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Cyberpunk 2021: A Year in Review for Cyberpunk

A Time to Look Back Again

Another year, another two weeks of vacation to pause, breathe, and reflect on what 2021 has brought us. My last Year in Review, for 2020, described many things that we got to enjoy in the year, along with looking ahead to the future of what 2021 might bring. Weary as we were with COVID-fatigue, we thought we had glimpsed a light at the end of the tunnel until Delta and then Omicron dashed those dreams. Still, while restrictions and cases are ramping up again, it still feels much better than what we exprienced in 2020, so at least there’s that. While different from 2020 in many ways, 2021 has been another great year for the genre of Cyberpunk in general. On the first few days of 2021 I wrote the following:

But with all these vaccines rolling out for 2021, the year looks very promising. And with the vaccines will hopefully come a new stability, a new normal that will allow travel and production on all our favorite media to resume again…Obviously what I am most excited for here at Cyberpunk Matrix, and indeed a lot of the inspiration why I created this website in the first place, is the return to the world of The Matrix with Matrix 4.

In the end of 2020 I wrote the following looking to the horizon of 2021:

Cyberpunk Media to Look Out For in 2021

  1. Dune
  2. The Matrix 4 
    • Obviously what I am most excited for here at Cyberpunk Matrix, and indeed a lot of the inspiration why I created this website in the first place, is the return to the world of The Matrix with Matrix 4. Now that Lana Wachowski and the production team was able to wrap in Germany, it seems like the biggest work in producing Matrix 4 is done. Now comes the step of adding the music, edits, and all the other post production work, before marketing and getting Matrix 4 ready for their release date of December 22nd, 2021. Hopefully that release date won’t be pushed back yet again.
  3. Edgerunners (2022)
    • While all we know about this standalone series from Netflix set in Night City is that it will come out in 2022, hopefully there may be some news about its production to come out in 2021. Similarly, I am looking forward to any and all Cyberpunk 2077 DLC that comes out in 2021 that adds to the already very rich world that CD Projekt Red has created.

Well, Dune ended up being released September 15th. It was only part 1, but impressed enough people that it got greenlit for a part 2, which is amazing news. It also got great reviews and I personally loved the film. Since it’s not technically Cyberpunk, I probably won’t be reviewing it here on Cyberpunk Matrix, unless if I someone requests me personally to do a review. It could also qualify under an “Is This Cyberpunk?” segment.

As for Matrix 4, the name turned out to be The Matrix Resurrections, leaked online via Instagram. Among a slow drip of casting news, interviews and sneak peeks, we also got a teaser trailer, an actual trailer, and then I got to see the premiere of the film itself in London, which was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. I’ve also already posted my spoiler-free review for that, with a more in-depth spoiler review forthcoming.

Meanwhile, we got a lot of other Cyberpunk media in 2021, as well as a new personal project here at Cyberpunk Matrix. So come join me, won’t you, as we take a walk down memory lane again and look at all the Cyberpunk media that came out in 2021.

Outside the Wire (Netflix, January 15th)

Cyberpunk in 2021 started the year off bright and early with the release of Outside the Wire, a Netflix original starring Anthony Mackie, whom we had previously seen as the third incarnation of Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon Season 2. While initially marketed as a war action flick, I noted in an “Is This Cyberpunk?” segment that it wasn’t actually Cyberpunk, but it had elements that made it come close. While it had decent ideas and acting, I concluded it was a missed opportunity, a film that failed to hit its mark but was still worth a Sunday afternoon to watch. You can read my full analysis of the Cyberpunk elements of the film here.

Space Sweepers (Netflix, February 5th)

Space Sweepers was a surprise Cyberpunk film to come out on Netflix. While most of the film was in Korean, since it’s a Korean film, there were moments in other languages too, making it a properly diverse and cyberpunk film. Sadly, I never got around to making a review for the film, as other things like life intervened, but I hope to get around to writing a review for it someday soon. It was more space than Cyberpunk, although it had a lot of Cyberpunk elements. While interesting and serious, there were almost too many moments of humor and silliness, almost as if the film itself were an anime. Still, I highly recommend seeing the film, in particular for the impressive visual effects.

