I realize that it is difficult to separate one cultural realm from the other. I’m sorry. That is how things work. While the first part of this Blogling about music (here) presented an awful lot of video game music, this one will unabashedly start with music video games.
Nearly a decade before Guitar Hero had American teenagers experience the power of rock and Rock Band subsequently brought their families together for some wild weekend jamming to Bon Jovi on the weekend, Japanese dorks had Beatmania. In Beatmania, you are a club DJ whose mission in life is to rock the crowd. Armed with 5 keys and a turntable, you need to reconstruct the song that is playing and to keep tha headz ringin’. For that, you get money. The songs in the game were either original or remixes developed expressly for Konami by more or less renowned artists in genres ranging from soul to “hard tekno.” Not too shabby. Remember this was originally an arcade game, then picture yourself rocking a virtual crowd by yourself in a middle of an actual crowd.
After that, the game was ported on the Playstation and Game Boy Color and even had its own portable console. Several Beatmania cabinets were created along the years with fresh tracklisting and updated graphics, the line was nicknamed “Bemani games” by Konami who laughed at the fat kids all their way to the bank and went on to design Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania. Of course these have all the ingredients to attain cult status and Bemani arranges are still wildly popular (and wildly frowned upon by the copyright holders).
Until a few years ago, I really had no idea about the pervasiveness of these games. Then during the second or third Hado Channel party (more on that in a second), the chat room became animated over this thing they called “Stepmania.” I inquired. These young minds came from a message board called BemaniStyle. It turns out, some Smartypant had released an open-source emulator of DDR, played on the keyboard. Open-source meant that with a little bit of knowhow, you could put any song in the world into the game and dance your fingertips away.
Hado Channel is an online rave party that now spans several nights, with back to back DJs from the J-trance, J-core and gabber persuasion. Of course, shit got real, real fast.
The track in this video is made by m1dy, the man is a kōjin (個人サー) or one-man dōjin. I will probably profile him at some point or another. I hold gabber dear to my heart. I grew up close to the Belgian border and a really stones throw away from Rotterdam – when my friends drove to Amsterdam to sample the vegetation, I had to hop along for the ride and stomp the night away. Gabber is what many people Stateside will call “hardcore techno,” but it has a very specific proletarian/fraternal ethics. Gabbers shave their heads, often wear military gear and braces; at first glance they’re not very different from skinheads. What you may not notice if you’re not paying attention is how sample-heavy, dorky and subversive gabber is. I certainly didn’t realize how much sampling of 80s music, Detroit house, dutch pop and exploitation movies was going at the time I was the most involved in this scene. Then came all the jumpstyle/hardstyle kids (and college) and I kind of lost interest (also I found a refuge in breakcore). All this to say that in addition to the 300+ bpm range making the music unfit for commercial distribution, clearing rights for gabber simply cannot happen – which is why the dōjin format is basically tailor made for it.
First dudes I heard came out of Osaka and quickly it spread to the rest Japan, for a discipline called J-Core (which can be anything from hard tech to splittercore and makina). Associated circles include Mob Squad Tokyo lead by M-Project, C.H.S (Cutie & Headshaking Sounds) lead by T+Pazolite (d(♥.♥)b) or Alice’s Emotion lead by REDALiCE. I hear you, demanding minds. Here are samples.
This reprise of last week’s vocaloid track:
Lady Gaga meets Boney M:
An arrange of LUCKY☆STAR’s theme:
Stepmania has since been superseded by other games such as Osu!, for a pretty similar effect. You know what else is an extreme genre? No? Then what are you doing here? I’M TALKING ABOUT METVL OF COURSE. I think that the guy who originated the whole dōjin metal craze is ZUN from Team Shanghai Alice with FF arranges (he also created Touhou Project, if you’ve been following us). Metal dōjin CROW’SCLAW are usually classified as “power metal” which I guess is true. It’s a lot of updated NWOBHM and Gothenburg sound – Dethklok fans should pee their chaps starting now. More often than not these tracks are meant to be a soundtrack to some anime or video game, which probably explains the always epic riffing. Which also probably explains for possibly the most un-metal imagery you can imagine.
Here is IRON ATTACK!, essentially a cover band of 90s metal.
With an occasional touch of At The Gates:
And if you like classical in your metal Kokuyasou should satisfy you:
Strangely, the more “exploitation” kinds of metal are pretty much absent from the dōjin world. Maybe because at the end of the day, dōjin works are pretty harmless: we are not talking about disembodied customers here, your “circle” shares the same interest and respect for a product as you do, and you are selling these works by hand. There is a trust relationship involved, a social contract. Porno and goregrind styles have their place on dedicated (independent) labels (Macabre Mementos, Obliteration and the such). It may be a case of the market being too small; after all, you won’t find goregrind in a generalist record store. But you will find porno mags in most press kiosks. I wonder if that is also due to the fact these are cultures inherited from the West, so the structure that goes with them is also Western. What do you think, reader? Do you care? I’m asking because I think the next installment will pique your curiosity a little more. It will have boobies.- Gnou