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11: Lena Raine and the quest for the cosy web

11: Lena Raine and the quest for the cosy web

Searching for a better internet with the high-flying video game composer.

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For this episode of No Tags, we delve deep into the undergrowth of the internet with Lena Raine, someone who knows it better than most.

Lena is one of the most respected video game musicians on the circuit, first working on Guild Wars 2 as a developer and composer before capturing the imagination of millions with her soundtrack for Celeste, one of the key independent video games of the last decade. Not just a platform game (though it is, obviously, a very good platform game), Celeste deals delicately with themes of anxiety, depression and gender, with its lead character Madeline an analogue of sorts for creator Maddy Thorson. Lena has soared ever since, Madeline-style, composing music for Minecraft as well as acclaimed indie game Chicory: A Colorful Tale.

Often with No Tags, we try to focus on people who haven’t had their story adequately told. That’s not the case with Lena. She’s given many interviews, and she’s always an excellent subject. But we wanted to ask some practical questions: just how does a musician enter the world of video games? And what do they need to know about pitching, contracts, copyright and the difference in process between releasing recorded music and working for video games?

It’s an interview of two halves: the first serves as a practical resource for musicians, but in classic No Tags style, the second half goes somewhere else entirely, with Lena on fine form tackling Gamergate, the evolution of the modern internet (not familiar with the theory of the Cozy Web? You soon will be) and the sale of Bandcamp. She saves her most righteous response for the coming of AI, though – that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Lena also kindly made a playlist to accompany the interview, compiling some of her recent video game and non-video game favourites. You can read a full playlist blurb from Lena via this footnote.1

Finally, it only just occurred to us that we could be using this newsletter to point you towards other stuff that we do. So in the spirit of awkward self-promotion, Chal recently wrote about Ed Gillett’s fantastic history of British dance music, Party Lines, for the London Review of Books, and Erika de Casier’s new yet puzzlingly retro album, Still, for the ‘Fork – which still exists!

On with the show.

Chal Ravens: Am I right in thinking that it's your 11th birthday this week? 

Lena Raine: It’s my 10th!

Chal Ravens: Ah, I got it wrong! Well, happy 10th birthday. Tell us about being a leap year baby.

Lena Raine: I don't know, mostly it's a good conversation starter. I celebrate my birthday, usually on the 28th. But on the rare occasion… though, you know, it is a predictable rare occasion. I see it coming. The Olympics happens around the same time.

Tom Lea: We did look for other famous leap year babies to bring up, but Ja Rule was the biggest one we could find.

Chal Ravens: I think that's quite cool. So we thought we'd start off by asking you exactly what you're working on at the moment. What's on your plate?

Lena Raine: I'm working on music for two games. The first is a game called Beastieball, which if you're familiar with the Pokémon franchise, it's a little bit of that and it's also a little bit of volleyball. You're befriending monsters in the world to form a volleyball team and play Beastieball together. And so everyone has special sets and spikes and all that stuff. And it's fun. You know, one of the things that's always been a little weird about Pokémon is that you're raising animals to fight each other.

Chal Raven: Yeah, it's actually a bloodsport, isn't it? 

Lena Raine: And so the premise that Greg [Lobanov], the main designer and creator of the game wanted to tackle was, what if the cool beasties weren't actually fighting each other, but they're just, you know, playing sports? So you’re their coach, and you’re training them and trying to get to the top of the league charts.

The other game is called Earthblade. The sort of big hit I had as a composer was a game called Celeste, and the team behind that, we're making a new game called Earthblade. Celeste was level-based – you complete one level, you move on to the next, it's linear progression. Whereas this is more of a free-roaming open game. It's still 2D, it's still pixel-art, side-scroller kind of stuff. But it is more of an adventure, you're finding your way through the world. There's some combat in there. So it's a really interesting, fantastical game that I'm writing some really weird music for. 

Chal Ravens: Nice. And there's also something else called Project Astray, but it doesn't seem entirely clear what that is. What can you tell us about that?

