Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Four Japanese Songs That I really like

Feeling inspired by my most recent Evangelion post, which pretty much just discussed a bunch of random songs that reminded me of Evangelion, here's a list of four Japanese songs that I really like.  A few on this list are from a youtube named Wayne Kim, who posts a lot of rare vinyl and stuff like that for other peoples' listening pleasure.  It's a very good channel and I suggest checking it out, as I won't get into depth about all of the great music that's on there.  However, that being said, here's fur Japanese songs that I really enjoy.  I hope you like them too.

1.  ユキとヒデ - 長い夜 (1967)- Nagai Yoru
I came across this song sometime last year when I stumbled upon Wayne Kim's youtube channel from a Walter Wanderley video that he had posted.  I clicked on this one randomly and really enjoyed it.  I think that what makes this song really unique is the feeling that accompanies it.  The upward tension of the chords in the A section really add a lot to the way the song moves, along with the bassline and vocal melodies, which also push the song along and give a lot of rhythmic pulse and variation.  The B section completely releases this tension in a very beautiful way.  However, beyond this, this song reminds me a lot of wintertime.  Perhaps it's just because that's when I was introduced to it, but I can't help but think of cold nights spent in marble-ornamented malls in Chicago when I hear this.  Japanese art has a greater focus on atmosphere and mood than American styles, so perhaps the reason that the feelings accompanying this piece are so strong.

2.  ユキとヒデ - 白い波 (1967)- Shiroi Nami
If I suggested, at all, the last song I wrote about to be the most thoughtful emotional experience on that album, then I surely hyperbolized my description.  This song, sung by Yuki and Hide, entitled Shiroi Nami or "White Waves," is definitely my favorite both from this album and from Wayne Kim's channel.  On a tangent, in Hayao Miyazaki's works, there are often extremely calming moments scattered throughout, called Ma.  I think that this is probably an auditory representation of such a thing.  It's musical escapism at its finest, meaning it doesn't just take you out of your surroundings.  It gives you something else, an entirely new feeling to experience.  By the time you finish the song, its beauty makes the three minutes feel worth it.  You haven't wasted anything by embarking into the world contained in this music's notes, because you've brought something equally valuable back with you.

3.  Takako Mamiya- 真夜中のジョーク - 間宮貴子
This is a kind of city funk song from the 80s by Takako Mamiya that I really like.  It's a pretty nice minor funk song with muzak kind of instrumentation, while still keeping the loud and melodic basslines accompanying most funk songs.  All the parts of this song blend very well together and are really well-composed.  The introduction goes well with the A section, which then blends flawlessly into the B and C sections later on.  And what is it with Japanese songs and phenomenal vocal melodies.  However, I shouldn't give them too much credit- we've had plenty of jazz and funk songs with great vocal melodies here in the states too!  Anyways, this song reminds me a lot of old malls or airports late at night- pretty much any public places where storefronts and places of business close before the atriums or places of gathering do.

4.  Joe Hisaishi- Illusion
While Joe Hisaishi is most known for his classical pieces and movie soundtracks, specifically those he did for Studio Ghibli, this is one of the pieces that he did for his solo career.  It's very jazzy, starting off with Joe playing an eerie and somnambulous piano solo, which eventually picks up into an intense orchestral arrangement.  This piece is hard to describe, but the swung notes in the melody, along with the somber chords give off a really cool, dark kind of jazz feel.  It's definitely worth checking out.

I hope you enjoyed these four Japanese songs.  I certainly did upon my first hearing and still cherish them to this day.  I'll put relevant links below.  Definitely check out Wayne Kim's channel, as it has a lot of great stuff on it.

Wayne Kim's Channel
Nagai Yoru
Shiroi Nami
真夜中のジョーク - 間宮貴子(Takako Mamiya)
Joe Hisaishi- Illusion

Reviews of 4 Evangelion-Sounding or Otherwise Eva-Related Songs

There are, for some reason, many songs that remind me of Neon Genesis Evangelion, even though they don't really have much implied relation to the series.  There are others that actually have a specific relation to Evangelion, either in the title or in the musical material.  Either way, here's 4 tracks that remind me of Evangelion and that I feel fit the mood and atmosphere of the series.

1.  『Drip Drop』- ◎◙◎ N.E.R.V. after hours ◎◙◎ 03:0
This song, obviously, reminds me of Neon Genesis Evangelion for reasons relating to the name.  However, there are also a lot of aspects of the song that remind me of the show.  For one, the lyrical part of this song is sampled from one of the songs from it.  I know that the song it's from is related to Evangelion somehow, but I've never actually heard it in the show or relating material.  I think it might be something like Everything You've Ever Dreamed, where it was planned for Evangelion, but never actually used.  Either that, or it's from the rebuilds, which I haven't seen.  In terms of atmosphere, this piece perfectly matches, and even expands upon some parts of Evangelion.  The watery soundscape and the compressed instrumentation really make me think of a rainy Neo-Tokyo or some place deep within N.E.R.V.  The name also brings to mind a great amount of imagery, making me imagine an empty N.E.R.V. Headquarters late at night, housing a plethora of secrets and mysteries deep below.  While this is probably my favorite of Drip Drop's works, he has a lot of other great material, especially his Mix4AMDiscs, which is pretty cool.

