Sunday, November 1, 2015

Paradoxically Sized World II

"Burning Holes Right Through the Dark"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

By now you probably realize that, by the time I start really organizing the first volume of a mix, I usually have enough music for two volumes.  Thus, a volume II is often just “volume I continued.”  This second collection of songs from, as well as inspired by, LittleBigPlanet is mostly that, although you’ll notice a few extensions to that overall concept.  First of all, I managed to expand beyond just the original game (and the first handheld version) by including one song each from LBP 2 and the PSV game.1  Secondly, while last time I mostly observed a strict alternation between songs from the game(s) and tracks that just felt to me like they ought to be in the game, this time I feel free to go on longer sprees, with a stretch of 4 songs from the games, and two stretches of 3 and 4 tracks (respectively) from outside sources.

You may also recall from last time that I noted that there were only two tracks on this mix2 that were originally compoosed for the game (as opposed to music that first appeared on an artist’s album and was only then used in the game).  As it happens, they’re both on this volume: opening track “Orb of Dreamers” is the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s take on the main theme of the game,3 from their second volume of video game music.4  The theme was composed by Daniel Pemberton, who also does movie scores as well.  He composes a lot of the incidental music in LBP, including the second in-game original track I use here, “The Appliance of Science,” from his album Little BIG Music.

Finding a volume title was once again difficult: of the five tracks containing any vocals, two are not in English, one is nominally in English but you only know that if you look up the lyrics on the Internet (that would be “Atlas,” by the quite odd Battles),5 and one contains a single line repeated over and over (“My Patch” by Jim Noir, the simplistic but quintissentially catchy tune found in the Meerkat Kingdom level of LBP 1).  Which only really leaves one choice: “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit, which is the lone representative of LBP 2.  Happily, it’s a great choice: unlike the mostly instrumental version used in the game itself, the original version has some great lines, including the one we use for our title here.  This is easily my favorite Passion Pit song ever.6

Other than hearing the words to “Sleepyhead” for the first time, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises here for you if you actually play the LBP games.  If you haven’t played the PSV version, you might be pleasantly surprised by the lazy downtempo strains of “Eyen” by Plaid.  Or perhaps you’ll be surprised (as I was) as just how catchy “Volver a Comenzar” by Café Tacvba7 is, once you’re no longer trying to figure out how to gauge the momentum on those stupid springs in the Wedding Reception level and you can just listen to the song.  I’m not the most fluent speaker of Spanish, but I get by; my rough translation of the chorus:

Si volver a comenzar,
no tendría tiempo de reparar

is something along the lines of:

If you go back to the beginning,
there’s no time to fix what’s broken.

But really you don’t even need to understand what they’re talking about.  It’s an infectious little pop gem in any language.

Among the tunes from outside the games, many will still be familiar: the DJ Krush track near the beginning of this volume is off the same album as the in-game track of his towards the end.  There’s another from Ananda Shankar,8 which sounds so LBP-ish you’d swear it was direct from the game (but it’s not).  KOAN Sound is an LBP band as well; although “Lost in Thought” is not from the game, they do have a song in LBP 3.9  We also see another track from Bonobo, who isn’t featured in the game (though he really ought to be), but we did see him on our last volume.

The real find here though is Ugress.  A purveyor of electronica from Norway, Ugress fits my definition of “moderately obscure”—AllMusic has a discography but no biography, and Wikipedia has a skeleton article, full of “citation needed” notations.  But this guy is brilliant.  Like many modern indie artists, his music is easy to find online, much of it for free, but you won’t mind paying for it.  It’s that good.  I primarily recommend Resound (which contains the track we see here), but other good choices are Reminiscience, Cinematronics, and Unicorn.  One of his songs10 was chosen for LBP PSV, which is how I found him,11 and now I fancy we’ll see him on every volume of this mix from here on out.  But Ugress has range as well: so far I’ve put songs of his on four different mixes, which says something about his versatility.  Obscure he may be, but it’s far less than what he deserves.  I’m glad LittleBigPlanet introduced me to him.

