26Jun2014 1750: Idiosyncracy
Idle Thumbs agrees with me! Skip to 66:40 and listen to video game developers muse on The Bungie Vision. Some say if we ever truly comprehended The Bungie Vision it would instantly be replaced with something even more inexplicable.
Steam's Summer Sale has commenced and wrapped its fiery tentacles around my wallet. The get of gets at the moment is a weird little game called Magrunner: Dark Pulse. Hey guys, you know what would be great? If somebody made Portal 2 but instead of a crazy AI it was Cthulhu. That would be rad. MAGRUNNER.
[Hundred Waters - Cavity] reminds me of that brief period in the 90s when Sinead O'Connor and Sarah MacLachlan got big. Weird dreamy soundscapes and indeterminate islander accents dominate Cavity in an interesting, but ultimately unappealing, throwback to my early radio memories.
[Popstrangers - Country Kills] is a strangely angular piece of pop. The unshakeable up-and-down beat that permeates the song grows more and more disconcerting. The Popstrangers assist the eerie tone by wailing through a box fan from thirty feet away.
18Jun2014 1945: The Desert of the Real
It is a great shame that I never quite internalized the concept of entropy. My toaster worked yesterday, why doesn't it work today? This shirt has been fine for ten years, why would it "suddenly" get holes in it? This is not my beautiful house! Even walls fall down, sometimes mere hours after you leave the town that contained those walls.
So it happens that occasionally, and always as a surprise, I am forced out into the physical world to buy a physical object. In the humid commercial wasteland I encounter another concept that is quickly retreating from the few American corners it still occupies: scarcity. When I walk into Target for a shirt and all the shirts are giant pink plaids, I look around and feel the sting of knowing that this is all there is. I can't click to the next page of shirts and find something presentable. There are no other styles "in the back". When I go to the fancy grocery store specifically for fancy olives and none are forthcoming, there is no remedy! There are no olives! There is no number of part-time high-school students that can make olives appear for my benefit.
So bring on the disaster of the Singularity, I say! Let's converge those technologies, tear down the old system, crash the economy and rebuild it without a concept of money or space or time! No science barred in our race towards a technotopian netocracy where nothing comes between a man and his goddamn olives.
Thanks to Silversun Pickups and Prissy Clerks, I have been clued into the existence of "shoegaze". Only twenty years too late! [Creative Adult - Deep End] has a very energetic shouty singer with some unnecessary echo, but musically is a droning fuzz rock very like Prissy Clerks.
R.E.M. is finally broken up, right? So bands should all be scrabbling for their place in the midtempo rock scene. [Cheap Girls - Man In Question] needs to nasal up its vocals if they expect to wear the crown. This sounds like the kind of band that pops up on the radio every three or four years, whenever they release a new album, and you hear it and it's like "Yeah, rock and roll is pretty okay."
After two fairly normal rock tunes, [Young Magic - Fall In] dares to get weird. Extremely repetitive synth lines float by while an ethereal woman promises dark and terrible things are about to happen. My touchstone for this kind of song is always Bat for Lashes, but if you want to imagine a nega-universe version of The Neverending Story you won't be far wrong.
11Jun2014 1900: The Rut
E3 is happening, people! If you like video games on consoles, it's Golden Week. If you like video games on PC, it's 90% of Golden Week. I'm not even paying half attention to all the junk going on, but Bungie's new game Destiny fascinates me. Not in a good way! It's fascinating in the slow creeping way that is accompanied by screeching violins. It's the breaking point.
Bungie used to make other games, but even from the beginning they were making a series of first-person scifi shooters with an artificial intelligence that goes insane. When they got in bed with Microsoft they proceeded to make a series of first-person scifi shooters with an artificial intelligence that goes insane. Now that they're richer than most nations and have struck out on their own, they've made a first-person scifi shooter with an artificial intelligence that (will almost certainly) go insane. When Halo tackled many of the same themes as Marathon, it was a cute reference to Bungie's previous work. When Halo kept iterating on the same theme, it was the expected arc of sequels. But when Bungie was given millions of dollars and carte blanche to reinvent themselves, they went right back and made Marathalo again.