2.  Slime Girls- Yumemi
I know that Pedro Silva, the man behind the chiptune/rock act Slime Girls has been inspired by Evangelion at some point, considering the fact that he covered A Cruel Angel's Thesis on his Vacation Wasteland EP.  Before I'd even heard that album, I felt that this song was very similar to the feeling of Evangelion, even though there wasn't much to draw between the two.  The Evangelion soundtrack is mainly jazz and a few other styles of movie-soundtrack instrumental tunes.  The music of Slime Girls is mainly rock and chiptune-based, so there doesn't seem to be much crossover between the two styles.  However, the way the Yumemi is done makes the world feel dark and lonely, and yet with a small glimpse of hope, very much like Evangelion.  It feels like the kind of song that one would listen to when the end of the world is both around the corner, yet still preventable, a feeling that parallels that of Evangelion.

3.  Frankjavcee- Sweet Future Funky Stuff
This song is reminiscent of Evangelion for me simply because it actually samples A Cruel Angel's Thesis.  Along with that, the song also makes use of samples from Give It To Me Baby by Rick James and Another One Bites the Dust.  I think that what I liked most about the use of A Cruel Angel's Thesis in this song was how surprising and abrupt it was.  It sounds like just a normal future funk song, but then out of nowhere the Eva theme just pops in.  This reminded me a lot of the Slime Girls album, Vacation Wasteland, which I mentioned before.  In the album, there's a surprise Evangelion reference in a form of a medley cover kind of the thing.  It was pretty cool because if you hadn't expected it beforehand, or hadn't been looking at the titles, you would have been totally surprised.  It's kind of a way that, after the majority of the album has been played, the entire work could be contextualized in a different way.  Anyways, this song made me think a lot about that.  Once again, Frank's work stands out just as funny, surprising, and enjoyable as ever.

4.  Boards of Canada- Farewell Fire
I said in an earlier post that this is one of my favorite songs by Boards of Canada, a band that I'm not usually that fond of.  This is because, as I said earlier, it stands out to me as very different from the rest of their music.  While a lot of their other material seems paranoid and on the verge of a nuclear apocalypse reminiscent of the Cold War or the 1950s, a purposeful stylistic choice, it seems, Farewell Fire reminds me a lot of Evangelion.  This could be either the apocalyptic and depressive tone, or the haziness in the synthesizer, which reminds me a lot of the space scenes in the series and in the End of Evangelion.  It could be because of the drawn out notes of the melancholy chords, staying present even with their coming end just nearby.  Either way, this song definitely reminds me of Evangelion.

I hope that you liked my review of these four songs that remind me of evangelion.  I'll link to the artists below.  Let me know in the comments about any songs that you find relatable to Evangelion if you have any or if you want to discuss anything.

N.E.R.V. After Hours
Sweet Future Funky Stuff
Farewell Fire

Image Link

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review of Themes in Getsu Fuuma Den and Interesting Facts Part 1

Getsu Fuuma Den was a game published by Konami for the NES and Famicom in 1987.  Although the game never had a huge popularity, and remains rather obscure even today, it ended up influencing a lot of other games.  Castlevania II has noticeable and extreme similarities, along with the NES version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme, which even reused some of the sound effects.  The aspects that I find really amazing about this game, however, have to do with both its atmosphere and mood and its soundtrack.  Like many other Konami games during this era, the developers took no shortage in the sound effects department.  The soundtrack, while of course limited by the specifications of the time, is amazingly well-done, stylistic, and memorable.  This also ties into the atmosphere of the game.  While I've never actually played it, I definitely like the mood and atmosphere, as both were very coherent and well-stablished.  The art direction of this game also goes very well with the color palette of the early 8 bit consoles such as the Famicom and NES.  Anyway, back to the soundtrack.  I'll state some of my opinions and some interesting facts about the 15 tracks of music for the game.

01- Start
This is simply the sound that would play when you start up the game.  The chord is an F#7sus4 chord if you'd like to call it that, but it could be more easily considered an arpeggiation of the first, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth (an octave on top) scale degrees of an F# minor scale.  I think that this is the best bet, considering that this theme is repeated a lot throughout the soundtrack and often extended throughout the rest of the scale.

02- Storytellers
This song is definitely my favorite on the soundtrack.  I'm pretty sure that this would have been used as a kind of introductory song in the actual game.  It's a fairly simple song in A minor.  However, it's amazingly composed and written, especially for a video game of this age.  While a lot of other game soundtracks have the limitation of having to repeat over and over again during long stages, this song is rare and beautiful.  I'm glad that the developers at Konami decided to use up some of their midi data for such a temporary and fleeting song, even if it would only be heard once.  The counterpoint, the melody, the textures- especially at the end- are all amazing.  This is probably one of my favorite retro video game songs of all time if not definitely my favorite from Getsu Fuuma Den.