Much like last time, there’s a strong influence from my satellite provider’s “Zen” music channel.  The biggest one in this case is Reef Project, whose “Ocean Trigger” is actually the mix starter.  Reef Project is even more obscure than Ugress, with a sparse discography on AllMusic and nothing at all on Wikipedia.  Judging from the voiceovers on some of their tracks, many of these tunes were used as incidental music for a marine biology documentary or somesuch.  But the tracks without the extra educational content are pretty nifty, and “Ocean Trigger” is easily the best of these.  I heard it on the music channel one day and went, wow, that really sounds like a LittleBigPlanet song.  Paired here with “Song 2,” the DJ Krush track from the Islands levels in LBP 1, they form a vaguely creepy block which dovetails nicely into the laid back wanderings of KOAN Sound and thence to our quirky closer, “The Appliance of Science.”

As I did last time, I’ve added a note for each track used in a LittleBigPlanet game: either 1, 2, 3, PSP, PSV, or Kart.  If a track doesn’t have a note, it isn’t from an LBP game (that I know of).

Paradoxically Sized World II
    [Burning Holes Right Through the Dark]

        “Orb Of Dreamers (The Cosmic Imagisphere)” by London Philharmonic Orchestra, off The Greatest Video Game Music, Vol. 2 

        “The Beginning” by DJ Krush, off Jaku
        “Eyen” by Plaid, off Double Figure 

        “My Patch” by Jim Noir, off Tower of Love 

        “Atlas” by Battles, off Mirrored 

        “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit, off Chunk of Change [EP]

        “E-Pipe” by Ugress, off Resound
        “Kota” by Bonobo, off Animal Magic
        “Sarasa” by Susheela Raman, off Love Trap
        “Volver a Comenzar” by Café Tacvba, off Sino 

        “Jungle Symphony” by Ananda Shankar, off A Life in Music: Best of the EMI Years [Compilation]
        “Yay Balma” by Taffetas, off Putumayo: Music from the Chocolate Lands [Compilation]
        “Main Title” by Jon Brion, off Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [Soundtrack]
        “Ocean Trigger” by Reef Project, off Hydro Dynamic
        “Song 2” by DJ Krush, off Jaku 

        “Lost in Thought” by KOAN Sound, off Dynasty [EP]
        “The Appliance of Science [Little Big Planet Dub]” by The Daniel Pemberton TV Orchestra, off Little BIG Music [Videogame Soundtrack]

Total:  17 tracks,  77:57

And that just leaves us with the block of world music that kicks off the second half of this volume.  We start with Susheela Raman, British-born of Indian parentage, singing in Telugu.12  Exotic, but still poppy.  Then into the tune from Café Tacvba, who hail from Mexico.  Then back to the Indian subcontinent for Ananda Shankar, then a song from Taffetas, who combine a kora player from Guinea-Bissau with a guitarist and bassist from Switzerland.13  There are vocals here, but I don’t think there’s any actual words—just a formles, ethereal voice.  Bridging this block and the next is the main theme from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion, which is strangely reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s score for Beetlejuice.  So it’s a perfect way to introduce the echoey, underwatery “Ocean Trigger.”

Next time, I think we’ll explore the intersection of creepy and romantic.


1 “PSV” means the PS Vita, i.e. the second handheld version.

2 At least so far.

3 I.e. the music that plays over the opening credits and spoken word intro by quite excellent voice talent Stephen Fry.

4 We’ll hear another track off this album on a different mix, in the fullness of time.

5 True story: for the longest time, everyone in our house was convinced that the chorus of this song was: “Fecal worker, fecal worker, going down.”  Apparently the Internet thinks it should be: “People won’t be people when they hear this sound.”  We like our version better.

6 Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.  I’ve really tried to like them, primarily for the sake of this song.  But so far I’ve found nothing to compare to the big bag of awesome that is “Sleepyhead.”

7 Or Café Tacuba, as it’s sometimes written.  I gather either is correct.

8 I told you we’d see him again.

9 Which we’ll see in volume IV.

10 Which we’ll also see on volume IV.

11 Recall that even though I’ve never personally played LBP PSP, PSV, or Kart, I know what songs they use.  Yay Internet.

12 I’m pretty sure it’s Telugu.  Either that or Sanskrit.

13 If you speak French, you could find out more about them from this page.  There’s an English bit at the bottom, but it’s not nearly so detailed.

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