All posts by Alexander V Woods

Le Matos: Chronicles of the Wasteland

Le Matos: Chronicles of The Wasteland

Of all sounds that best fit Cyberpunk, I often find that the retro-80s roots and electronica of Synthwave are a snug fit. One great example of such an up-and-coming artistic group is that of Canadian band Le Matos.

Le Matos

Their music combines retro synthwave in a beautiful Canadian blend of Electronica. Inspired by the likes of Vangelis, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and other 80s movie soundtrack composers, Le Matos was founded by Jean-Nicholas Leupi and Jean-Philippe Bernier in Montreal in 2007. The group released their first singles, 88mph and 58 minutes pour vivre, in a digital album labeled Coming Soon 2007-2011. The group then released a proper debut in 2013 called Join US, but the group didn’t become as well-known until the created the soundtrack (and subsequent remix) for the incredible independent film Turbo Kid. When the movie was presented at the Sitges International Festival of Fantastic Cinema in Catalunya, it won a best music award. They also released their single, No Tomorrow featuring Pawws, with a music video that also serves as a prequel to the film. Although the music video is really interesting and explains how Apple came to be where she was when she meets The Kid, I personally didn’t like Pawws’ vocal contribution to the song. It felt too bubble-gum peppy for me, although the electronic synths from Le Matos are good as ever.

Le Matos is still growing in the Synthwave sphere, where they have also created a song called Kiyoko that went to the credits scene of the fan-made live action tribute trailer called The Akira Project (http://www.akira-project.com/ )

Akira Project OST Le Matos Album Picture

While much of their music is excellent, my particular favorites of theirs are found in the 50-track album Chronicles of the Wasteland. I stumbled upon them via Pandora, which is great because it means that they’re gaining traction in streaming websites such as Pandora and also Spotify, in addition to traditional venues such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

The track that hooked me was the mellow beauty called “Like Faith or Some Shit”. I actually listened to their tunes before I had ever seen Turbo Kid, and as I listened to their tracks on repeat via Soundcloud I pictured myself in the wastelands of Blade Runner or behind a tinted glass with loglo outside being driven somewhere clandestine in the rain.

Le Matos is slang for “equipment” in French, and although all members come from the hardcore scene, they are described as straight edge (no drugs and no alcohol).

If you haven’t already, or even if you have, I recommend checking out Turbo Kid again.

Turbo_Kid_poster

I’m not sure if it would qualify as Cyberpunk or not (I’m leaning towards Dystopian future with a couple cyberpunk elements in it) but it’s an excellent fun film, made particularly memorable by the quirkiness of Apple, the silly over the top gore and excellent costumes, and the unusual yet familiar storyline. What’s more, you can enjoy the film that much more if you pay special attention to the soundtrack. This is one way you can revisit old movies, after having listened closely to the soundtrack independently from the film and then upon seeing the film again you get a better appreciation for the whole product.

Listen to the full album on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/lematos/sets/chronicles-of-the-wasteland-1

For Le Matos’ website, check them out here: http://www.lematos.com/

Ready Player One (2018): Movie Review

Ever since I read Ernest Cline’s excellent book by the same name, I had been so excited to see this movie ever since I saw its first trailer in the movie theaters. Ready Player One was the kind of book that I finished in a couple weeks, couldn’t put down, and found myself saying “Man, this would be an amazing movie!” as I read it.

So here’s my SPOILER-FREE review of the movie, and some thoughts about how it was different from the book.

First off, let me say that I really enjoyed the movie. Perhaps part of the reason why I really liked it is because it’s different enough from the book, that watching the movie felt like a different piece of entertainment altogether. Sure, the story was still basically the same, but a lot of the action sequences were completely different, leaving me to guess and experience the same surprise and thrill as the rest of the crowd.

A little about the story, in case you have no idea what it’s about. The basic premise is that this movie is about a young man who’s searching for a hidden “easter egg” (read: treasure) within a virtual reality world that serves as place of commerce and entertainment for the majority of human civilization in the future. Although it takes place in a dystopian future, there isn’t much in the movie that addresses that, neither was there in the book. The virtual world, conveniently called the OASIS, is a place to escape the real world and both works leave it at that. The real story comes in the chase for the treasure, as both forces of good and evil race against time to get the hidden egg before the other. In the movie Steven Spielberg masterfully crafts his characters, although they do feel a bit simplistic at times, as if the target audience is primarily young adults.