The End of Daft Punk (February 22nd)

This came as a sad shock to Daft Punk fans around the world, and to Cyberpunk fans in general, as this decidedly Cyberpunk electro duo decided to call it quits on February 22nd with an 8-minute epilogue. Having formed in Paris in 1993 by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, they would soon thrill the world with their fresh electro albums like “Homework”, “Discovery”, “Human after All” and “Random Access Memories”. They also created the original soundtrack to Disney’s Tron Legacy, as well as live-recorded albums and a visual companion to their Discovery album, an anime film called “Interstella 5555.” Always showing up to concerts in their Robot Android costumes (or were they truly androids?) they rarely gave in person interviews, preferring to remain anonymous and mysterious. In a requiem homage post I made in March detailing their breakup, I noted:

With an emphasis on anonymity to keep mega-corporations at bay and stay truly rebellious to the traditional trends of the churning, remorseless music industry, Daft Punk will stand the test of time and will forever remain in our minds visually and auditorily as the Cyberpunk sounds of the past, present, and future.

Love, Death & Robots Vol. 2 (Netflix, May 14th)

This came as a happy surprise, it was released without any proper announcement. After loving certain episodes of the first volume, I was eager to see the second, but many were disappointed in the decidedly shorter number of episodes for Volume 2 (8 episodes in total compared to 18 episodes in volume 1).

The Beginning of the Cyberpunk Matrix Podcast (May 25th)

May 25th saw the introductory episode of the Cyberpunk Matrix Podcast. Since that date there are 5 episodes available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Anchor, not including the introductory episode. This has been a major growth for Cyberpunk Matrix, as I’ve had the opportunity to interview content creators, Cyberpunk writers, and fans of the Cyberpunk genre to get a more broad, outside perspective on the Cyberpunk Genre. It’s been a lot of fun and very interesting for me to share my love of Cyberpunk in a different medium. You can check out all the Podcast episodes on the official Cyberpunk Matrix YouTube channel here, or on Spotify here.

Cyberpunk Day (October 10th)

Started in October 2020 by a coalition of Cyberpunk authors and enthusiasts like Matthew Goodwin (Into Neon) and Elias J Hurst (Europa), Cyberpunk Day was created to help others discover new cyberpunk content like books, comics, shows, movies, and art that weren’t as well-known as the more mainstream classics. While last year’s Cyberpunk Day featured more readings, this year featured more interviews and presentations, including guest star Mike Pondsmith, creator of the Cyberpunk Red tabletop RPG and Cyberpunk universe that Cyberpunk 2077 was based off of. I particularly enjoyed their round table with authors and enthusiasts who discussed what they considered Cyberpunk and not (much to my surprise, their definition was a lot more open than mine is) as well as their favorite works. You can check out the replays on their YouTube here.

Cowboy Bebop (Netflix, November 19th)

A divisive, yet major title to come out to be sure, the live action Cowboy Bebop both wowed and underwhelmed viewers upon its release. With a fun, quirky teaser and then promising trailer, the show started strong but ended with a weaker finish, as I reviewed here on Cyberpunk Matrix, but also most importantly, Netflix never gave the series a chance as its season 2 was cancelled before even a month had passed that it was available to stream on the platform. High drop-off rates (such as people stopping to watch after the second episode or so) were too blame. I noted this was a damn shame because the acting, special effects, and cinematography were all top-notch. See you, space cowboy.

