(Adhesive Sounds, 2015)
It’s unusual for me to put the concept before the horse, so to speak, when writing reviews for this site, but sometimes an artist just comes up with such a humdinger of an idea that I have to dive in no matter what, and simply hope that the music lives up to my initial enthusiasm toward the project. When the music does, which, spoiler alert, in this case is affirmative, I’m totally justified in using turn-of-the-twentieth-century American colloquialisms in my prose, as well as strutting my vocabulary in order to match the ambition of the recordings. So, uh, done and done, then, I guess.
Donovan Hikaru, aka David Jackman from someplace probably San Francisco because you’ll see in a minute, is a huge fan of David Fincher’s 1997 film The Game, the one where Michael Douglas gets sucked into to a supposedly harmless “game” that takes place in real life, and it gets dangerouser and dangerouser until it gets out of control. Or it kind of gets out of control at the very beginning. Suffice it to say, it gets dangerous at some point. I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but I liked it when I saw it, so you should probably either check it out if you’ve never seen it or give yourself a refresher course on it. Go ahead, take your time. Bookmark the site if you need to. God knows I need the page views (… or I will die. Just kidding).
Even the title of Donovan’s new cassette EP for Adhesive Sounds is a tip of the cap to the film, as “CRS” stands for “Consumer Recreation Services,” “the fraudulent corporation that scams … Douglas’ character Nicolas Van Orton.” So CRS 2.0 is both a wink-and-nod reference to The Game and an alternate-reality soundtrack to it. Hikaru (for that is how I will refer to Mr. Jackson – it’s way more fun to think of him as the “five-time winner of the Platinum Serenity Awards” and “Event Coordinator for the United Nations Prose and Poise Committee” than a poor schmo with a bunch of synthesizer patches and big dreams), clearly fueled by determination and resolve, of course is the perfect foil to master the massive corporate cloak-and-dagger spirit of something as mindbendingly vaporous as Nicolas Van Orton’s mega-wealthy life. Indeed, the division between reality and illusion is thin throughout the film, and someone with a firm grasp on stock photography as stand-in to real life clearly gets the twists and turns of such is-it-real-or-isn’t-it plot points. Still, we’ve got to hear what Hikaru’s got to offer before we pass judgment on this undertaking.
Fortunately, Hikaru has created not just a loving tribute to a wickedly loopy film, but he’s also composed a highly listenable recording outside of its connection to The Game. Stylistically it’s both vaporwave in spirit and execution, but “it goes deeper – production on this EP was specifically executed with synths and drum machines (software versions/derivatives) made between 1993-1996, so as to capture the sonic essence of the era and atmosphere of the film’s setting.” (They really did a good job writing this up over at Adhesive Sounds – or maybe Hikaru did it himself. Either way, I can’t stop quoting it!) There are no samples – Hikaru made the whole thing with his own two hands (and probably parts of his face). The tracks evoke the sound of the city at night, with danger potentially lurking around corners. Signs are neon, mist is in the air. Reality is unreliable. Each of the six tracks is a study in conspiracy, deep noir, and perfect as incidental music. Or not even that – CRS 2.0 is worth listening to with your full attention, so you can tease out the nuances of a completely of-its-time (late 1990s) composition.
Also, if you’re interested – and holy crap, you should be, check this out, and here’s the San Francisco connection – there’s an appendix to CRS 2.0 called CRS 2.1. How do you get it, you ask? Haha, oh man – here’s how you get it. Sorta:
“For those that want to travel even deeper down the CRS 2.0 rabbithole, there exists an additional supplemental secret tape ‘CRS 2.1’ (one copy) that’s currently hidden in San Fransisco, where the movie was shot. A key along with a special map will be delivered to an already chosen person living near San Fransisco, who will attempt to find the tape. In the meantime, a virtual puzzle (with limited players) is in the works that upon completion will grant access to a digital copy of CRS 2.1 as soon as the chosen one finds the secret cassette. Reserve a slot for the virtual puzzle at: www.reddit.com/r/Vaporwave/comments/3b5a1j/the_next_donovan_hikaru_release_will_be_a_dark/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned, and enjoy your game.”
Right? I couldn’t not just copy and paste that whole thing, because that just sounds awesome. Here I thought I was just reviewing a cool tape, but it turns out the entire tape’s existence is augmented by an IRL experience where you sorta kinda do things in a similar fashion to the movie. (Hopefully sans gunfire.) Whether or not that kind of commitment is your bag, you’ve gotta admit that Donovan Hikaru knows how to bring the experience to the people, even in such a limited, exclusive way. Like weird corporate privilege. I guess he’s not the Chairman of the Board of FACT (Foundation for Abstract Conceptual Thought) for nothing. Jeez, this just makes me wish I was some rich mogul. I mean, I’d donate to charity too, honest…
RIYL: danger, the city at night, David Fincher’s MP3 playlist in 1997