Friday, March 4, 2016

Ep. 17: Wear the Stealth

You've shared the health, now wear the stealth! Josh and Emily try to sneak around the bar and cue up some cool jams without putting anyone into alert mode. This week's suggestions inspire conversation on everything from the nature of nostalgia to Tiger handhelds, and multiple patrons (and hosts) connect over the phenomenon of driving too fast while listening to VGM. There's also a new addition to the bar! Be sure to loiter around until closing so you get a good look at what Emily installed in the lobby on the way out.

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This episode was made possible by:
Game Track Title Composer(s)
Altered Beast Opening Sequence, Stage 1 Tohru Makabayashi
Okami Shinshu Plains Theme Rei Kondo, Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Akari Groves
R-Type Title Screen Chris Hülsbeck, Ramiro Vaca
Game & Watch Gallery Oil Panic Unknown
Wai Wai World 2: SOS!! Parsley Castle Twinbee Stage Theme Yūichi Sakakura, Kenichi Matsubara, Satoko Minami
Commando High Score Rob Hubbard

...and listeners like YOU.

Extra credit readings:
lftkryo's YouTube channel
lftkryo's Chipophone demonstration (includes Commando "High Score" cover)
Patron Family Jules's interview with Matt Furniss on Retro Relapse Podcast


  1. Refreshing and cool dude here. I'm onto you guys, you're just trying to butter me up to get more track suggestions. ;)

    Oh, and the Twinbee Theme? How did you know? Ya see, patrons, I suggested the entire soundtrack a little while ago and let the hosts pick because I liked them all far too much to choose just one. But, in the time since I made the recommendation, I have become completely enamored with the Twinbee Theme. I find it evocative, and emotional, and jammin'. As it starts I imagine a sunrise on a serene world. It then takes me for a journey, introducing a little edge of darkness and tension before before affirming that everything will be alright. This song is like being hugged while soaring though the sky.

    The Wai Wai World 2 version is similar compositionally to the original from Twinbee arcade (composed, probably, by Yoshinori Sasaki and Shigeru Fukutake if anyone was curious) and its Famicom port, but with some added frills and with the mastery of the Famicom sound chip that Konami had attained six years later in 1991. Another version of it, though, that may be worth checking out if you want to totally dive into this track and join me is from the MSX re-release of Twinbee (1989) that used the SCC expansion sound chip.

    Josh's comment about how you can feel nostalgia for an era without actually having experienced the object of that nostalgia resonates with me. My interest in 8-bit era music is quite detached from the playing of those games - I haven't played most of the games I listen to and my first console growing up was a SNES. But you did get me thinking that I may have learned to feel nostalgic for the place in history that is Japanese game development in the late eighties: it was a time of pioneering, of really hard work in the face of technological limitations and primitive development tools, and of whatever was going on in the culture and the web of influence between composers that produced so much great music from so many people.

    A thought on nostalgia with no object, as Emily mentioned. I remember, the first time I ever heard Area 5/Power Plant from Bionic Commando, some time in my teen years, feeling a wave of intense nostalgia. I wasn't playing the game and I don't think I knew what Bionic Commando was back then - it was a reaction to the music itself. I suppose what I am describing is not nostalgia for no reason, but it is feeling nostalgic without it being for any particular thing. And I think that a very real effect on video game music culture is made by the fact that a lot of early Capcom music just sounds innately nostalgic.

    1. I totally agree about Capcom music sounding innately nostalgic. The title screen music for Little Nemo come to my mind first.

    2. Oh, and The Moon theme from Duck Tales! It just sounds like nostalgic overload in it's composition.

    3. I just listened to that MSX version of Twin Bee. It sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing!

      Here is the Duck Tales Moon theme, but remixed to sound like it's from a Sonic game:


      (How did you properly tag your hyperlink?)

    4. ^Hearing the Genesis thrum out those lower notes in the Moon theme is pretty magical.

      (<a href="www.WebAddressHere.com">Text Here</a>)

  2. So many things were discussed so quickly!
    Just to clarify my statement about the R-Type track, I submitted that one quite a while back. I think that it was a direct response to a discussion about the possibility of liking VGM for what it is vs. only being an object of nostalgic memory. I was really just trying to get across how the song effected me the very first time I listened to it. I didn't know anything about the C64 at the time, how it's sound chip worked, nothing at all. All I knew was that this track was JAMMIN'! The only thing I had heard prior to this was the theme from "Monty On The Run", which was pretty mind blowing in itself, and convinced me to look into C64 music further.

