I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. In fact, I believe I’ll focus exclusively on netlabel releases for all of April…
The Brian Jonestown Massacre humorously added this quote to the liner notes of their Give It Back! album:
“I am who I am.”
I laugh every time I think about that quotation being attributed to the burning bush itself, and not Yahweh, who was behind the phenomenon. This is a profound moment in Hebrew Scripture, God appearing to Moses in this way and promising a way out of slavery for the Israelites. But Anton Newcombe and co. obviously don’t care, belittling something so sacred into a pop culture reference. IAYD answers a similar, though unasked, “Who are you?”, and in doing so defies its tongue-in-cheek presentation: I Am Your Destruction, of course. (…Aaaand, cue thin transition!)
But IAYD, despite the name, does not traffic in the obvious death or black or speed metal. On the contrary, much like The BJM dismisses their biblical knowledge as cultural detritus, IAYD lays waste in one of the most unassuming ways I can think of: with a joystick. That’s right, these two EPs were released on chiptune all-star label 8bitpeoples, a launching pad for the intrepid electronic artists who need little more than a Gameboy and, in this case, a Famicom modem. Chiptune is definitely an acquired taste – in the right hands it can be the audio equivalent of watching Japanese cartoons in fast forward, in which case some of you may beg for the pause button after little more than a small dose, if you can hack it at all. But who doesn’t want to relive their childhood videogame memories, where Nintendo and SEGA were portals to strange new worlds that were otherwise unobtainable? Not me. I don’t not want to, noways.
Just because chiptune artists use the same sound processing equipment as your old gaming system doesn’t mean they’ve boxed themselves in conceptually. On the contrary, Alex Luna, the Corpus Christi-based man behind IAYD, layers his compositions to the breaking point and unleashes them upon the listener at breakneck speed. The insane breakbeats are cut with melodies straight out of Section Z, or Space Harrier, or Double Dragon, but each tune is strong enough to hold its own. Luna released Supergalactic, a sci-fi head trip, back in 2010, seemingly an ode to the pioneers of space programs. And even though it looks backward to envision the future, this is easily a fantastic soundtrack to an intergalactic space battle. Or a frantic escape from some unknown physical state or location, as “Between Multiverses” dials up the panic to near unbearable levels. (Can you imagine being stuck between universes, let alone multiverses as Luna suggests? Do you ever recover from that?) “Physics” is the obvious choice to follow, but may I remind you that naming a song “Physics” gets you tagged as a geek. Simple as that. Hopefully that doesn’t bother anyone. Speaking of geek, “Tycho Brahe” is an ode to the pioneering Danish astronomer, whose observations, though ultimately discredited, fully contributed to astronomical science. Here, he’s treated to the soundtrack of 1,000 gummi bears in the microwave, and somehow that’s fitting. The song is also the reason I’ve added The Fifth Element’s Diva Plavalaguna to the RIYL list below.
Like a Phoenix, IAYD’s 8bitpeoples follow-up to Supergalactic, continues in a similar vein, but is injected with punk steroids for maximum face-splitting sonic force. Who’da thunk a Gameboy could beat you to a pulp? And yet it happens here, as clearly something has Alex Luna fired up enough that he’s infused his chiptune template with some metal tropes more befitting the ilk of someone like electronic sonic terrorist Alec Empire. The beats are faster, grainier, the melodies even more frantic than those on Supergalactic (if that was even possible), and IAYD razes our perception in a swath destruction, only to emerge, “Like a Phoenix” (zing!), to do it again and again. You can see the pattern: “Decimating Atmospheres” and “Into Ashes” ratchet up anything on Supergalactic to almost hardcore levels, and closer “You Will Not Take Anything Else from Me” takes the thrash pretense to a whole new level, complete with a death metal-style rhythmic breakdown in the middle of the song. (So I guess death metal does have a place here after all…) This is in complete counterpoint to something like “Redshift” on Supergalactic, which features a breakdown that strips the rhythm and lets a complex melodic structure hang bare for emphasis. Neither track disappoints.
This is not electronic music for the dance floor – a DJ attempting to play this would certainly risk some sort of spontaneous nuclear fusion that would cause the club to erupt into a supernova. In fact, I think IAYD writes music in order to turn clubs into scientific experiments in which he hopes that some sort of stellar explosion will occur. How can you fault him, really? Do you go clubbing? Of course you don’t. Neither do I. But in reality, IAYD has excelled in a genre that some would consider a curiosity, bringing a punk spirit to the computer-bound sci-fi geek in all of us. (Yes, all of us. Including you. And me.) He’s smart, innovative, and understands the cultural significance his music could have. Kind of like Anton Newcombe. But let’s hope for Alex Luna’s sake that he stays off the smack. (…Aaaaand, end thin comparison!)
RIYL: Mortal Kombat, SEGA Genesis, Alec Empire, Diva Plavalaguna