Monday, May 25, 2009

Musi(c.)PSX: Donkey Rhubarb (1995)

Sony's Playstation console was first released in Japan in December of 1994.
A year later, it spread across the globe, leading to it's eventual assimilation into modern living. The console was officially discontinued by Sony in 2006, but began a process of phasing out with the 2000 release of the Playstation2. Known in it's early years colloquially as the PSX, the console was characterised by a slick attitude that met modern gamers on varying levels, boasting releases like Wipeout, which fused electronic music culture with the gaming experience. This post is a celebration of that time. Music circa (c.) the PSX

Aphex Twin - Donkey Rhubarb (1995)

Looking back, I'm not sure there's an artist that captures the romance of the PlayStation era quite like Aphex Twin.
His work branches the period definitively with a catalogue of tracks running the gamut of electronic styles. From the mid-nineties happy hardcore bouncing of Donkey Rhubarb, to the characteristic grinding metal sequences and abstract dance showcased in Windowlicker (1999), it's as if Aphex Twin was laying sounds to match the diversity of the PlayStation line-up.

The association isn't entirely coincidental.
The slick techno chic of electronic music was working hand-in-hand with the aesthetic of the Sony PlayStation and the lifestyle ethic the brand was selling. The PSX represented an excitement and urban fashion that made the console a staple of youth culture and built on the goodwill established by early gaming experiences of Gen X and Y. Gaming was elevated as the PSX became a vital piece of social communication, even if only for a few rounds before heading out to opening clubs.

To establish this brand, Sony tapped plenty of the right sources to spread their concept.
The shouting and energy of nineties promotion was rechanneled and tweaked for a modernist approach. Print and television campaigns sold the PSX vibrancy through artistic and abstract imagery, tapping in to an unspoken chic that was attractive, fun, and a little smart.
One such example is the "Mental Wealth" commercial directed by Chris Cunningham, who was also responsible for the now iconic Aphex Twin videos; Come to Daddy, Rubber Johnny, and Window Licker.

The inevitable overlap of the association between two cultures was typified by the future-racer series, Wipeout, which actually did eventually include Aphex Twin on the soundtrack of their 2005 PSP exclusive, Wipeout Pure.
The song, Naks Acid, came from a limited edition 12" shared with LFO, whose track, Flu Shot, was also featured in the game.

Above of all else, Aphex Twin represents similar ideas (and ideals) to the PSX.
His music, within it's space, could appeal to a range of listeners. At times it was harmonious, rebellious, intellectual, mindless, commercial, alternative. It was a level of experimentation that seemed in sync with the shifting sands of the PlayStation catalogue. It was an intriguing time. I miss it.

Original Post:

No comments: