SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3​]​.​torrent





Prologue: The Audible Pixels Of R23X 

R23X is back from the Land of the Mist with a follow-up to his ode to RPG lore and 16-bit chirality. When the artist came up with OSV, released on Dream Catalogue in March 2015, and サウンド - RPG, released on Gentle Records in the following summer, he expertly crafted and drafted that certain feeling of washed out video game sounds by baking them into an epic – albeit purposefully standardized – journey whose common plot devices and locales were fueled by the unison of track titles and the soundscapes themselves. This coup de main is about to be repeated, but with additional twists and entwined media commentaries: enter SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3​]​.​torrent which, yes indeed, is the actual, real title of R23X’s new release, once again released on Dream Catalogue, this time in an edition of 150 – now sold out – white shell cassettes. The digital incarnation can still be purchased and streamed at Bandcamp though. The title of the album notwithstanding (it will be talked about at a later point in this review), R23X presents the fitting amount of 23 tracks and tells another story, albeit a difficile one. Three different chapters plus pro- and epilogue try to guide the listener in grasping the new adventure. In addition, there is also a mysterious VHS tape in existence the artist created with this album in mind, its tracks prominently appearing in the respective chapter as well. All stories and double-edged media theories aside, what ultimately counts is the music, and here R23X delivers a mellow momentum of aquatic ambience, moving Mellotrons, diamantine drones and plinking pericarps. No track overstays its welcome, some of them are in fact so short that the yearning of the adventurer ever-increases. So here’s a closer look at all chapters and their sensorial cornerstones.


Chapter One: Mysterious Past

Chapter one encapsulates the pristine plinks and aquatic aureoles that R23X is known for, this is no big news at all. However, the way in which these entities interact certainly is: the former constituents coruscate and iridesce like they used to in the premillennial 16-bit era, whereas the liquid lozenges are drenched and moist, inheriting plasticity even in their blurry state. After the duality of the eponymous ── CHAPTER ONE _ Mysterious Past ──, an array of ten tracks comes into play, telling an untold but aesthetically familiar story to the listener: from the siren-accentuated heating circulating stokehold pump complete with amethystine apocalyptic afterglows in Unethical Labratory over the crystalline loft-exuding harp hypanthium in SELECT to the modular Moog square lead bleepfest in _Story Mode (Hard Difficulty Level) .₀____₀ which features periglacial cracks and floes as further substituents, the complete Chapter One feels like a cozy waiting room where the listening subject can analyze the options and stories available to him or her. It is the aural representation of the menu screen.


Chapter Two: Activate Mecha

The short 17 seconds of ── CHAPTER TWO _ Activate Mecha ── open the apex of the storyline with earthquake-evoking metallicity and rustling steelification, eventually leading to a heavily oscillating accretion of cyto-yttrium, cyber apprehension and cenobitic ergospheres. The omnipresence of lanthanum, smoke and steam machines is perfectly kept in check via stratiform parallax nematodes of the euphonious kinds that crawl, glisten and ooze through the – now panchromatic – redshift of the day. Six songs are introduced in Chapter Two, all of them with a [VHS] marker added to their title, thereby not only signifying the rose-tinted analog jumble of yesteryear but also embodying the actual physical VHS tape that R23X created to coincide with the music tape and digital incarnation of his work. Whether it is the unexpectedly lilting chimescape of the histrionically titled Don't Stop! Don't Slow Me Down! with its fragile interferometry and dissipative drone disks, the underground caverns of Sentient Mecha that emit gorgeously flangered and emaciated paraquat-alloyed morning star phragmoplasts in Ambient form, or the second center track of the chapter called Gear Initialize ギア ベギン with its colloidal and eminently faraway ambience of rotenone wind gusts, dreamy tone shifts and aging megafauna of memories. The chapter presents nomological metal, cold surfaces you would like to touch due to their biomorphic magnetotails.


Chapter Three: [Insert Title Here, For R23X Remains Quiet]

The untitled Chapter Three would be the most curious part of the album for several reasons. Not only does it willfully neglect to carry a title, it also features two different Ending tracks, one of them even going so far as to sport the physiognomy of a center piece, running for four and a half minutes and thus being the longest track of the album. Then there is an additional Quit sequence of three seconds that ends the 113th release on Dream Catalogue with a fleeting wisp. Then again, it isn’t surprising from a conceptual viewpoint to sport two ending tracks after all: this mimics once again the barest form of interaction in early 90’s video games where your choices have consequences… and lead to exactly one ending. The works of Squaresoft begged to differ later on, and R23X’s album is situated between the poles of giving the consumer one definite end and a whimsy kaleidoscope of, well, exactly two choices. Ending 1 underlines the rolling credits before the inner eye with a speleogenesis of molybdenized lights and chimes which are themselves held together by a machinery of exhaled beats and tube beveling instruments. The blackness of the background is noticeable, and this also applies to Ending 2. Here, the nullspace is less dangerous though due to the pectiniform proscenium made of adaxial globs, timbrical synth choirs and a micrometry of pink noise that caulks the black matter of the ubiquitous nothingness.


Epilogue: Your Real Life

Once you leave the eclectic immediacy of R23X’s cheekily titled SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3​]​.​torrent, real life got you back, unsurprisingly so. But what this realization really means is the way it is presented in the aftermath. It is the album title itself which displays an intended obsolescence which fittingly refers back to the zoetropic battery of the 23 tracks… only to then risk the danger of annihilating the purified quality, the synthetic topiary and tantamount kineticism that the artist gently inculcates throughout the runtime. I’m playing the spoilsport for a moment, for it is beyond me how the amalgamation of video game ephemera, elevata muzak and milquetoast spherification can be diminished and belittled by means of such a title. Then, of course, it hits everyone sooner or later: this is the basic gist of the digital age in general and Vaporwave in particular where the half-life period decreases constantly. The cold, harsh and technical title of the album displays two things perfectly, namely the overabundance of media on the one hand, and R23X’s cinematic modus operandi on the other hand. The artist always makes sure to create the perfect story… on a per-track basis. Indeed, the story unfolds by means of each single track, the biggest compliment this album can receive. You neither get nor receive a carved-out story if only the music itself is considered. The track titles don’t help either. Their chapter markers, however, are sufficient enough to guide you through the different phases, and of course there is always that very rare VHS artifact created as a separate entity. What these extrinsic media and allusions don’t take away from the music itself is its superbly telomeric state as a macronutrient for the nostalgic vaporwaver.


Further listening and reading: 


Vaporwave Review 136: R23X – SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3​]​.​torrent (2015). Originally published on Nov. 5, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.