Illuminating the Musical Journey of Lumines
Q Entertainment takes us behind the music selection for Lumines Electronic Symphony with insight from producers and artists, including Amon Tobin and Howard Jones.
[Editor's Note: With Lumines Electronic Symphony on store shelves, Q Entertainment's James Mielke took some time to not only give some insight into the song selection behind the game, but also conduct interviews with some of the artists involved.]
Now that Lumines Electronic Symphony is well and truly out there, I thought now would be a good time to dive into our musical selections for the game, and the reasoning behind these choices. While I played many roles in the formation of what became Lumines Electronic Symphony, the part I enjoyed the most was my role as musical curator. This meant that I was responsible for the music selection in the game and for communicating my vision to our development team. The songs would then dictate the visuals; the playlist would then be sequenced in a very specific order (which the director did a great job of, I think); and the result would be (hopefully) a smooth, interesting, and enjoyable journey.
Joining us in this exposé of Lumines' soundtrack are some of its featured artists who have taken time out of their schedules to offer insights into the songs we selected, as well as some of their views on gaming.
Interviews and Insight with:
Insight Into Other Songs
A true sonic innovator, Amon Tobin’s formidable catalogue is filled with more audio experimentation than you can shake an Akai MPC-3000 at. Having built a reputation on the quality of his concept albums instead of his club classics, Amon Tobin’s latest ISAM world tour showcases an electronic genius at the height of his powers, presenting a stunning audio and visual spectacular whose visuals match the audacity of his sonic experiments. Again, despite the depth of his more beat-driven back catalogue, we actually selected his ambient, haunting track "Wooden Toy" to represent the Lumines playlist. What’s amazing is that the gorgeous female vocal is actually his--gender-modified to sound like a woman. We didn’t call him an innovator for nothing!
James Mielke: Many thanks for taking the time to respond to these questions, and also for letting us use your song "Wooden Toy" in our game. As a big fan of your music, I was thrilled to go through your entire catalogue of music in my quest to find the right song for the game. Can you share the inspiration and meaning behind the song with us?
Amon Tobin: Most of my music is a bi-product of my trying to learn new things. This track came about as I was exploring the idea of creating a virtual singer. I made the voice from pieces of my own voice gender-modified and adjusted in various ways to make a female character that could sing the song.
JM: One of the reasons I love this track is because it contrasts so nicely to your more percussive work, but also because it creates a beautiful, aural space within the song itself. It's really a detailed audio experience, and I thought that quality would translate well and provide contrast within the game. Of all the songs you've composed, would you have ever imagined that this would be the one a game developer like us would select?
AT: This is probably the last song I'd imagine ending up in a game. It's dusty and warm, not at all electronic sounding despite being completely electronic. I think it's great that you used it in such an unusual way.
JM: You're one of the rare electronic music composers who has done significant work in the videogame soundtrack field, with Splinter Cell. Do you enjoy video games, personally, and how do you view it as an avenue for your music? How do you approach creating game music versus something for one of your non-game-related albums?
AT: I don't get the time to play as much as I used to, which is a shame, but I still do from time to time. With regards to music I approach it as a technical challenge to subtly enhance a given mood or narrative. It's important to understand scored music in a game has a role as a small piece of a larger context. So it's very different to making an album in that way.
JM: Your music is so evocative, and your albums so conceptual, I could easily imagine your music being even more integral, from front to back, in a game than just contributing as a soundtrack. Like, ISAM, in some ways, could be reinterpreted as a game. Does this sort of multimedia application or gaming experience interest you?
AT: It's an interesting idea. I think there is room for exploring a further unification of a game experience and a musical one. Both are open-ended in many ways and could determine each other’s course within an interactive narrative.
JM: Will you be releasing your ISAM tour on Blu-Ray for fans who couldn’t get to your shows in person?
AT: There are some very real technical challenges in filming projected visuals in high definition. We will release a DVD, but likely no point in it being Blu-Ray for that reason.
Possessed of one of the most signature sounds in modern electronic music, Benny Benassi brings an instantly identifiable electro touch to Lumines Electronic Symphony. This track--the lead-off song from his recent Electroman album--brings together all of Benassi’s signature traits in one song, grinding digital machine rhythms, Speak-N-Spell style vocals, and a minimal lyrical approach. The electro master himself shares a few thoughts:
James Mielke: We've included your song "Good Girl" in Lumines because we love your powerful electronic sound and think you're an electro pioneer. How do you feel about your music being in a videogame? Are you looking forward to playing it?
Benny Benassi: Thanks for the compliments and the support! We are really happy that the track is in the video game. The music and the game are both forms of electronic entertainment, so it makes sense, for sure. And yes, we’re looking forward to trying out the game!
JM: On one level, "Good Girl's" lyrics sound like something you'd say to man's best friend, but on another level it offers dominatrix-style undertones. What's the real truth behind "Good Girl?"
BB: The lyrics are an invention by Alle, and yes, you got it exactly! It’s just a man talking to his dog--man’s best friend--but you can read whatever you want into it, according to taste!
JM: With Sony's new PlayStation Vita coming out, are you excited to get your music in front of millions of gamers who may discover your music for the first time?
BB: This is one of the amazing "side effects" of this kind of exploitation of our music. It’s a way to reach people who don’t normally go to clubs or listen to club music. It’s really exciting.