The Matrix Resurrections (December 22nd)

Last but not least, the movie that we had all been waiting for for so long, and a major inspiration for the moniker of this Cyberpunk blog, The Matrix Resurrections was finally released this year after being announced so long ago in August of 2019. After that as I mentioned above, among a slow drip of casting news, interviews and sneak peeks, we got a teaser trailer, an actual trailer, and then I got to see the premiere of the film itself in London, which was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. I’ve also already posted my spoiler-free review for that, with a more in-depth spoiler review forthcoming. While ironically a staple Cyberpunk media, I think many people will kind of forget that the Matrix Resurrections is cyberpunk, focusing instead on the Meta aspects and its subtle-yet-not-so-subtle commentary on society, social media, sequels, and corporate culture. Instead, I’m sensing that anything considered “cyberpunk” in laymen’s terms will be quickly relegated to “related to that Cyberpunk game that had all those bugs and Keanu Reeves”. Hopefully this will not be the case, and we’ll continue seeing the genre grow. But this leads me to the Cyberpunk media we have to look forward to next year.

Cyberpunk Media to Look out for in 2022

I’m not gonna lie, after a quick perusal of things coming up…there’s really not much to look forward to. There are only two things that are exciting to look forward to Cyberpunk-wise. After a flood of Cyberpunk content with things like Cyberpunk 2077, The Matrix Resurrections, and the live action Cowboy Bebop, we are arriving at a drought of Cyberpunk content. Next year’s Science-Fiction content seems to be primarily the megacorporation of Disney doing Star Wars sagas, whether it be on the big screen or mainly just on their streaming platform, Disney+.

So we have to wait and hope that we’ll be surprised with great new sci-fi content. Netflix surely is feeling like betting on Cyberpunk Sci-fi content like Altered Carbon or Cowboy Bebop simply isn’t worth the investment, and with Disney flooding the market with Star Wars content, we miserly punks are left in the gutter with little content, where we can only wait.

My hope is that we see a Ready Player Two adaptation come soon, or a continuation of Alita: Battle Angel, or a new Cyberpunk title be adapted soon. But for now, here are the two Cyberpunk things I am looking forward to in 2022:

Magic the Gathering: Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

Release Date: February 18th, 2022.

This may fly under the radar for many, but I think it’s telling that one of the longest-lasting trading card games, Magic the Gathering, is finally doing their take on Cyberpunk with the upcoming edition of Neon Dynasty. This is a revisit to their original Kamigawa set, which had focused on Feudal Japan and ninjas. Well now they’re cyber-ninjas and neon samurais set in a distant future. Full disclosure: I was a huge MTG fan growing up in High School, and although I don’t buy or play with the cards anymore, I’ve made it easier for myself by downloading and playing the free MTG Arena game that allows you to get the newest decks and play with others online. All that money saved! Young me would’ve been so envious.

Edgerunners (Netflix)

Release Date: Unknown.

In case you forgot, Edgerunners is the anime series coming to Netflix based on the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame. This was announced during one of CD Projekt Red’s “Night City Wire” announcements during the months before the game’s release. Unfortunately, we know little more now than we did back then. It’s still set to be released in 2022, but they haven’t announced what date yet (it’ll probably just drop eventually as a surprise on Netflix with no announcement).

So there you have it! If you think I missed any other Cyberpunk releases, or if there’s something else you’re looking forward to in 2022, please let me know in the comments below.

Daft Punk: A Cyberpunk Requiem

The end of a Cyberpunk Musical Legacy

On February 22nd, the seminal band Daft Punk announced the sobering news that they would officially be no more. Consisting of Parisian-born musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, they announced their breakup with a 8-minute epilogue excerpted from their 2006 film Electroma, a science fiction film directed by the pair featuring a quest for two robots to become human.

But who were Daft Punk really? And how do they relate to the genre of Cyberpunk, if at all? Today we’re taking a look at the influential legend that is Daft Punk.

The Origins of Daft Punk

Daft Punk formed in Paris in 1993 by two friends who met in High School. They achieved a level of timelessness by combining styles from the past with imagery of the future.

They originally experimented with Guitar-Based rock before changing their name to Daft Punk in response to a reviewer who called them a “Daft Punky Thrash”.