Lena Raine: Yeah, I've been vaguely posting about it over the years as I've been formulating it. It's my next solo game project. It's the first solo game project I'll have done since 2018, when I released a visual novel called ESC. That was sort of a narrative visual novel, so it was linear text with visuals and sound and music. And I wanted to take another step forward and make more of a game game. So this is my attempt at that, but you know, it's a project that I'm doing in my spare time. It's a cool RPG-adjacent game which I'm currently doing all of the art, writing, programming and music on. I might bring in some other people down the line, but it's currently my solo project to practice art and programming and all that stuff while I create this story that I've sort of plotted out for myself.

Tom Lea: Could you give us the Cliffs Notes history of how you entered the video game industry? I believe I'm right in saying you were working in a quality assurance2 role, right? 

Lena Raine: To start with, yeah. Because I went to school for music, and got a degree and all of that, you know, this big fancy thing that doesn't really amount to too much in the eyes of people hiring you.

Tom Lea: You don't think it was a factor?

Lena Raine: No, not at all. It's all about, what is the music that you're doing? Does it fit with a game? And at the time I was doing music that felt right and personal to me, but it wasn't really meshing with with the game industry at that point. There weren't a whole lot of indie teams [back then] that were openly recruiting people. There were small developers – indie games were still a thing, but it wasn't something that you could actually get onto platforms. Steam wasn't really even a thing in 2006 when I graduated. All of the major platforms like Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, they weren't pushing indie games really. So the options that I had when I graduated were to try and get hired by a big studio or just do my own music.

I went to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco two years in a row, I tried to meet people, I pitched my music, I had demo reels and all that stuff. But the big companies that were actually hiring either had internal composers or they had the best freelance composers that had the biggest studios and the biggest production staff. So I didn't stand a chance at the time. I had to fall back on a plan B, which was to just do my own music in my own time and try to get into the industry some other way. My solution at the time was to get into QA [quality assurance]. I was living in Seattle, and Microsoft's there and Nintendo of America's there, there was a whole bunch of either platform holders or publishers in the Seattle area. So I ended up working for Nintendo for about two and a half years doing certification testing, and then I got hired at Warner Bros. Games for their publishing platform, and then eventually at ArenaNet, which was a developer. That was sort of the key for me crossing over from doing testing into actual development.

So I got hired as a designer at ArenaNet, and was there for five years doing game design. I was basically a story and quest designer. I was working with the writers on the game to turn the plot and the story into playable quests, and the music was a part of that. Once the game had shipped and we were making new content, I was working with the audio team and saying, '“Hey, we could use some new music for this new event,” and that eventually turned into a conversation with them where I was like, “"I'm a composer in my spare time, can I try my hand at writing something for this content that I'm doing?” Eventually that worked its way into the job role where I was designing content, and then also writing music for it.

Chal Ravens: Let’s say someone who is listening or reading is a musician and is interested in this. If they wanted to try and pitch some stuff for video game composition and move into that world, is there a standard way of going about that? Is your route into it quite typical? 

Lena Raine: There’s definitely a lot of luck, but from the perspective of an audio producer or someone who is given the task of finding a composer for their game project, I think a lot of it really comes down to who they're aware of. So there's a lot of new game composers that are coming from TV or film-scoring or electronic music production, simply because [those audio producers] are aware of their music and they think it would be a good fit for the game. And so a lot of that happens just because they're already out there.

Funnily enough, the fact that I worked on Guild Wars 2 and Celeste – these big, award-winning games – didn't really factor into the fact that I got the gig working on Minecraft. It was actually because I'd put out the album Oneknowing with Tom here3. And the people that worked at Mojang, the studio that does Minecraft, they heard that album and then reached out to me on Bandcamp. And so that was actually a result of me doing my own independent music, outside of games. 

So it really is being a good artist on your own but then also having the understanding that you would be interested in working on a game. You know, if you're actually out there talking about it, like, “I'd love to work on a game project”, maybe that'll catch someone's eye or ear and they'll reach out. But it's interesting because the dynamic of pitching to studios has changed so much over the years, especially with the internet becoming much more of a place where everyone's just kind of putting their stuff out there. In 2006, when I was trying to get jobs in the industry, you would make a CD and you would send it in the mail. You don't do that anymore!

I just have a website that lists all the stuff that I've done. And people reach out to me or start up a conversation and something will happen, we'll end up working on something together. Those partnerships can come from so many different directions that it's difficult to give any one piece of specific advice. It's more like, what do you do, and how can you shape what you're doing into putting yourself in the right position to be part of a team like that? 