Since their showing at Sony Europe’s memorable 2000 ECTS event, Faithless was forever known as being gamer-friendly. One of the biggest dance acts of the last 15 years, Faithless was known not only for its amazing, club-dominant hit singles ("Insomnia", "We Come 1", "God Is A DJ"), but also for the fact that the duo actually created proper albums, and toured with a full live band. You may be surprised to discover, then, that the Faithless track we selected for Lumines is in fact one of its quietest songs ever. Discussing our selection is Faithless’ sonic architect, Sister Bliss.
James Mielke: How do you feel about having your music--as Faithless or otherwise--used in a video game? What's your reaction to us having selected "Flyin' Hi" for the game? I'm pretty sure I've heard some Faithless tracks in some other games, but they were usually the club hits.
Sister Bliss: I'm really pleased when people choose our tracks to use in games. As there is so much music out there to choose from, it’s always gratifying when Faithless is used in a creative way which takes the music beyond the album or live show in which people would usually experience Faithless' music.
It's also exciting when there's a great synergy between image and music. I think our music has a very "filmic" quality which is well suited to the gaming arena, which is so sophisticated and other-worldly these days. I'm especially pleased that "Flyin' Hi" was chosen, which was not a single, and a very quiet, still song at that!
It was a stunning moment during our recent live shows--which you can see on our new forthcoming live DVD of our last ever Brixton show, released 19th March--and has such beautiful lyrics which describe man and machine hitting an optimal speed, becoming as one, and "transcending our physical boundaries", which I think can also describe the sensation of being lost in a game experience.
It’s always interesting when people go for the less obvious selection, and it indicates to me that people do still listen to albums and a lot of thought has gone into the choice--as much thought as we put into our albums. It's so great to be part of something with integrity!
JM: As "Flyin' Hi" is from the final Faithless album, The Dance, do you think this is a good way to expose the gentler side of the Faithless oeuvre, as most people will already be familiar with the banging club hits?
SB:: Yes absolutely, especially as fewer music fans invest in albums these days! It is a great way to expose another facet of our music, which may surprise people who are only familiar with the clubbier tracks, or who only ever download the singles they have heard on the radio.
JM: I was fortunate enough to see Faithless play live at a PlayStation party at ECTS in 2000 for what I believe was the PlayStation 2 launch in the UK. Now your music will be an integral component for a launch title of the PlayStation Vita. This may be a bit of a stretch, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems as if Faithless has always been friendly towards gamer culture. Is that because the gamer demographic often--at least in Europe--crosses over into club culture?
SB:: That PlayStation party was indeed awesome. Maxi particularly loves PlayStation driving games, so we were all really chuffed to be asked. We were a self-funded fledgling band on an independent label at the time, so it was a very good show to play as the audience invited were from the global team, and we wanted our music to reach as many people as possible. Indeed, Maxi's opening lines on our first album "Reverence" were: "I make no apology for linking my thinking with computer technology!" So we felt our message of connection and community worked just as well in this context, as on the dancefloors of clubs, raves or festivals.
I think there is a natural fit with a tech savvy audience for whom electronic music and gaming go hand-in-hand. There is the visual, almost hallucinatory quality of many games for which you need otherworldly sounds which traditional pop/rock n’ roll would seem at odds with. Also the competitive nature of many games works well with the pace and adrenalin rush of dance music.
JM: With Faithless' Passing The Baton concert out on DVD now, I'm guessing this marks your segue into full-time DJing and music production. Faithless, however, usually hosted a full-on band in live shows. Will you miss the group feeling, or will it be a nice break for now?
SB:: I am in the middle of a brand-new musical project with [Faithless co-hort] Rollo, which is very exciting. I have been DJing the new tracks out, which is always nervewracking, and so far the response has been great and the artists we are collaborating with have been amazing.
This year will see me re-establish myself at the top of my game as a DJ. Faithless commitments meant my DJing often had to take a back seat, so now it’s great to have the time to be able to play all the shows I wasn't able to before and to give the new music space to develop.
But we are hoping in the long term that we will be in a position to tour our new project in a live capacity, as there is something very special about going beyond the limitations of just playing a solo DJ set. And I already have that invaluable experience of taking a studio project and creating a live band--and a globally successful one at that.
JM: Lastly, one of my favorite tracks of yours is actually "Deliver Me," which you did with the late, great John Martyn. Of all the great musicians you've worked with during your career, where would you rate this collaboration?
SB:: It was amazing to work with John Martyn. I grew up listening to "Solid Air," which I'm sure has influenced our mellower moments as a band, and I never thought he would even respond to our email, let alone say he would love to work with us.
He was a very interesting character, and his folky roots actually belied the fact he spent a lot of time in Jamaica, hanging out at [Island Records founder] Chris Blackwell's place with innovators. He was into unusual recording techniques, electronic music, dub and reggae too, so it was so great to find out he was open to our world of loops and samples, and not dismissive of them as one might expect.
Enormously popular in the 80s, with hits like "New Song", "Things Can Only Get Better," "No One Is To Blame," and "Everlasting Love"--spiky-haired Howard Jones kept a lower profile in the 90s before surging back as an even more adventurous electronic musician in the 2000s (with collaborators Robbie Bronnimann and Ferry Corsten, among others). Despite the wealth of electronic standouts from his early albums ("Equality" and "Pearl In The Shell" come to mind), we plucked the sumptuous "Celebrate Our Love" from his 2005 album Revolution Of The Heart for Lumines Electronic Symphony. We discussed our choice with Howard and the song’s producer, Robbie Bronnimann.