Somebody high up in that company has a vision, a shining ur-concept
of The Perfect SciFi Game About AI And Carrying Two Guns, and has been relentlessly
driving Bungie towards his vision. He or she has accreted a supremely talented pool of designers
and programmers and artists and has placed them in a hamster wheel of aliens and
rampancy. This is the marble statue they've been sculpting
and polishing for literally twenty years.
Destiny video from above is shocking in how many small details it took directly
from Halo. That part where you switch from your rifle to your shotgun to get past the
homing gun before
you break open the obviously-barracaded door and unleash the
Hive? All while being followed by
a narrating robot named
It can only mean that all of those small details are part of The Bungie Vision. The
Vision is not just about AI any more. It's about religious aliens and hivemind
scourges and a curiously smooth shotgun barrel. I just can't. Bungie
isn't remaking a Halo game; they're remaking the Bungie game. Again. Marathalotiny.
Part of me hopes that some day Bungie will acheive their Vision. We will finally see what they've been trying to communicate for decades, the light will dawn, world peace will arrive, kumbaya. Another part of me hopes that Bungie never quite acheives The Vision; for on that day some Bungie executive will nod, shed a single tear, and leap out a window. Their life work, complete!
Sure, let's start our day by slogging through 7.5 minutes of disco. [De Lux - Better at Making Time] has a groove in its heart and believes that these are the good times. But De Lux also just had like five shots so maybe De Lux will just lean up against the mike stand and sort of Cure-mumble the lyrics, and is that okay with you? Rad. Hey, why is the room spinning? De Lux had better lie down. Do a guitar solo while De Lux just closes his eyes for a bit and oh god that made it worse.
[Kishi Bashi - Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!] makes up for De Lux's lack of exclamation points. It's a light pop song that can only be described as "fluttering". Two falsettos caper around violins and synths doing next to nothing with the greatest of energy. This song is butterflies having a pillow fight on a Caribbean beach.
Lucky [The Emperor Machine - Hey!] had one major advantage before I even heard it; I already have a song called "Hey" and I'm always looking for "not covers". Atonal dance pop is not what I'm usually about, but these NES sound chips cannot be denied.
04Jun2014 2030: Summer
Summer! I've been staring out the window at trees for like twenty minutes wanting to say more, but I can't. It's summer and even I should be outside. Next week begins a series of weekends with Shit To Do, and when I grab a moment to myself I should be on the deck with a beer.
So it's a good thing I put Transistor to bed over the weekend. This company has made one previous game, the superb Bastion. Bastion was notable for the omnipresent narrator and art style, but the combat was bog-standard melee/projectile on a couple buttons. Transistor makes all the plot elements far more oblique and ramps up the combat to a ridiculous degree. The nth degree. Every weapon in the game can be slotted into every other weapon, resulting in ridiculous combinations of moves. Power-sapping bullets slot onto mega lasers, bouncing bombs slot onto summoned hounds, and between sixteen moves and all the slots to use there are something like quadrillions of "weapons" in the game. So naturally I mainly used one, a dash move slotted with increased damage and a stun that I could break out ten times inside one second. Ninja mode made mincemeat of the game but was a glory to behold every time.
[Curtis Harding - Drive My Car] is not messing around with these Southern blues. He's got all three of his chords and he's set the bass guitar on a metronome so his hands are free to tweedle-twiddle on the lead. Let's get in his car that is a metaphor for love and also sex! Not a lot of virtuoso work here but you can't deny the beat.
[Blu - The West] is definitely a rap song about drugs and the city -- guess which side he's from! -- but it shows great forebearance in waiting nearly an entire minute before saying "nigger". I can't remember the last time I heard record scratching featured so prominently. Verses about smoking weed may still matter in California's west, but Washington is pretty far west too. And Colorado is getting there.
I'm not sure how to feel about this. [Sturgill Simpson - Turtles All the Way Down], from his album "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music", is a Discworld reference in a country song. I mean...I guess there would be crossover there somewhere. Statistically it's bound to come up, right? I've never heard a country song about Dungeons and Dragons but one probably exists. Anyway, Sturgill lets you know where he stands on fantasy novels immediately; Jesus is the third word of the entire song. This song perfectly apes the form of a Christian-inflected hug song but there is some weird shit in here. Watch out for the lizard people!