Tom Lea: You talked about how when you first started, this was before Steam became a prominent platform. There are a lot more companies you can pitch to now than there were then. Are independent video game companies generally open to musicians pitching to them? Or is it more that they're likely to reach out from their side?

Lena Raine: Yeah, it really depends on the team. The unfortunate truth is that there's so many people out there that want to work on games, that if a company is open to pitches, they're going to get flooded.

And the other interesting counter right now is that the game industry is, like a lot of the world, going through a big financial issue. Teams and publishers have less money to throw around, and are doing lots of layoffs, which is tragic, and so many people are without work right now that the pool is even more competitive. There's a lot of people that were working on a project that got cancelled and are looking to join another team. So it's probably even harder right now for new people to enter the field. Which is not to discourage anyone, but it's just the reality of where the industry is at. 

Tom Lea: In terms of your rights as a composer when you work on a video game – and I believe there's differences between working with an indie company and a AAA game4 company when it comes to this too – what rights do you retain? What are the deals like, compared to the traditional recorded music industry?

Lena Raine: Like anything with the game industry, it varies depending on the deals made. I've had a variety of different financial stakes in projects. In the indie side of things, I think it's more common to retain copyright and retain public distribution rights for your own soundtracks. What I tend to always do is retain copyright, I will personally handle the soundtrack release myself, either working with a publisher or self-publishing, and the deal that's made with the indie studio is basically an indefinite licence for them to use the music in the context of the game. And then outside of that, it's mine basically.

That's how it's worked for Celeste, for Chicory, for all these quote-unquote smaller independent games – although they have obviously had a huge impact as far as sales go. Because the games themselves have done well, that also impacts me on the soundtrack side. My soundtrack sells and streams based on the popularity of the game, so that benefits me. And then I also have the music registered with ASCAP, which provides some additional royalties on that front.

For something like Minecraft, or when I've worked with Sony – I did one track for one of their games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure – they basically did a copyright buyout where they own the rights to the music, and they can do whatever they want with it and I get a larger payout upfront. So I'll have to negotiate like, “Hey, if I'm giving up my rights here, then you need to pay me more money for my music, because this is what I'm giving up.”

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Chal Ravens: I wanted to ask about another occupational hazard of the games industry, which is, from what I can see, a fairly problematic way of dealing with gender. I'm on the outside here, but I saw Gamergate5 and I see some of these periodic controversies around gender in video games. I was interested in your experiences from the inside as to what it's been like to work in games as a woman, and obviously as a trans woman as well. Have things evolved since Gamergate?

Lena Raine: I mean, it's a difficult thing to really put out there from my own experiences, just because I've worked with an unusually supportive set of teams. And for me personally, because I've had teams reach out to me, there's not really been that sense of not getting hired because of who I am. Thankfully that is the weird outlier situation that I'm in, being a composer with music out there that people know. Really, the main thing that I deal with is just toxic entities online, people that want to raise shit for for no good reason. It's ignorable for the most part.

And so within the industry, everyone that I've worked with has been really accommodating and really respectful of who I am, but I know that there are teams out there that would never hire me. But also, I don't want to work with them. I don't want to work with people that aren't respectful enough of humanity and of people to work with someone that doesn't fit the mould of who they think they should work with. So on one hand, it sucks that there are still people out there that can be so horribly sexist or transphobic. But there are so many people that are wonderful and willing to work with… you know, people that just have amazing output and amazing art that they're doing. 

Chal Ravens: But is it the case that there's some kind of internal industry reckoning ongoing? Or is this not that much of a live subject anymore? 

Lena Raine: Honestly, yeah, it's completely ongoing. I'm in a special situation because I'm a freelancer, I can choose my projects and all that stuff, but large industry teams that have social hierarchy within them… yeah, there's issues everywhere. There's not enough women in positions of power in all sorts of industry teams, there's not enough people of colour in higher-up positions, there's not enough trans people in those positions. And that affects the entire industry. So it's difficult for me to talk about that, because from my perspective, I'm working freelance, but I know that there are issues within so many teams, and especially on the larger, corporate side of things.

