• Stop what you're doing and watch this documentary on Japanese videogame music
09.05.14

Stop what you're doing and watch this documentary on Japanese videogame music

The first installment of Diggin' in the Carts, a six-part series chronicling the history and influence of Japanese videogame music, comes out today, and it is so good. In it we hear the imagined melodies of Space Invaders; we watch J-Rocc punch out a beat on an MPC from the Pac-Man soundtrack; we gain an understanding of the remarkably analog manner in which early composers translated their work to cartridges; we see Oh No geek out about their rhythms and Flying Lotus on their loops; and we hear Hirokazu Tanaka explain the influence of reggae superstar Sly Dunbar on the soundtracks for Balloon Fight and Wrecking Crew

If all this sounds a little like inside baseball, don't let it. At least for this installment, the focus isn't on nostalgia or novelty but universalization. With great grace, it places this fascinating cross-pollination in a broad cultural context. As future installments dive into the grandiose work of Nobuo Uematsu and how it was translated into grime, dub, hip-hop, techno, and punk, I hope this open-mindedness continues. 

I've written about this stuff before, as exemplified by the uber-JRPG cloud rap of Friendzone, Julian Wass, and LWH, and I'll say that parsing these connections is easier said than done. These influences happen at a subconscious level, and work like Diggin' in the Carts is essential to creating a vocabulary for discussing it. You can watch the documentary here