They then started experimenting with drum machines and synthesizers, and later secured a record deal with Virgin Records. Their very first performance was in the US at a techno festival in Wisconsin in 1996. Back then they performed with either Halloween masks or no masks at all.

Daft Punk’s 1st album: Homework

Their first album Homework released in 1997, and was described by the UK magazine Muzik as “One of the Most Hyped Debut Albums in a long all Time”. The record charted in 14 countries, mostly in Europe, and then Daft Punk went on tour for 12 months that year.

The album was mostly made up with simple beats and was basically a record for a club. However, it created a massive wave in the european music scene at its time.

Daft Punk’s 2nd Album: Discovery

They next album, Discovery, was a massive evolution from Homework. They were inspired by Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker and 70s funk and disco, combined it with pop and house music, and the end result sounded both retro and new. The presence of heavy sampling with Homework and Discovery would ultimately end up being the defining sound of Daft Punk.

Interstella 5555: A Visual Companion to Discovery

Daft Punk would later release an animated film in 2003 that would serve as a visual companion to Discovery. The film bridged anime, musical, and science fiction genres, and was called Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.

Daft Punk’s Unique Cyberpunk Look

Daft Punk came up with their signature look around the time of Discovery’s release. Going beyond their Halloween masks from before, they wanted to double down on anonymity, and since their audiences found their masks exciting, they continued wearing them. Daft Punk also valued their privacy–they didn’t want to be photographed or noticed on the street. They wanted to keep their personal lives personal. To this day they have conducted almost no interviews, allowing their anonymity and music to speak for itself.

Thomas Bangalter told Face Magazine in the year 2000 that he and Guy-Manuel had become robots on the 9th of September, 1999. Their sampler crashed and exploded on them when they were making a song, apparently, and when they woke up they had become Androids. After they turned into Androids they lost all their previous music, which explains why their music sounds so different afterwards. The inspiration of the style of their helmets comes in part from an unusual rock opera movie called Phantom of the Paradise.

Daft Punk’s 3rd Album: Human After All

Daft Punk’s third album, Human After All, dropped in 2005. This album was the least well received, abandoning its previous disco and house influences for more minimalistic tones. It was also recorded in only 6 weeks.

Daft Punk’s 1st live-recorded album: Alive 2007

Their next album, Alive 2007, was a live album recorded in an arena in Paris with an assortment of Daft Punk’s best songs. Some considered their live versions even better than the original studio recordings.

Daft Punk’s 1st Original Soundtrack: Tron Legacy

This album was basically the complete opposite of Alive 2007, and would be their first (and only) movie soundtrack–the Original Soundtrack for Disney’s Tron Legacy. This album was carefully created using a combination of an 85-piece orchestra and Daft Punk’s own original Synthwave style. They also took a lot of inspiration from Wendy Carlos, who composed the original Tron film soundtrack. Although they had only seen the original Tron a couple times, it had influenced the duo enough to significantly factor into the visual identity they chose for themselves.

Daft Punk’s Final Album: Random Access Memories

Their latest and final album, Random Access Memories, is one of my personal favorite albums of any artist of all time, an opinion I’m not alone in sharing I’m sure. This album just feels like a masterpiece, and in it Daft Punk was able to use the technology at their disposal to its fullest. “Touch,” for instance, uses 250 tracks at the same time, something that was impossible to do with the technology they started out with in the late 1990s. One music reviewer, Volksgeist, had this to say about the album: “RAM is the most human album yet by everyone’s favorite android duo. They finally perfected their formula of presenting styles of the past through a futuristic lens, and for that I consider RAM a modern classic.”

Daft Punk: True Cyberpunk Musical Artists.

