So as I’ve stated recently, I was never much of a video game guy(or gal for that matter.) That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what goes into a great video game. I appreciate the art and imagination that goes into creating a totally immersive alternate reality in a video game like I appreciate what goes into making an incredible album I can get lost in. Or a novel or graphic novel. Or a film. None of them trump the importance of another. One of my best friends loves video games. He puts all his money into upgrading his PC so it can keep up with the new games that come out. I come over for some beers and I know I’ll be sitting for at least 45 minutes watching him go into some other world.
I’m not a player, but I am a voyeur. I enjoy watching.
So one of the aspects of video games that I’ve really grown to appreciate is the music. A couple months ago one of my other good friends approached me about helping him create soundtrack music. His inspiration was video games. That got us talking about video game composers and I told him about Disasterpeace. Disasterpeace, aka Rich Vreeland, works with game makers to create the aural worlds you hear when you play video games. He creates these worlds under what folks call chiptune. It’s 8-bit music, like stuff you would hear on old Atari, Commodore 64, and NES games back in the heyday of home gaming systems. That may sound sort of primitive, but what Vreeland does as Disasterpeace is anything but primitive sounding. If you’re not familiar with it, you need to check out his S/T for It Follows. It’s pretty amazing.
I’m not totally familiar with Disasterpeace’s entire catalog, but besides It Follows the other S/T I’m totally obsessed with is his score for the video game Fez. I first heard about Fez a couple of years ago while my wife and watched the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. It documents a couple independent video game makers trying to get their games made and then out into the market. Of the games and game makers that were featured, the most interesting to me was Fez, which was designed by Phil Fish. There was something so incredibly simple about the game. It looked like NES Super Mario Bros mixed with some sort of existential magic. It’s a puzzle game, but one that feels almost psychedelic in how it unfolds. That’s why the music had to be just right for it. Disasterpeace was the perfect fit, and without Vreeland’s score the game would not have been the same.
So why am I talking about this video game and its music? Because Polytron, the company that released Fez, recently put the Fez S/T out on double vinyl and I had to buy it. Why? Because it’s damn near perfect, that’s why.
I’m not going to go into specifics regarding pieces of music on this record, I’ll just describe it this way; imagine what it would sound like if Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Cliff Martinez, and John Carpenter were animated into some strange technicolor world. It would sound like Fez. There’s an airiness to the pieces, but they’re never too light. They sound like walking through ancient ruins one minute, then dangling your feet over the edge of the universe the next. It’s playful and childish, while the next piece feels like tiptoeing through fields of poppies with the Great Oz in the distance. To me personally, it can even be just plain overwhelming at times. It’s so perfectly constructed and arranged, I wouldn’t even need the game. Hell, I don’t have the game. Just the soundtrack. The game involves geometry, some literal and some inferred. The music is very geometric. Very much from shapes. Synthesizer waves and distorted clipping that sounds like climbing the digital walls of some zeros and ones-created Jericho.
What does that even mean? F**k if I know, just go with it.
This is the kind of music you listen to on long drives through the darkness to keep your mind from wandering too far from the steering wheel. It gives both everything and nothing at the same time. It’s all in what you want to offer. I listen to this album and I’m amazed. I think I’m probably the only one who is in my house. At work I play it before anyone gets in so I can bask in it. So I can get some kind of inner peace prior to the work day beating me down like the dog they think I am. I feel pretty safe in saying that if you own and love Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene or Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon then you will not only appreciate this record, you may even fall in love with it. Or at least lust for awhile till you get tired of each other, at which time you can part ways and meet up at your favorite place once a year for old time’s sake.
Listen, I think I’ve said enough. “Adventure”, “Puzzle”, “Death”, “Love”, and the absolutely beautiful and perfect “Continuum” get me right down in my innards. The 9-minute “Reflection” is transcendent. It really is. Fez would be the perfect score to some lost animated Michael Mann adaptation of Catcher In The Rye, or Hal Ashby directing a film adaptation of Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.
Not a video game kind of guy or gal? That’s okay, just give Disasterpeace’s Fez S/T a listen. Close your eyes, and float away for a bit.