03- Opening
This isn't really a song, but rather another opening soon effect.  It's pretty cool, though, considering the fact that they were able to make a realistic (to some degree) sounding sword noise with explosions considering the technology they were working with.

04- Go! Getsu Fuuma
This is probably the most widely known of all the songs on the soundtrack, with the exception maybe of the final boss battle song.  This was the song that would play during the overworld menu.  I really like the melody of the whole thing and think that this is a great song.  This theme will be reiterated a few times later, I believe.  This song also sets the stage for the game's characteristic backing chord/bass pattern of a quarter and then two eighth notes, which will be repeated extensively throughout the other songs.

05- Small Shrine
This is one of the first songs to reuse the theme of the upwards arpeggiation in a minor scale.  The first 5 notes are the same as in the Start theme, but the arpeggiation is extended further up the scale.  The arpeggiation goes up and then down before going to a second chord and arpeggiating once again.  The instrumentation of this piece is divided into two parts.  First, there is the arpeggiating part on the top.  There's also a lower part which plays a cool bassline with interesting glissando kind of downbeat notes.  Overall, this is a cool song, which I'm sure would have been interesting and atmospheric during a smaller encounter in the game.

06- One Hundred Billion Light Years Beyond
This is probably the last song from this series that I'll write about, as this post is getting pretty long and I have a lot more songs from the OST to go through.  This song is pretty cool.  There aren't really too many discernible themes, but it definitely grooves well and would be fun to listen to in whatever context it might be used.

Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time.  The themes are all extremely atmospheric and go very well with the feeling of the game.  Anyway, I promised I'd share some fun facts about the game.  The skeletons that have bone whips in certain stages are named Shimon, which translated to gate of death in Japanese.  This is a reference to the name of the main character from Castlevania, Simon.  However, in Castlevania 3, the same whip skeleton is reused, but instead of labeling it as Shimon in the English manual, it is absurdly labeled, "the gates of death."  I hope you had a fun time reading this.  Thanks for taking the time.  Check back soon for part 2.

Soundtrack Playlist

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some of my Favorite Aphex Twin Tracks That I Think go Well Together

This isn't really a playlist per se, but there are a few Aphex Twin songs that, to me, feel a lot different from the others.  I find a great number of Aphex Twin's songs to be kind of depressing- and not just the ones that are dowtempo or sad.  There are a lot of very upbeat Aphex Twin songs that I find to be moody or depressing in their feeling.  I find that a lot of songs on Drukqs seem this way for me.  There are, however, ultimately a lot of his songs that I think go very well together and establish their own mood very well, one that is different from a lot of the other Aphex Twin Tracks.  Here's a list of some that feel this way to me.

Aphex Twin- IZ-US
This song is definitely one of my favorites from Aphex Twin.  While I think that Richard has better melodies on a lot of other songs, this is definitely still a good one.  It reminds me, as pretty much all these songs do of a trip to England that the school band took last year.  I listened to this song a lot on the bus, so it reminds me of the cold, wet, and bustling streets of London.

User18081971- 35 Japan
This song from his soundcloud is a bit different from the others in that I don't really have incredibly strong memories of it to relate it to the rest of the songs on this list.  However, it does kind of remind me of them.  I feel like this could be a boss theme from a video game or something.

AFX- i'm self employed
I remember on that same London trip that I talked about earlier, I annoyed my roommate by playing this song really loudly all the time.  I like this one a lot.  It has a very nice melody, which is just slightly out of tune, adding just a bit of tension into the mix.

Aphex Twin- Bucephalus Bouncing Ball
This song is pretty cool, especially the strange bouncing ball effect which eventually becomes a percussive part.  The main melody that comes in later makes me very happy too.  This song reminds me of a time when I had to go to a doctor in Chicago for a leg problem and listened to it on the car ride there.

Aphex Twin/AFX- 34 ibiza spliff
This is probably my favorite Aphex Twin song of all time.  It's also probably one of the most relaxing songs I've ever listened to.  A lot of people get a warmer feel from this song, but I think it's pretty icy, but not in a cold kind of way.  A lot of people also believe that this comes from the I Care Because You Do era of songs.  Honesty though, I think that the percussion and synth sounds are much more similar to the style of the songs on Come to Daddy.  Overall, I really cherish the place this song holds in my heart.  It reminds me of relaxing Winters.

All in all, all of these songs are very special to me and really stand out from the rest of Aphex Twin's works.  If you have any suggestions for Aphex Twin songs or any other songs that feel this way, please leave a comment and let me know!

Side Note: Two other songs that aren't by Aphex Twin, but, in my opinion, feel similar to these are Farewell Fire by Boards of Canada and Day of Reflection by Disasterpeace.