James Mielke: You first burst on the electronic music scene in 1983 with "New Song" and Human's Lib. I remember it well. I was there. It was one of my first records. It was an uplifting, exuberant slice of electronic pop that still gives me the chills to listen to. But in recent years you've worked with artists like Ferry Corsten on "Into The Dark" and Robbie Bronnimann on your "Revolution Of The Heart" album, working in deep house territory. How would you define your music in the scope of the electronic genre?
Howard Jones: I love electronic instruments, and the quest for new sounds and sound landscapes. I also love harmony and melody and groove. The combination of these, in the format of a deconstructed pop song, are what gets me excited and has lead me to do my electronic work.
JM: What do you attribute your longevity to? Most of your peers from the 80s and 90s have mostly disbanded and ceased to create new music, although some exceptions certainly apply. Not only do you keep making new music, but you keep making good new music. Where do the melodies keep coming from?
HJ: I still love to create new work and I have a passion for communicating ideas through music. I think melody is something that I have inherited from my Welsh parents who sang at home when I was young. I have found that I am attracted to more dissonant harmony as I get older, which is manifest in the choral pieces I have been composing recently. I plan to start new electronic work in March.
JM: I don't know if any of your songs have ever been used in a videogame before, but if this is one of the first times one of your songs has been used in-game, what's your reaction? Do you think of it as a neat way to expose a whole new audience to your music? Do you think "Celebrate Our Love" is a good introduction to people who may not be familiar with your work?
HJ: I think a few pieces have been used in games before but nothing from the Revolution of the Heart album. I am very pleased that you see quality music as a priority in the gaming experience. I love all the tracks on ROTH and I think "Celebrate" is a great introduction to the album.
JM: Your evolution as an artist from pop maestro to house music maestro seems like a natural progression, considering how well you know your way around a keyboard. But on your current tour, you're performing your first two, recently remastered albums in their entirety. What was your inspiration for revisiting Human's Lib and Dream Into Action? Was it to take a break from the dance scene and get back to basics, or did nostalgia play a bigger part?
HJ: I responded to requests from fans to play the first two albums live. It coincided with legal access to the multi-track tapes, which enabled us to meticulously re-create my first two albums. Many of the tracks had not been performed live before and the technology was not available back in the 80's to do the tracks justice on stage. The challenge has been to use new technology to recreate the albums in their full glory.
JM: Did you ever personally play videogames during the 80s arcade craze? What are your thoughts on games in general, and whether game music is anything you'd be interested in composing? As an example of how sophisticated music-based games can be, Q's own game Child of Eden centers around the music experience.As someone who seems very tech savvy, you seem like you'd be perfect in a project like this.
HJ: I was a big Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaxians, fan and then bought a Defender machine. Unfortunately I ended up playing it so much I had to give it away so that I could get on with some music! I also enjoyed the problem solving games like Myst. I am interested in all new ways of interacting with music.
JM: Robbie, seeing you play with Howard Jones on his current tour is really cool. But you've been working with him since 2005 or so on his album Revolution Of The Heart. What is it like working with him, and were there any challenges getting the "classic" Howard Jones to transform into the updated, progressive-house Howard Jones?
Robbie Bronnimann: I never see it as "updating" as basically Howard brings to the table his [pop music] background and skills, which we then fused with the things I am into and have come from, and the two had a great synergy together in a very easy way.
JM: How did you two end up working together? Obviously there's a chemistry there as you've now been collaborating for over seven years. How do you complement each other?
RB: Howard has the songwriting experience and great playing [skills] from honing that for so many years, and in recent years he has kept an active interest in music technology, but not in the same gung-ho, hands-on way that I have. He likes to get instant vibey results, and I am happy to work for hours on one little intricate aspect. He also loves to spend a long time working on his vocals, whereas I love to work on the programming and mixing side more.
JM: We put the song "Celebrate Your Love" in our game, Lumines Electronic Symphony. Having heard a lot of your solo music, I can see where your contribution lies. But can you tell us a little bit more of how that song was composed?
RB: The idea for that song was that we would use Howard's Steinway Grand D for the basis of a lot of the sounds. We recorded loads of piano stuff and I then chopped it up and treated it all in different ways for percussion and bass, as well as straight-ahead piano stuff. We always find that if we start an album or track with a specific set of parameters, it's a great way to focus direction
JM: Having re-listened to his Human's Lib album, not only can I really hear the details that previous CD versions failed to expose, but seeing him perform the album live really reminds me of how many amazing keyboard sounds are on that album. What do you think it is about the quality of that album that makes it still sound so exciting today?
RB: It was a great combination of people on that record with the more experimental background of producer Rupert Hine and interesting mixing of Stephen W. Tayler coming together with Howard's songwriting and synth sensibilities. There was lots of stuff being done with primitive samplers, etc., that were progressive for the time and still sound fresh now.
JM: Your own work as a producer has found you remixing some of the dance world's biggest artists (Chicane, Ferry Corsten). Which do you prefer to do: Remix other people's work, or compose your own music? What are the things you like best about each?
RB: Remixing gives you the ability to mould someone’s existing vision for a track into another direction, which is a great challenge so as to bring out the best elements of the original whilst stamping your sonics on it. Original writing is a total blank canvass which can be exhilarating and at times daunting to make those first initial steps to birth an idea or have the perseverance and faith to see it through to the absolute conclusion.