There are many reasons why Daft Punk is the most Cyberpunk band out there, more than just the most obvious fact that they have the word Punk in their name and they present themselves as Gold and Silver Robots. Daft Punk scored the big-budget Cyberpunk masterpiece Tron:Legacy (where they also had a cameo), and they have always been using high tech instruments to combine with the low-life practice of sampling, mixing, and remixing their music to create futuristic sounds that feel oddly nostalgic. Daft Punk’s visuals have always futuristic, as if the duo would feel right at home in a cyber dystopian future. A lot of the themes in their songs relate to the relationship between humans and robots, a motif that is one of the most prevalent issues in classic Cyberpunk stories like Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, or Alita: Battle Angel. The lyrics in their music, the song names, hell even the album names themselves often relate to the human-android connection. Human After All has Robot Rock and Human After All, Discovery has Digital Love, and the name of the album Random Access Memories, or RAM, is the name of digital memory stored on a computer. With an emphasis on anonymity to keep mega-corporations at bay and stay truly rebellious to the traditional trends of the churning, remorseless music industry, Daft Punk will stand the test of time and will forever remain in our minds visually and auditorily as the Cyberpunk sounds of the past, present, and future.

Review: Sturgill Simpson’s Sound and Fury

sound and fury 2

Sound and Fury is what would happen if you added some Tokyo City LSD to Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Jack, and then made it into an hour-long country rock music video.

This is one of the most refreshing, and unusual, tales of a dystopian story with cyberpunk elements that I’ve seen in recent memory. It reminds me a bit of Love, Death and Robots, except the art and story is a lot more connected.

Here’s why Sound and Fury is not your average Anime tale.

Sturgill Simpson is a country singer. Who loves Japan. And decided to go all out in creating the coolest-ever Japanese Dystopian Future tale to go along with his new country rock album Sound and Fury.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this done. Daft Punk famously created “Interstella 5555” as an anime visual realization of their album Discovery. But Daft Punk is a lot more closely aligned to the typical Cyberpunk style. If you don’t believe me, just watch the latest Tron film.

A combination of different sounds and songs.

Sturgill Simpson’s “Sound and Fury” isn’t all Fury, and has many different sounds. Some are slow, for instance. His vocals are excellent, and the rock is great too, but it’s a very different kind of rock compared to the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077’s Samurai-style Punk Rock.

Listening to it on Spotify

Simpson’s album is up on Spotify, so before watching the entire film (which is now available for streaming on Netflix) I saw first a teaser trailer which consisted of a scene from the film, then a proper trailer, and then I listened to the album on Spotify before watching the film.

I would have never imagined the illustrious, imaginative visuals that go along with Simpson’s music. Much like I would have never imagined Interstella 5555, there is very little in way of connection between the actual music and the visuals. But they provide for one hell of a ride.

Unfortunately, the teaser trailer that got me so excited to watch the film probably oversold it, as in my opinion it’s one of the best, if not the best, scene from the entire film.

So what’s it about?

The film follows the story of a Japanese monastery and family within that are attacked ruthlessly by 2 foreigners, who seem to represent corporate greed or cruelty perhaps. The rest of the tale is mostly one of revenge. There are a couple side stories, such as one of a slave uprising in this dystopian future, and one of what appeared to be a homeless person seeking shelter before a bombardment on the city. All stories seem loosely connected, and I am still trying to piece it all together to be honest.

But my favorite tale, the one shown in the trailer, is the main story of course. The main character, a cyberpunk samurai, leads an attack against the corporate villains, with two katana blades forged from the blood and spirits of the blacksmiths who made them.

A Refreshing Surprise

And just as the climax of battle is about to be reached, with an all out battle between the hero and the two villains, what does the anime deliver? If you guessed an impromptu dance routine featuring literally everyone, including foreshadowing what’s to come before the battle even happened, then you’d be…surprisingly…accurate.

Needless to say, this was very confusing to me. After the dance routine more side stories are told, and then THE CREDITS, only after which the battle and its conclusion is finally shown. So don’t worry, the final battle WILL come, you just have to sit through the credits or fast forward to see it. I guess they really wanted you to appreciate the work that went into making this film. Its production value is outstanding.

