Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The future and it already happened

Hello the great unpopular.

I want, once again, to break the boundaries you bring to this text your own selves. Boundaries of taste and quality as well as perhaps many social boundaries, we shall see.

We shall see because I haven’t written the article yet and that is the boundary I am breaking by writing it live, in real time.

Here I am about to expose myself to you, my skinned and gutted carcass hanging on the internet to be devoured like a pile of heroin would by a hungry cat[1].

This is unplanned, will be unedited and whatever happens gets written down.

It is 17:39.

I get a text from my friend Scott. Anyone fancy spoons. I say Sorry man. Too much work to do! Writing and illustration and, of course, porn are all calling.

Hopefully I’ll finish writing this before I get to the porn.

Unsure how to start this article, though I do know what it’s about, I put on some music. For what it’s worth by Buffalo Springfield. The song is so good I am genuinely tempted to write this article off immediately and write some horrendous piece of semi fiction about how much I love it.

No there is no time for such frivolity. This is a serious flight of education and we begin in the early nineties, the first time any of us played Streets of Rage.

I hit up youtube, trying to find a video featuring music from this retro game, relevant to this article. A suggested video for me to watch is lady popping out her eyes. I don’t click it but the featured video adjacent is a picture of a cat and some Chinese, possibly Japanese, writing I can’t read. Of course I click it.

Here it is:

Scott replies. Blimey you are a busy man. See you soon honkey.

I find a video, the first real video.

But I’m not sure if it’s what I want. This article has an agenda. Soon you will see.

I confirm with this video:

…and the article begins to grow.

Obviously we know what Streets of Rage is. We know those games. What I didn’t know about was Italo Disco and Raised by Snakes by Telex falls into that genre (sub genre?) of music.

The point here, and I intend to raise as many ludicrous and disjointed points as possible to provoke debate, is a lot of this Italo Disco could have been first presented as music for these games and no one would have suspected a thing.

Idly I look at this video (couldn't embed): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPgv7xXbY4g&feature=PlayList&p=5BA098731C20EA95&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=7

And I can shrug off the music but it directs me to Yuzo Koshiro who composed the music for Streets of Rage. A scan of wikipedia leaves me with no further ammunition to continue this misguided foray into Music Of The Past, but I came prepared anyway.

The parallels between this video game music, see also Turrican

…and Italo Disco, perhaps stem from the semi futuristic setting of Streets of Rage and, I think, Turrican. Though these games were released in the early 90s and Italo Disco was around in the late 80s and I think had basically finished its run by the time these games were released, evolving into italo disco house and all this horrendous shit and becoming this insanely monstrous thing in Japan where everything was speeded up with ultra fast vocals and etc etc please never speak of it again.

All this music was created electronically, with synthesisers and drum machines, obviously and whilst it all sounds essentially very kitsch and dated compared to our samples and guitars I can still see how it might seem really futuristic and cutting edge. For the best example of Italo Disco I’ve found, by the way, please refer to Stop by B.W.H

It’s called Italo Disco because it was in Italy that all this European electronic music (which came out of the 70s funk bands experimenting with various synthesisers and electronic effects and had previously been obsessed with space and science fiction sounding noises and costume) was distilled into what you hear above or are perhaps listening to right now, unless you’ve been listening to the entirety of each song posted in this article in which case I have no idea where you might be up to in your, shall we say, journey. But wherever you’re up to you should skip ahead to Stop by B.W.H and if you’re already listening to that song wait until it finishes and then start it again before continuing your reading.

Whilst this music might sound very dated and is undeniably 80s, unless you were bought up on computers games, like me, and thought, as I did, it was taken from an early 90s computer game, I would like to draw your attention, for the effect of provoking debate, interest and covering up my horrendous lack of content in what could be a genuinely decent article[2], to Joe Colombo; an Italian designer working in the 60s.


I first heard about him at the City Art Gallery in Manchester and I genuinely love his work. I think it suffers slightly being represented here. It has significantly more impact when you see all his furniture and designs up close in each others presence and context. He was designing really efficient and stylish and, at the time, futuristic living environments which I think still look practical and stylish now, though I can’t tell if this is peppered with a kind of retro charm which would somewhat detract from my praising of it as something high brow (and I’m not even sure I’m doing that, so whatever).

I’m trying to think of his work in terms of fashion. If he was a fashion designer would I wear his vaguely 70s looking designs? Probably not but I would like to furniture my house with his chairs and lamps and cups and things. But how would that fit in the context of the world? If I brought someone home to my house and it is full of all this sort of 70s looking furniture would it look completely ridiculous, given that it would be inside an otherwise unassuming regular English house? Maybe just a handful of his designs, a chair or wardrobe or something and a couple of tables, would work better?

I remember in the exhibition seeing a kind of bedroom set he’d made which was a wardrobe, mirror, tv, bed, sink, all stuff in one thing and it looked fantastic and somewhere between that 70s retro sci fi looking chic and that vaguely embarrassing late 90s minimalist style Matrix/penthouse scene in Oldboy style furniture, but with more charm, less coldness.

Italy has a history of obsession with the future, to use a really pretentious sentence to make this article, which is quickly becoming a farce, into a massively pretentious farce.

Futurism, in art, began in Italy and I don’t want to talk about it really.

My point about the electronic music and games, which are electronic, is that they go hand in hand because, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way about the music, games have no history or culture and are just fucking embarrassing all the time.

This has been something Alun and I have talked about many times, or rather I have said it to him numerous times whilst he smiles and goes “mm,” nodding and then politely laughs when I say a swear word for no fucking reason.

Cinema starts out with all this classy stuff like Napoleon and all the German Expressionist cinema. In fact Sergei Eisenstein, acclaimed Russian filmmaker from the 1920s (basically) said when films got sound they stopped being art, I think.

And now films are massive trashy big budget pieces of escapist bullshit like…oh god, I don’t even know. Mission Impossible 3? What a terrible reference. BUT FUCK IT no editing and actually that’s a great example of some vacuous piece of crap with another number on the end like Die Hard 4.0 FOUR POINT OH.

And we have games like Gears of War, Bioshock, all that shit that are exactly these massive big budget shoot fests thrown to a slavering pack of bloated dogs to distract them from dry humping vinyl action figures of the muscle bound, gun toting suits of armour with computer babes stuck in their heads that they definitely all own (that’s a Halo 3 reference by the by).

If Pong is like that old piece of film of a train coming towards the camera (with everyone jumping to one side to dodge the train or little square pixels when you miss the return shot) then Streets of Rage, Duck Hunt, Sonic are the Metropolis or Battleship Potemkin of games.

I’m not saying that it’s because of this association of electronic 80s music with early 90s video games that makes that music seem dated. Just that games are shit, and I wish they weren’t.

[1] I want you to die from reading this.

[2] That porn is looking pretty good right now.

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