JM: You've told me you own a PlayStation 3, so I'll assume you enjoy videogames at least on occasion. How would you describe your gamer level? Hardcore, casual, in between? And what sort of things do you enjoy playing?
RB: I am a casual gamer who likes to dip in from time to time; however my partner singer Shaz Sparks is a ferocious gamer who can master games very quickly. My all-time favorite game, which I spent far too many hours on, was the classic PlayStation game Wipeout, which probably un-coincidently also had a great soundtrack.
JM: As an artist capable of composing and creating your own awesome music, as a collaborator who works well with others, and as someone into technology in general, would you be interested in working specifically on sound and music for games, and if so, what sort of possibilities are you interested in exploring?
RB: As a sometime-film composer as well, I love the marriage of bespoke music and sound to visuals. The idea of contributing the mood and atmosphere to a great game concept from the ground up is a really exciting one as I am sure the process has many facets to it that are different and challenging to doing filmscore work. I am just as at home doing atmospheric ambient work as well as the more intricate beat driven electronics, so something that takes in both loves.
JM: Who are your favorite musical heroes or influences, and why?
RB: Trevor Horn for his amazing ear for production and that big, big sound. Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel for their emotional songwriting and fusion of technology in every era they have recorded in. Bjork, for her absolute drive to explore the totally ‘out there’ concepts of sound and production in a song structure format. B.T. and Amon Tobin for creating beautiful music with amazing detail and benchmark programming skills. Imogen Heap for following on the legacy of greats like Kate Bush, but into a new era of sonic exploration & technical ability. Steve Reich for the beauty of repetitive building textures from simple building blocks. Film composers like Craig Armstrong who create great works of beauty. And finally, Underworld, for making intelligent dance music sometimes of amazing beauty. Jumbo is my all-time favourite electronic track.
JM: For people looking to explore more of your own musical works, where should they start, and do you have anything new coming on the horizon?
RB: I am on Twitter at robbiebronnimann and Facebook, and am currently working on my first solo album which takes in all my loves musically. I am working on a simple website that I hope to have live soon.
Having maintained the tempo in the game with songs like "4 AM" and "In My Arms", we felt it was time to spice things up with a proper, banging club track--while maintaining an element of the warmth that preceded it. Cue Ken Ishii, with whom Q has enjoyed a long working relationship with--Ken’s tracks grace both the Rez and Lumines II soundtracks. Although his albums have evolved with the times, the purity of his particular brand of techno remains vintage Ken Ishii. It’s like Japan as filtered through old-school Detroit techno. He also happens to be the sole Japanese representative (besides the original tracks we composed) in LES, so his presence is even more notable for it. "Sunriser," the title track of his recent album, as remixed by fellow Japanese electronic musician, Publicmind, adds a shimmering techno veneer to our electronic symphony.
James Mielke: You have so so many great songs, but we chose "Sunriser" (Publicmind Remix) to represent your more recent works. Do you feel this was a good choice, and more specifically how do you feel about this particular remix? We felt it had a pulsating, propulsive feeling.
Ken Ishii: Yes it was. It's a title track of my last album Sunriser. This means the track represents the whole musical character of this album. Also this remix by Publicmind, who's a cool upcoming artist/engineer from Japan as well as a good friend of mine, did uplift the elements of the original version in a great way. Good choice!
JM: Listening to your music now, after having listened to it for the past 15 years, the consistency of your sound and its purity feels more significant now than ever before. To me it feels like Detroit style techno, but with a clean, immaculately pristine sound that is at once very Japanese in the classical sense. What are your musical principles and how do you maintain such a signature sound in the face of the ever-changing trends of modern dance music?
KI: I want my music to be one and only--subtle in programming; sometime energetic and sometime weird. Since I set up my own label to release my music in 2002, I have stopped following the trends in dance music. When I DJ, I keep spinning techno and when I produce, I make techno! However, to me, techno is not just a kind of harder beat-oriented stuff, but it's quite idea based music that can be realized with electronic sounds. This is more like a spirit to me, like, "you can do whatever you want with techno even if you are alone." I got it from early Detroit techno over twenty years ago and I still keep it in mind.
JM: Because of the purity of your musical vision, your older songs still sound as current as your new tracks. If you were able to choose for yourself an older song to use in a videogame, what would it be? Something like "Extra" or "Overlap"?
KI: Both would cool since these tracks upgraded myself in the music scene in the mid '90's. Maybe "Extra" is the most known track from me and would work, but otherwise "Sleeping Madness" from the same titled album released in '99. I have lots of memories from the period I was making that album…
JM: With game systems so much more sophisticated now than they were 10 years ago, and with you being very tech-friendly in your career, can you imagine creating music for a more Ken Ishii-specific interactive experience?
KI: Yes, I know the speed of progression of game technology! I want to do something for [the Displair touch system -- which projects a manipulable 3D hologram].
JM: You're a huge fan of wrestling, and I am guessing things like UFC and MMA. In fact, your track "The Axe Murderer" is about one of your favorite wrestlers. Can you tell us the craziest piece of wrestling goods you've ever bought, or something you've done in relation to your enthusiasm for wrestling?
