by using a vocorder, he was able to get the best response from his son. From this experiment, Neil would record Trans using electronics and a vocorder in several of the songs.
The result: An album that has not only classic sounding Neil Young, but a “futuristic” sound. It’s as if Neil was attempting to bridge two rock eras; The classic seventies and the new wave eighties. The album cover also drives that point home, featuring a street with a rustic fifties scene on one side and an ultra-modern scene across it.
Let’s see how the music stacks up, shall we?
Little Thing Called Love. Things start off normally enough for Neil Young fans, with a bouncy little number about… well… a little thing called love. Not much for cyberpunk fans to get excited about… not until the next track anyway…
A fan-made video expressing “the point that technology is taking over the way we run the world but we should question if that is a good or bad thing.”
This is the first track to feature electronics. A danceable bit about being at ease with the burgeoning new computer technologies (When I see the light, I know I’m more than just a number). Good stuff.
We R In Control.
Another fan-made video, this time for the quirky toe-tapper
As if a quirky video was needed for this quirky number, we seem to have robots proudly claiming to be in control of everything (We control the databanks / we control the think tanks / we control the TV sky / we control the FBI).
Transformer Man. This track is the most direct result of Neil’s experiments in communicating with his son. A touching and motivational number about taking control of your future (You run the show / Remote control / Direct the action with a push of the button) despite not having all the tools needed (So many things still left to do / but we haven’t made it yet).
Computer Cowboy (AKA Syscrusher). Something about this track really got my attention. It’s a rocking western tune with the vocorder in full effect, about a “computer cowboy” with a herd of “cattle” (a botnet?) who crashes another computer. Considering Trans was released a year and a half before Neuromancer and two decades before anyone ever heard of botnets, could Mr. Young have had the insight to make such predictions about botnets and the correlation between hackers and cowboys? Yippee Yi Ay, mofos!
Hold On To Your Love. Getting back to his more “traditional” sound, Mr. Young tells us not to give up on love despite the problems it may bring. This is the second “Love” song on the album, but there was going to be a third called If You Got Love and there are pics of how the label might have looked if the track was not dropped at the last second.
Sample and Hold. Imagine a dating service run by robots, for robots… and the occasional robo-sexual human who wants to go bot. Don’t hesitate to give us a call / We know you’ll be satisfied / When you energize/ And see your unit come alive.
Mr. Soul. Going back to his Buffalo Springfield days, Neil re-tools a classic rock number into a funky tune about a fan’s letter that says You’re strange, but don’t change. Kind of sums up Mr. Young.
Like An Inca. The final track returns to Neil’s “classic” sound as the lyrics gives an “apocalyptic” vision (Said the condor to the preying mantis / We’re gonna lose this place just like we lost Atlantis), yet he seems OK with it (I feel sad, but I feel happy / As I’m coming back to home).
Conclusion. With the electronic gear going on five of the nine tracks, and the technology-based lyrics to those tunes, I have to say Trans is a cyberpunk album. Unlike Billy Idol’s effort a decade later, Neil Young probably didn’t know he was making cyberpunk music since “the movement” was still underground at the time and Neuromancer was still eighteen months away.
If you’re a Neil Young fan who dissed this album when it first came out, you should give it another listen but with different ears this time around. Cyberpunk fans should hunt this CD down and add it to their collection next to Billy Idol’s CD. If you live in the US, be prepared to pay a bit of a premium for the CD. Geffen re-released it as a CD in 1998 worldwide, except for the US. So it’s considered an import. Plus it’s a rare album, making it a collector’s item. The lowest price I’ve seen on the net is $25 US, not including tax and shipping. I’d say it’s worth it, unless you want try a torrent.