    However, I do think music can make you feel nostalgic for an era that you didn't experience, and I agree with Josh that some music does require you to go out your way, and "do the work", in order to appreciate it. I've done a bit of this myself over the years. Video game music is a perfect example of this. It requires effort on the part of the listener to really dig deep into the subject.

    And, Emily... No! You should not feel sad without a reason! You are not normal! ;)

  3. Loved the episode guys! I wanted to talk about the topic on how music can make you feel nostalgic, even if you do not feel nostalgic for the medium itself. I am going to get a little abstract here so I apologize in advanced if it sounds like nonsense haha! I have always been of the belief that music as a whole is an expression of thoughts and feelings. How you interpret it isn't always coincidental. Think about how you sound when you are angry, upset, afraid, happy, excited etc. and think about the types of music that invoke those same types of emotions. There are similar sounds, tones and rhythms I think. I always like to use anger as a great example. When people are mad, it is loud, with lots of staccato and it invokes fear and discomfort and there are tons of music that can make you feel on edge and anxious that may seem similar.

    When feeling nostalgic, it really is being reflective on things and when I talk to others about things that I am passionate about and how my past has shaped who I am as a person, I feel like my voice sounds a lot like those nostalgia inducing songs found in many video games.

    1. I like what you're saying here. I think sometimes about musical intervals and what they mean. There's an interesting passage about the nature of the lullaby in Daniel Levitin's THE WORLD IN SIX SONGS. He quotes Jonathan Berger:

      "[lullabies] have a formulaic pattern...where it's a big leap and then a slow descent down and the idea is that you grab the attention and then you decrease the arousal."

      He then goes on to quote Ian Cross:

      "First-time mothers experience a great deal of uncertainty and apprehension about their newborns... singing mutually calms the mother and child because it requires regular rhythmic breathing."

      So I would love to hear a theory about how the quality of our vocalizations during reflective moments might have some biological root.

    2. Excellent reply and you are 100% spot on with the lullabies. I am a stay at home day with our first child who is now 10 months old and the lullaby commentary is absolutely spot on. I sing to her constantly original music that just jumps into my little brain and it follows those patterns and is incredibly relaxing for me in those incredibly tense moments when she is having a tough time teething and she definitely responds to it positively!

    3. "...singing mutually calms the mother and child because it requires regular rhythmic breathing."

      Okay, true story, I have an extremely difficult time with blood tests, and during my last one I decided I was going to sing through it. I thought the benefit would just be keeping myself somewhat distracted, but I realized afterwards that it had kept my breathing regular too, so I never started hyperventilating.

      And I'll never know why it came to me at that particular moment, but what I started singing after the needle went in was The Moon Theme from Ducktales.

    4. ...Now that's the power of the Moon Theme! Now you're drawing blood...... WITH POWER!!!!

    5. In regards to singing lullabies to your baby, and regular breathing, I've never though of it like that, but it makes total sense. The inverse is used when soldiers march. It still keeps the breathing regular, sure, but the cadence keeps the tempo, and mind very "up".

  4. Okami is great! I played it to 100% completion on Wii and PS3. I'd actually recommend the PS3 version (and probably the PS2 version) over the Wii version due to the motion controls lacking some finesse.

  5. My deleted post was a duplicate, sorry.

    Moai also feature in Gradius. TwinBee, Gradius, and Parodius are all by Konami.

  6. Altered Beast... I always liked the IDEA of that game. But yeah...its not great...

  7. Oh. People are still on Easter Island btw. and they were definitely still there when "we" discovered the place. Most died of small pox or were enslaved. the remaining were forced into Christianity....yay.

  8. Super late to this, and not VGM, but an instance of feeling sad when I'm not sad (or even had an idea of how to feel sad about this) was when I heard Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last" for the first time. I was super young. Little kid status. But I heard that song and it made me feel something that I now know is longing, more like unrequited love. I had no clue how to react or describe the feeling, so I kept it to myself. Now that I understand it more, I don't know how I had the same feeling I would have later when there was a reason to feel that way - like, what is the inner reaction to something that never happened?

    Also happened to Seal's "Kiss from a Rose," but I was older and felt what I later realized was a sense of romance. Where did all that come from?

    Lots of pop music from the early to mid 90s had that effect on me, and now I hear those songs and feel young and sad. It's a rich tapestry.

    1. The album, Tonight and the Rest of My Life, by Nina Gordon does this to me. It's my perfect record for a rainy day. It has so many ups, and downs to it.