KI: Well, "The Axe Murderer" is a nickname of one of my most favorite MMA fighters in the history, Wanderlei Silva, and this track of mine is dedicated to him and his biggest weapon, his deadly knees! Actually, a funny thing happened years ago: This Brazilian fighter and me did an interview together for a Japanese fashion magazine! What a unrealistic combination, but I was happy like a kid to do it! He said he liked techno and went out for clubbing sometimes, and even asked me to produce his theme track! It didn't happen for some reason, but it was such a great experience as a serious MMA fan.
JM: Having seen you DJ live multiple times I can say that the raw energy is electrifying. The crowd is always going nuts, but people who only hear your mixes on Soundcloud, for example, might not realize how into it the crowd gets. Will you ever release a live recording that also features the audio of the crowd? Something that feels like you're actually at WOMB or Ageha?
KI: You are right. The frenzy is just what you can see in clubs. Especially in those clubs in Tokyo like Air, Ageha and WOMB, you can see magic! It's a good idea to record the crowd ambience to add on a live DJ mix itself. I think a video also would work to taste the atmosphere, but anyway, you need to be there to feel the real stuff! Come to clubs!
Song: "Autumn Love" Link: http://www.scsi-9.com/
A dance music duo hailing from Russia, which is not generally known for its electronica, SCSI-9 supply one of the warmest, most lush-sounding tracks in Lumines Electronic Symphony. "Autumn Love" boasts a bouncy bassline, a percussive rhythm, a lavish, moonlit string section, and some spare, highly synthetic flourishes. It was a real pleasure to discover this duo while researching the music for LES, and the discovery was no less surprising to members of the group themselves, as you can see from their responses to our questions.
James Mielke: Is this your first time a song of yours has been licensed into a videogame? If so, do you also play videogames, and how does it feel to have your song "Autumn Love" included?
SCSI-9: So far we know about it only by email, so it stays a bit abstract right now. But, at some point people we know will play the game and go "Huh--This is SCSI-9!" They will probably call us and that's where the fun begins. But, seriously, this is great news. Videogames have developed into a really powerful dimension of graphics, production, SFX and music as well. This is the first time we licensed a tune for a game, so we are quite happy.
JM: Is "Autumn Love" a good example of the SCSI-9 sound? Where is a good place to start for people who want to learn more about your music?
SCSI-9: We are more than 10 years in the electronic circus now and no artist can stay the same all the time. We have more than 100 Tracks that we have published now and among them there is very different stuff. Besides the album Line Of Nine from which "Autumn Love" has been taken, there is also our early stuff released on German labels like Trapez, Force Tracks and Freizeitglauben, which I would mention as a good start to tune in. And of course don't miss our new album Metamorphosis, which is to be released in March 2012.
JM: Your song is included along with groups like Faithless, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, The Art of Noise, Goldfrapp, and more. Do you think this is a cool way to expose your music to a new international audience?
SCSI-9: Exactly. Today the flood of music is so immense that you will appreciate any opportunity to promote your music. We rarely get international airplay on TV or radio so it's great that Lumines can give us a lift to somebody's mind.
JM: We were actually surprised to discover such lush, melodic electronic music originating from Russia. Is there a big electronic music scene in Russia?
SCSI-9: Of course, it is not as big as in UK or Germany, where it is now a huge and important part of the musical culture and also has really deep roots. We also don't have magazines nor TV or radio channels dedicated to electronica. But, while this music is still more or less underground, we do have very cool clubs, which book all them great heroes of techno, house and trance. And of course that generation which has been teenage in the '90s is still there and still loves that electronic sound. Also, it gets easier to produce at home and to connect to the world wherever you are. Thus, here in Russia, there are more and more young talented producers coming up.
JM: What are some of your musical inspirations and musical heroes?
SCSI-9: Matthew Herbert, Mike Ink, Underworld and old German trance--just to name a few electronic artists. But also such great bands like The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Police, and Depeche Mode.
Genres don’t exist in the world of The Go! Team (AKA main songwriter and studio boffin, Ian Parton), not when samples collide with dueling drum kits, Bollywood arrangements, Double Dutch rhymes, and all-around armed audio warfare. Seeing The Go! Team live in concert belies any suggestion that its albums are electronic constructions, but most of the albums are meticulously crafted in the studio piece by piece before the touring band takes them out on the road. Ian Parton himself walks us through our selection of the rip-roaring "Apollo Throwdown."
James Mielke: We're big fans of The Go! Team, obviously, and although your music may not seem as typically "electronic" as a band like, say, Kraftwerk, your combination of garage style rock and sampled sound collage strikes us as very electronic. How would you respond to this sort of assessment?
Ian Parton: There are lots of different sides to The Go! Team--one of them is definitely electronic, but i'm more interested in how keyboards were used on things like old public information films and TV themes for schools, rather than Techno or drum and bass. I never really thought of us as a dance band--the sampler was a way to make a collage of sounds and slam unexpected stuff next to each other. I've always wanted us to have an analog rather than digital feel.
JM: We included your song "Apollo Throwdown" in our game, because it has an incredibly uplifting atmosphere, a great beat, and a funky rap. It's actually quite a standout in the game's soundtrack as a result. How do you feel about our selection of this song for the game, and what's the inspiration of the song?
IP: I wanted to make Apollo Throwdown a kind of warped, space-age, old school hip hop song. It's quite strange and unmistakably The Go! Team i think. There are girl gangs, a strange flute through a delay pedal, and even a Bollywood string section even going on….
JM: We put "Bottle Rocket" in the last proper Lumines game. Are you excited to introduce your music to a whole new generation of gamers in Lumines Electronic Symphony? We are!
