(self released, 2013)
I’m not gonna lie – I filled many hours of my formative years watching anime films, and Akira was definitely my favorite. I knew every inch of Neo-Tokyo – what was on screen anyway. And the batshit insane body horror cyberpunk visuals were riveting, and since I’d never read the manga the film was based on, I had no idea what was coming next. It was a total freefall into mania, and I loved it.
I mention this because Trabajo is deeply indebted to Akira, and it’s cool how it plays out in their sound. The young Brooklyn duo, comprised of Yuchen Lin and TJ Richards, is known for their sample-heavy beatscapes, part IDM, part punk, but I hesitate to really call their music either. (It feels a little disingenuous referring to this as “punk” at all, but others are, so fuck it I guess. Maybe it sits well on a shelf next to Books on Tape’s material, which I’ve referred to as “beatpunk.”) And they’ve namechecked Geinoh Yamashirogumi himself, who recorded the soundtrack for Akira, as an inspiration for Gamelan to the Love God. Indeed, Gamelan has a familiar feel to the edge-of-cliff dynamics Yamashirogumi perfected in Akira. But let’s not split hairs and remind each other constantly that Gamelan’s songs are mainly made up of samples from Indonesian gamelan recordings (Indonesia and Japan are two different places – don’t believe me? Check a map), the connection to the film’s soundtrack is intrinsic in the duo’s composition and playing.
“I Am Tetsuo,” in title alone, offers a reminder of Akira’s main character, Tetsuo Shima, as he creates a Big Bang in another dimension. (Please, please, please, don’t ask me to explain that.) The song’s title contains his last words in the film. The song feels somewhat panicked in its execution, as on edge as sampled gamelan can get, and beautifully melds Eastern melodies with tense club execution. It’s a great reminder of the complex emotions evoked in the film, and is a fitting tribute to its tragic conclusion.
“The Myth” and “Udan Mas” borrow hip hop pacing, and the chanting voices in each song would serve as great hooks – Monster Rally would be proud. “23 Skidoo” is manic and almost carnivalesque, whereas the title track pulls back into a beautiful and beatific drone piece, as sublime and transcendent as “I Am Tetsuo” is apprehensive and paranoid. “Mortal” pulls the beat from “The Myth” and replaces it with heady synths, ending the brief EP with more drone, bordering on the accessible side of noise music. It’s refreshing to see Trabajo cast such a wide creative spectrum given the limitations of the sonic palette, and to do it in barely fourteen minutes is equally impressive.
You don’t need to be versed in Akira lore to appreciate Gamelan to the Love God, even though it helps and is more fun. And it gives me an excuse to revisit the classic I haven’t seen in many years. I might even pop it in later. Regardless, Lin and Richards are blazing exciting trails with their (thus far) limited output, and it will be fun to see where they go on their first full length, the forthcoming Famous Songs, Hits of the New Era (March 2013). Which is, like, now. Or really soon, now. But until then, be sated with Gamelan. It makes me want to grow into a gigantic esper and destroy everything in my path.
RIYL: Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Monster Rally, Books on Tape