Which makes sense. After all, the book also felt like a fun bubble-gum kind of story, with little suffering or grit or real violence. This is also mirrored in Cline’s irreverent, lackadaisical writing style.

The other thing that is quick to notice, and the media will also be quick to point out, is how chock-full the movie is in references. From Jurassic Park to Back to the Future, the movie adds to the 80s references with more modern, often video game, references like Halo or Overwatch.

It was definitely fun to see these references pulled out in the movie, sometimes literally from thin air (such as a weapon from one of your favorite video games you’ve spent hours using and picking up suddenly appear on-screen in the main character’s hands). I also thought the direction was very well done, with the camera swiveling to catch fluid actions and angles of the action, especially in the virtual world’s action scenes.

The transitions from virtual to real also felt very fluid, and overall the pacing was excellent as well. There were a few scenes that I felt needed a bit more gravitas, but this didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie.

Overall it was a very fun movie, highly enjoyable if you don’t take it too seriously, and an excellent adaptation. My final verdict: 9/10.

Juno Reactor: My favorite Cyberpunk Jam

I discovered Juno Reactor, along with a lot of my favorite music, by listening to the original soundtracks and scores to the Matrix trilogy. Along with Fluke and Rob Dougan, Juno Reactor is an excellent musical performing group that are very much electronica, considered in the subcategory GOA trance or psytrance. Although I’m not a fan of all of their material, their album Beyond the Infinte (1995) has an excellent list of tracks. You can check out the full album in the link below on Soundcloud. Let me know what you think, and enjoy!

Driverless Uber car results in first death

“Are driverless cars safe? Uber fatality raises questions”

This is the headline of the article and question that CNET asks. With a driverless Uber hitting and killing someone walking along the side of the street, the police now have to decide who is at fault: The pedestrian, the driver, or the robot/AI technology?

I think this will be the litmus test for whether the technology can survive or grow in the future. If I had to guess, I would say while this is a technology milestone and it’s never really happened before, the growth into driverless cars is unavoidable. I remember seeing this idea first addressed in the I, Robot movie with Will Smith. As his character takes over the wheel of his Audi, he later has an unavoidable crash (it’s bound to happen if countless robots are jumping on your hood trying to kill you) but after the crash, his police team want to blame him for taking off the auto-drive function and supposedly being the reason for the crash itself. So in the future, will we be pressured not to take the car off automatic, not to drive it ourselves?

Image result for i robot car

Personally, I still think driverless cars will be safer than cars with drivers. Sure there will be fatalities, but it’s unrealistic to think that any kind of driving can be victimless and perfect, considering how many roads we have and how many cars are on those roads at any given time. Perhaps what scares people more is the illusion of being in control of whether or not they get hurt or hurt someone else. But is that any different from getting hurt in a train, plane, bus, or ship?

You can read more about the CNET article here:

https://www.cnet.com/news/uber-self-driving-car-fatality-in-arizona-has-people-asking-how-safe-are-driverless-cars/

 

Thoughts on Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I tried playing this game before but simply couldn’t get into it with the difficulty in getting to some places, the emphasis on stealth, and the myriad of side quests that slowed down the story. Since my recent discovery of the amazing genre of cyberpunk, I decided to give it a go (I was able to get Deus Ex Human Revolution used for $2.50 and its sequel, Mankind Divided, for 12.50 from Game Stop!) I really like the game now, although I wish I could truly power through it as a shooter only, and not always need to rely on stealth. Shooting and destroying things is a lot of fun for me, more so than always trying to stay out of the line of sight of guards. I will say that I really enjoy the psychological profiles you get to try to figure out of the NPCs in the game, in order to activate speech options and make each encounter as successful as possible. I also very much like the possibility of choice in the game, and the sets (especially when you go to the Chinese area). But why does everything have to be so orange all the time? Most items are outlined in orange, vision through walls is orange, all lights are orange. I feel like this game could have had a lot more potential if it weren’t so monochromatic. Nonetheless, it’s still an excellent game. I love the voice actors and the music.