IP: Yes, I always like it when Go! Team music is used on creative stuff and the Lumines game looks real nice. It’s cool when you're introducing yourself to a bunch of people who might never have heard you otherwise.
Artist: Deep Dish with Everything But The Girl
Song: "Future Of The Future (Stay Gold)"
This song came out around the same time as Stardust’s "The Music Sounds Better With You" and Daft Punk’s "One More Time," but it isn’t as immediately catchy as either of those two songs, which is precisely the song has aged like fine wine. The lead-off track for LES’s Voyage mode, "Future Of The Future (Stay Gold)" is the perfect song to begin the album because of its sublime, spine-tingling choral melody, and its gradually-evolving musical complexity. This song is meant to be the complementary sunrise to the original Lumines’s star-filled evening, and needed to be as imminently relistenable as "Shinin'" from the original game. Having mixed this song into my DJ sets for over 10 years, I think it does the trick.
LFO (which stands for low-frequency oscillation, and not the other LFO, Lyte Funky Ones) is a British band that was at the forefront of the acid house era of the early '90s--responsible for club hits like "We Are Back" and "Tan Ta Ra." Founder Mark Bell also produced, among other things, Bjork’s album Homogenic. Despite this legacy, we chose LFO’s song "Moistly" from its 2003 album Sheath, for its delicate minimalism, to provide an intriguing aural rest stop in the game’s Voyage mode.
Song: "4 AM"
One of the most significant songs in LES, Kaskade’s "4 AM" is the song around which the game was built. Through the game’s many conceptual phases, "4 AM" was the one constant and frequently considered for the lead-off spot in the Voyage mode, as it satisfied all of the same criteria that we chose "Future Of The Future" for. But, ultimately, we felt that "4 AM" had greater impact, emerging slightly deeper in the tracklist and, upon repeated playthroughs, would be a real destination point for players. "I can’t wait until "4 AM"!" will be the thought on many player’s minds if we did our jobs right. With a melodic, gossamer vocal performance, and a light, percolating beat, "4 AM" is one of LES’s aural highlights.
Song: "In My Arms"
To continue the warm, human theme of "4 AM" we enlisted the song "In My Arms" by Scottish DJ/producer, Mylo--perhaps best known for his club hit, "Drop The Pressure." A mash-up of an '80s style rhythm track, and elements of Kim Carne’s "Bette Davis Eyes" and Boy Meets Girl’s "Waiting For A Star To Fall," "In My Arms" is at once minimal and yet irresistibly catchy at the same time. One of LES’ most romantic entries.
Artist: The Chemical Brothers
Song: "Hey Boy Hey Girl"
Bringing the tempo down just a touch, but adding just as much intensity is the Chemical Brothers' storming club hit, "Hey Boy Hey Girl." Possessed of the block rocking beats that have become the brothers' hallmark, this is the song we used for the first unveiling of LES. Instantly recognizable even to people who don’t regularly follow club music, "Hey Boy Hey Girl" takes the baton from "Sunriser" and rides off into the sunset, matching the intensity of game’s pace. Installed as one of the major milestones in the Voyage mode experience, this is the first of two Chemical Brothers tracks licensed for the game. They’re the only artist who appears twice in the game.
Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Song: "Disco Infiltrator"
One of the rare dance bands whose sound transcends genre, LCD Soundsystem's unique blend of cowbells, thumping bass, DIY, lo-tech instrumentation, snappy drum machines, and hysterical, near-drunken vocals is at home in iPods around the world--whether you’re trendy, indie, punk, or none of the above. "Disco Infiltrator" is a no-holds-barred party anthem with uber street cred, and so arrives just in time in the LES Voyage playlist to keep things from getting too serious.
Artist: Pet Shop Boys
Song: "Yesterday When I Was Mad" (Jam & Spoon Mix)
Not only is this one of the best Pet Shop Boys songs in its vast catalogue, this is also one of the best remixes of a Pet Shop Boys song, as done by the inimitable Jam & Spoon. Trance music’s popularity had led to a lot of bad trance music (as with any genre), but when it’s done right it can be very powerful, as evidence by this amazing trance remix that complements the original song’s emotional gravitas beautifully. People don’t often consider the electronic pop music we’ve loved growing up, but it shouldn’t be forgotten.
Artist: Aphex Twin
And just when you thought the game was veering towards the sugary confections of pure electronic pop music, we arrive at the electronic palette-cleanser of the weird: The Aphex Twin’s groundbreaking track, "Windowlicker." When we first announced the full tracklist of the game, many people hoped that we didn’t plan to use the "Windowlicker" video in the background (like in Lumines II), with its Chris Cunningham-directed grimacing prostitutes (complete with Richard D. James faces). I’m happy to say that no, we are not using the video as the backdrop for the "Windowlicker" skin (or any skin for that matter), and yet, even without those notable visuals the song brings enough electronic weirdness to the Voyage experience to last a lifetime. Distorted vocals, echoing bass, bleeps, zaps, a cracking snare drum, and bucketloads of effects, this track sounds like an Art Of Noise song on a nightmarish acid trip.
Artist: Mark Ronson & The Business Intl
Song: "Bang Bang Bang"
Mark Ronson--the socialite, musical royalty, and super producer--you might not think of him as a purely electronic artist, but you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with our selection of "Bang, Bang, Bang," an unabashed, early '80s styled mash-up bringing together Ronson’s swirling synth stabs with MNDR’s layered Go-Go’s’esque New Wave vocals and Q-Tip’s old-school rap. "Bang, Bang, Bang" is a refreshing splash of cold water to pull people out of the trance cast by Windowlicker’s web of weirdness.
