I really want to know what they put in the water up in Philly. Or…actually, on second thought, I probably don’t. But whatever magical ingredient is in the water up in Philly, it seems to be infecting the creative and philosophical types to very interesting effect. Last time around, I was talking about an0va’s ‘Ego Depletion,’ which if you read through the end of the interview, you know that that album was supposed to be an exploration of consciousness. In a strange turn of events, there is another Philly-based chipartist who has both a lower-case “a” and the number “0” in their name, who works in the Psychology department of a university and who has released an album meant to break us down and really get us thinking about what constitutes “us,” – that is to say, Steve Lakawicz, better known as ap0c, and his new album ‘The Last Dream.’
Now, as much as I’m joking around about the similarities between an0va and ap0c’s names and album concepts, both of these guys are worlds apart (metaphorically, of course – in reality they’re probably about two bus stops from each other). Those of you who have been around for a while probably remember ap0c’s contribution to our humble collection back on Volume 2, and you can already tell just from those four minutes the extremely diverse ground that ap0c can cover – and ‘The Last Dream’ is basically that on an album-wide scale. That’s honestly what I love the most about this album on the whole, is the fact that you never really know where it’s going. But there’s another hidden part to this album, which even ap0c himself may not know consciously, which I will reveal to all of you now:
It sucks playing a low brass instrument. “Wait, what?” I hear you cry, “I thought this was about chiptunes!” Alright chucklehead, give me a second. See, Steve and I got to talking during MAGFest, and we learned something very important about each other – we both play low brass instruments: he, the tuba; me, the euphonium (yes, it’s real, no, you haven’t heard of it). And when you’re a creative person trapped in the low brass section, it does something to you. Something weird. I’m sure you all know the joke about the bassist in a rock band, about how no one really loves them and they’re basically unimportant to the melody, while some people recognize them as barely better than a metronome to keep time while the band plays. The simple fact of the matter is, when you play a bass instrument, be it bass guitar or tuba or basically anything that never gets a melody, you start secretly hoping that some day, when you’re a big kid and you get to write the music, that you’ll write music that features the bassline playing the melody! Something that sounds cool, because screw all those high pitches, it’s the BASSLINE’s turn to steal the glory of the song!
As any of you who know how to compose, be it chiptunes or otherwise, probably know – having the bass in the lead for a whole song isn’t a healthy idea. It doesn’t sound like a song – people aren’t used to it. However, the more mature manifestation of this is to have some really prominent basslines featured in the composition to have them be in the audience’s face when they can be, and move out of the way when they need to be. And THIS is what Steve has done all throughout this album – his healthy understanding of the bassline colors the sound of the album in ways that are quite unique and unexpected to most people who go into this expecting another Anamanaguchi or Danimal Cannon.
Stylistically, the album is all over the place in the best way. Steve’s classical training bleeds through in parts, sounding at home among Bach’s fugues, but within the same song it might flip around to be something more lighthearted and goofy like one might expect out of a Sonic game, only to have it flip around and break down in a way that can only lead to mosh pits. Despite the fact that the styles bounce around, all of the transitions are seamless and it never feels like a song has been just Frankensteined together from a bunch of ideas just to fill time. It’s got enough in it from every style it represents to make it palatable from listeners of the more traditional music training to those who just love music they can jam around to. Personally, though, I’d say this album is best enjoyed with a good pair of headphones, or at the very least with some speakers with decent bass response – again, because ap0c has some really subtle and fancy basswork, a lot of the album is missed if you’re listening to it on dinky speakers with no bass.
That’s all this time around. Next time, I promise I’ll find someone to talk about who isn’t from Philly, I promise. For now though, go grab some fancy headphones, pop a brewski and go find yourself.