Quick Trips: Donovan Hikaru and David Ben Jack – CRS 2.1 (The Secret Tape)

CRS 2.1

(self-released, 2015)

Imagine purchasing CRS 2.0 by Donovan Hikaru and, upon receiving the package in the mail, you notice that your tape has come with a small brown envelope. Inside the envelope is a key engraved with the letters “CRS.” Mysterious! This is what happened to a user named Roman, who followed a series of clues designed to mimic the idea behind David Fincher’s The Game. (CRS 2.0 functioned as an alternate soundtrack/homage to the film. Read all about it in my review.) The IRL scavenger hunt culminated in the discovery of a new tape from the enigmatic “Cable Repair Services,” only a single copy of which was ever produced. Roman was very happy, so happy, in fact, that he posted a photographic account of his adventure. I was less happy, because I live on the East Coast instead of San Francisco where the tape was discovered, and I figured I’d never get to hear the new recordings. That all changed when I remembered the existence of MP3s, because, you know, there’s no overhead for MP3s, so it doesn’t matter if you press them or not, allowing the single physical copy to remain as rare as it is.

CRS 2.1, being the result of an experience, doesn’t exude the in media res pensiveness of 2.0, and that’s OK. It’s the other side of the process, the part where Michael Douglas’s character in the film, Nicolas Van Orton, realizes that he really was part of an elaborate game. He can cool down, shake it off. David Jackman, the human person behind the pseudonym Donovan Hikaru, crafts excellent ambient washscapes to underscore this occurrence. This tape is less vaporwave than its predecessor, which is a nice change of pace and allows Jackman to stretch within a new genre, something he excels at. All tracks are untitled, and disembodied robotic voices appear here and there to offer guidance. Standouts include the short, meditative “Untitled 3,” the more brooding “Untitled 5,” and the warped Badalamenti trifle “Untitled 6.”

“Untitled 10,” though, which I imagine is the entirety of side B because it’s almost twenty minutes long, switches it all back to dark and brooding, oozing tension in its minor-key drone plodding, and casting doubt as to whether this is all really a put-on after all. If I were Roman, I might not consider myself so lucky after getting all the way through CRS 2.1 – there might be more to this game than meets the eye. Sure, you’re smiling now, but wait until you start noticing dark figures shadowing you. Maybe there’s something on this tape that Cable Repair Services doesn’t want us to hear. Maybe I’m in as much trouble as you are, Roman, for listening to this! If anybody asks me, I’m giving them your address.

CRS 2.1 is a great complimentary piece to CRS 2.0, and the story behind it makes it even more interesting and entertaining. If only Donovan Hikaru had gotten a cool couple mil like the Wu-Tang Clan did for Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, he’d be able to retire and put on scavenger hunts like this all the time.

UPDATE: Now that I know who bought the Wu-Tang album, I’m sorry I brought it up. SMH.

RIYL: danger, the city at night, David Fincher’s MP3 playlist in 1997


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