Artist: Safri Duo
Song: "Played-A-Live" (The Bongo Song)
Classically-trained, the Safri Duo spent many years in the realm of classical music before stretching out and applying their formidable skills to this unexpected hybrid of tribal percussion, orchestral arrangements, and soaring trance grooves. As with any song that becomes as popular as "Played-A-Live" accusations of "cheesiness" arise, but having personally witnessed this song in action in clubs at 4am in Tokyo, I can attest to the track’s irresistible ability to get people out of their seats and into the fray, hands in the air. Every game needs a soaring emotional high point, and the Safri Duo’s track is just that for LES. The skin itself--a giant robot stomping all over an unnamed city--is a visual highlight of the game as well.
Artist: The Art Of Noise
Song: "Close (To The Edit)"
I did mention the Art Of Noise previously, and no game celebrating electronic music could afford to ignore this highly influential supergroup of musicians (Anne Dudley), producers (Trevor Horn), and…journalists (Paul Morley). Pioneering samples, industrial beats, distorted vocals, and a sense of humor are among the Art Of Noise’s strengths. As influential in the hip-hop scene as the electronic scene, the Art Of Noise’s legacy lives on today in any band that uses a synthesizer, drum machine, and/or sampler in its work. Although perhaps most famous for its gorgeous, contemplative song "Moments In Love," we felt that their rollicking sound collage ‘Close (To The Edit)’ best matched LES’s mission statement.
Song: "Embracing The Future"
OK, so "Close (To The Edit)" is a little weird, too. But that"s the electronic music genre for you. It's wide, wild, and weird at times. With BT's "Embracing The Future," however, we find ourselves back in familiar club territory. Arriving like a breath of fresh air, this gorgeous, thumping track is awash with spacious layers of harmony, aquatic dolphin sounds, and light, brushed percussion. Despite being released in 1995, "Embracing The Future" bears little of the traits that date the "big beat" hits of the era. This is another club classic that has aged exceptionally well. Enjoy discovering this track again and again.
Artist: Anything Box
Best-known, possibly, for its 1989 minor hit single "Living In Oblivion," Anything Box has somehow maintained a long and surprisingly consistent career, in which they've rarely veered from the electronic sound that first made them famous. Something of a US-bred Erasure or Depeche Mode, but entirely unique in its optimism and politics, Anything Box marry moody, atmospheric electronics with Beatlesque harmonies and an incredible sense of melody. "Automatons" is a great starting point, providing LES with a brief respite from the uptempo club tracks. If you like what you hear here, seek out their albums "Worth" and "Electrodelica," although, to be honest, you can"t go wrong with any of their beautiful, melodic albums.
Artist: The Beloved
Song: "The Sun Rising"
The first of two notable tracks from the acid house era that was so popular at the beginning of the '90s, The Beloved first made waves with its song "Hello," but it was the band's sun-drenched follow-up, "The Sun Rising" that evokes the Balearic beats of the time. Synonymous with the Ibiza club culture influence of the time, The Beloved, like most dance acts of the time, was at its peak for a couple of albums before eventually diminishing with time. "The Sun Rising," however, remains a potent example of the era at its best.
Artist: 808 State
Song: "Pacific 707"
The second of the acid house era classics we included in the LES tracklist is 808 State's lush instrumental, "Pacific 707." Although its song "Cubik" was the one that tore up the clubs, "Pacific" is the track that has weathered the aging process more gracefully. Plaintive horns, the sounds of wildlife, and a rattling bassline evoke memories of an era of club culture gone by, but which produced more than its fair share of beautiful electronic music. To its credit, 808 State continues to make compelling music to this day.
Artist: Ian Pooley
Song: "What"s Your Number" (Jazzanova Renumber)
This German producer may not be a household name, but his work--frequently infused with Brazilian rhythms and flourishes--is stellar. Although he trades primarily in house music, this downtempo gem emerged at a time when artists like Thievery Corporation, Tricky, Buscemi, Boards of Canada, and Fila Brazilia were thriving. Smooth, sexy, and deep, the funky beats of this track are the perfect late-night cocktail for any gathering. Pooley has remixed countless numbers of more famous artists, but if you"re interested in seeking out his original work, his 2000 album "Since Then" is a great place to start.
Song: "Higher State Of Consciousness"
Not wanting to let go of the ambiance created by Faithless' "Flyin" Hi" too soon, we hitch Wink"s trip-hop classic "Higher State Of Consciousness" to the wagon to continue the meditative trance atmosphere. For this song we actually used the original version and not the "Tweekin" Acid" mix more popularly assumed to be the original song. From the spare, James Brown-style drum loop, to the repeated refrain of "love is an opening, an opening to the higher state of consciousness," to the inevitable thumping breakbeat. This is a classic build-up of a song, and it was a pleasure to add this to our playlist.
An up-and-coming electronic superstar (ironic, right?) in his own right, Belgian musician, Vito De Luca, crafted this jangling, piano-driven, vocoder-powered, stomping nu-disco track. As fans of many of his songs, we felt that "Superstar" would be a good introduction to Lumines fans not familiar with his music. Hopefully you agree!