Catchy tunes that will stick with you

What’s interesting is what happened to me after I saw the film. The music…REALLY stays with you. Things kick into gear with the driving percussion from Remember to Breathe, continuing along into Sing Along, which you might remember as the visual trailer for the film. Next the tracks speed up with a Good Look, also known as When Everyone Breaks Out Into That Crazy Dance Routine. The album then alternates between slowing down a speeding up, tempered beats and slow crooning served next to jarring electronic chords and discordant sounds in a wild feverish mix of electronic-infused country rock gone mad.

Final Verdict: Definitely worth watching and listening to.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the official trailer below:

 

And then see the music video for Sing Along:

And finally, check out the entire film on Netflix, streaming now. You know you want to.

Blood Machines: Upcoming Short Film from Synthwave legend Carpenter Brut

Blood Machines Carpenter Brut

Carpenter Brut is Back!

Carpenter Brut is a Cyberpunk classic Synthwave act consisting of Franck Hueso. A French artist hailing from Poitiers, he’s created such Cyberpunk classics as Anarchy Road, Paradise Warfare, and of course the iconic Turbokiller. Carpenter Brut partnered with the visual team Seth Ickerman to create a stunning music video for Turbokiller, which has been the inspiration for Carpenter Brut to continue along the audiovisual route by beginning a short film project entitled “Blood Machines.”

For the First Time, an Original Sound Track to Go With the Film

Blood Machines is a short film inspired by the 80’s films and music, and while written and directed by Seth Ickerman, Carpenter Brut is providing the soundtrack. Production for the film actually began in 2017, and is currently in post-production.

While searching for funding and only having a teaser trailer of late, their official trailer for the short film was just released last week, and oh man does it look good. I’ll let you take a look below.

Teaser Trailer

What We Know About the Story So Far

A Sequel to their music video Turbokiller, Blood Machines follows the tale of two space hunters who are tracking down a machine that is trying to free itself. After taking it down, they witness a chilling mystical phenomenon: the ghost of a young woman pulls herself out of the machine, as if the spaceship itself had a soul. Thus, in order to understand what they had just witnessed, the team begin chasing the woman through space.

Release Date

There’s still no official release date yet, but it should be releasing soon. For more information about the characters in the short film, you can check out their website here.

My Thoughts

Considering that I’m a huge fan of Carpenter Brut and listen to them whenever I get the chance, I’m super excited about this space opera project. I was really impressed by the work Seth Ickerman did for Turbokiller, and I instantly recognize Carpenter Brut’s music any time I hear it in a trailer or a video game. It seems like they are taking the time to do this right and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing short film.

 

Gunship: Cyberpunk electronica with Saxophone and HQ music videos

Gunship is a British 2010 synthwave band that describes its music as “influenced by the soundtracks of 80s film, television shows, video games & cartoons” and “a neon soaked, late night, sonic getaway drive, dripping with luscious analog synthesizers, cinematic vocals and cyberpunk values, exploding from the front cover of a dusty plastic VHS case which has lain forgotten since 1984.”

The other thing that it is, other than doing an amazing job of describing its own music, is create music videos with a surprisingly high production value. The majority are stop-motion clay or cartoons, but they aren’t afraid of combining live action in their videos as well.

The fact that they have over 75,000 YouTube subscribers with only 21 videos posted is a testament to their high-quality music and visuals.

I mentioned Gunship in my post about Ready Player One, how they did a tribute video to Art3mis and Parzival. They also like to do a lot of gory, over the top music videos. So if you like that kind of thing, it’s a lot of fun. Most of their videos also have very nice vocals, which isn’t always found in most Synthwave nowadays.

Their upcoming work includes a song called Woken Furies, labeled and inspired after one of Richard K Morgan’s books and even borrowing his voice for some of the vocals. They’ve also done songs inspired by such places as Stranger Things, wrote a song for a retro documentary called “Rise of the Synths”, and wrote other songs with names such as “Cyber City” and “Drone Racing League.”

You can read a lot more all about Gunship and their inspirations in this excellent piece by The Verge.

If you like their music, keep an eye out for their album Dark All Day coming out in October 2018.