Song: "Kelly Watch The Stars"
Much like Ken Ishii is the sole ambassador of electronic music from Japan, Air represents our choice for French electronica. France is so rich in electronic artists, it would have been almost too easy to overload the soundtrack with the likes of Daft Punk, Rinocerose, and Justice (among many, many others)--most of whom hail from the curiously electronica-friendly realm of Versailles. But, instead of taking the most obvious route, we dipped back in time a little to Air's debut album, Moon Safari, to pluck the warm, Moog-heavy vibes of "Kelly Watch The Stars" for the LES soundtrack. An eclectic, dreamy confection, "Kelly Watch The Stars" sounds unlike anything else in the playlist, adding both diversity and a refreshing tonal shift to our Voyage mode.
Artist: Bebel Gilberto
Another artist that may not immediately bring the term "electronic music" to mind, but one whose pedigree certainly supports it is Bebel Gilberto, the singer whose work with Towa Tei and Thievery Corporation--in addition to her own solo work--clearly exhibits how comfortable she is combining Brazilian music with machine music. Sensual and organic, "Aganju" blossoms quite literally in this standout skin from our Voyage mode. We think you"ll be quite pleased with the way this song has been used in LES.
Song: "Rocket" (Tiesto Mix)
The original version of Goldfrapp's "Rocket" contains a skyscraping chorus that may be the catchiest thing that Alison Goldfrapp and her golden pipes has ever sung. The barnstorming Tiesto mix only emphasizes that, and this track is a favorite among the LES development team. With the end of the Voyage mode in sight, we made the conscious decision to crank the throttle and send the game"s final suite of skins into total overdrive.
Song: "Always Loved A Film"
You can"t create a game devoted to electronic music and not have Underworld. The unlikeliest of electronic superstars, Underworld was once a neo-New Wave band called Freur, before reinventing themselves as Underworld version 1--a sort of dark, funky hybrid of the Thompson Twins and, well, Underworld. Their first album as Underworld, Underneath The Radar offers tantalizing glimpses of what it would become. But it was the band's reinvention as Underworld (version 2) that "debuted" years later with "dubnobasswithmyheadman" that would introduce its kinetic blend of spoken word and dark, progressive house. Selected from its most recent long-player, "Barking," "Always Loved A Film" is one of the band's recent singles that also goes down a storm in its live shows. It's a real hands-in-the-air stomper, and we're proud to have it in LES.
Artist: Wolfgang Gartner
Song: "Wolfgang's 5th Symphony"
Abusing Beethoven's 5th Symphony may seem like a gimmicky turn for Wolfgang Gartner (not his real name), but one listen to the forceful, distorted, bubbling electronics of this distinctive track will quickly dispel concerns that this is merely house music a la "Hooked On Classics." In a club (or on good headphones) this track offers an epic, near mythological electronic. Listen to it and believe.
Artist: The Chemical Brothers
As the only artist in LES to contribute two songs, we didn"t want to merely replicate what "Hey Boy Hey Girl" accomplished in the first half of the game. So with the Chemical Brothers most recent album "Further" offering such a huge selection of amazing songs--it's their best album, in our opinion--we chose "Dissolve," because it rocks harder than any other song in the soundtrack. Nowhere in the game will you find a greater amount of guitars and distortion than in the "Dissolve" skin, and its placement in the game is engineered to pump you up. Make sure you keep your Vita strapped to your wrist.
The final two proper tracks in the Voyage mode both feature Ferry Corsten, once under the alias "System F," the second under the alias of "Gouryella" (which was a collaboration between Corsten and DJ Tiesto). "Out Of The Blue" and "Gouryella" both are some of the finest examples of trance music to date that feature uplifting chord sequences that were chosen to send the game out on a high note. Or at least until you loop around and start over at the beginning. "Out Of The Blue" makes you feel like you could spread your wings and fly, and if this happens to be your first time hearing it, enjoy the ride. If this a familiar song to you, well, just bask in the memories.
"Gouryella," which apparently is the aboriginal word for "heaven," is an interesting track because it sounds like it could be the soundtrack for a silent film--yes, a silent film. Romantic, given to moments of quiet depth before resuming to its breakneck pace, "Gouryella" is that rare trance song that is evocative in its quality and somehow tells a story within the space of its running time. I've long imagined game scenarios where this song would work well, and I'm happy the game's director decided to use this song as the exclamation point to our game's Voyage mode.
Of all the artists in LES, perhaps the one that gave us the most trouble was Orbital. Not from a licensing perspective or anything like that. We just had trouble deciding which awesome Orbital track was going to work best in the game--they've got so many great songs. But, having slipped Orbital songs into my DJ sets for the last 17 years or so, they were all so familiar to me I was really struggling to pick one that didn't feel predictable. After all, those lovely Wipeout soundtracks have featured Orbital prominently over the years, so there was that to consider as well.
Fast-forward to literally two weeks before we had to finalize our track selection. Orbital, who had recently launched a new Web site, posted a new song as a free download, called "Never." I instantly knew I had to have it in the game, and was hoping that we had enough time to strike the deal. We had almost put the classic Orbital track "Style" in the game, but once we heard "Never"s languid build-up and eventual momentum of its bassy, reverberating rhythm track, we were determined to use it in the game in some form or another. While we didn't have enough time left to create a unique skin around the song, we chose the song to accompany the credits sequence in the game. It's the one song in LES that hasn"t been edited to match the visual shifts in the game"s skin, so you can really enjoy it as a whole.