So many indie teams right now are forming from people leaving the AAA industry. And the people that form the AAA industry, who are grouping together and now forming these indie teams, are for the most part straight white male producers and designers… you know, that is their social clique. They're coming from Ubisoft, they're coming from Electronic Arts or wherever they're working, and they'll form these teams that have the same sort of internal biases that they had at those larger companies, and their design practices and their management practices are all derived from this culture that hasn't quite gotten there yet. And when people go to investors to get money for their games, the majority of the investors are probably not people of colour, not women. They're folks that are looking for people like them to give money to, and so there's a lot of stuff wrapped up in the financial and the business side of the industry that obviously is still an issue, and still something that is very difficult to navigate. 

I think it's going to be an issue that probably gets worse before it gets better, especially with the financial situation of the game industry and the world right now. With investors being even more hesitant to give out money, they're going to turn to people that they know are surefire successes, and they are not going to be risky with their money - or risky in their perspective, you know? They're not going to give money to creators that haven't proven themselves already, and the people that have quote-unquote proven themselves in their eyes are the people that have already been succeeding in the industry.

Tom Lea: I have a feeling I know what you're going to say about this, but it would be remiss of me not to ask, because it's such a big topic in music at the moment, and I presume it's a big topic in video game creation too. What do you make of the current rapid advances in AI?

Lena Raine: My perspective... well, there’s a lot of people that I respect that are trying to approach it like, you know, we could use it for interesting tools in a certain way – but the people that are in charge of it are horrible, and are not doing this ethically. I'm more of the perspective that algorithmic AI stuff is a bit of a scam. I think it is people profiting off of the body of work of humanity in a way that is insidious, and on a moral level, I oppose it. Unfortunately, it is sort of the zeitgeist at the moment, it's one of those things where the people with money are looking at ways to exploit these tools so that they don’t have to deal with creatives as much, to not have to deal with things that from their perspective are hassles or take too much time to get a return on their investment. 

That is why all this money is being thrown at algorithmic AI development. It is business-minded, it is capital-minded, it is looking to churn money and take the human element out of creativity. And that is something so antagonistic to me that it's hard for me to even really give it the time of day. I make music, and my wife is an artist and she does incredible work, and the degree that the art world is seeing this churn of, you know, taking tonnes of copyrighted material – because unless you give up your copyright, if you make art, that is yours, that is your copyright, and if you put it on the internet, it's still your copyright – and all of these databases mining all of this data and throwing it into a pot and giving it to a publicly presented computer AI that is magically creating things is insidious. That is a scam, that is a horrible thing. They're claiming that stuff is coming from nothing, when in fact, it is being made from the re-jumbled refuse of what people have already done. 

And so that's going to be a big conversation in games, but I think it's going to be something that will lead to lesser games. It will lead to lesser creative work, and people will wonder what happened. What happened to the quality of all of these things that I loved before? And eventually, I think they'll realise that it's because they're relying on technology that is feeding into itself and making inherently worse products. And then, at best I think, the generative AI output will be so flawed that they’ll need to hire back people to correct it. There's no way that I think this stays as the status quo. It’s something that many people are chasing after, but ultimately, creativity is a human thing. And if we're not generating the stuff that is getting turned into algorithmic art, music, whatever, if there's no more input from us, then that ceases to exist.

Chal Ravens: Strong anti-Replicant position from Lena! I was actually wondering about a broader take from you about the internet. I don't know loads about games, but I do know about the internet, because I've been on the internet for a long time and I reckon you probably have too. I'd actually be quite interested to know what what sort of internet era you are: are you a Napster child, were you a LiveJournal child, possibly?

Lena Raine: Oh, I went through all kinds of internet phases. My very first internet was AOL. You know, signing in with the amazing noise of connecting to AOL. And so I was on there. I was was on MUDs and MUCKs, like tech-space role playing rooms and all that. I was on LiveJournal. 

Chal Ravens: What did you put on LiveJournal?

Lena Raine: Mostly thoughts about video games. [Laughter]

Chal Ravens: Your Twitter links to a profile on something called cohost, which has the spirit of old LiveJournal, the early Web 2.0 attitude. I feel like people are increasingly retreating from public-facing platforms which are full of bots and ads and whatever, and I don't know if you're aware of these terms that have popped up recently, the Cozy Web and the Dark Forest6?

The Cozy Web was coined by Venkatesh Rao. He calls it a high-gatekeeping slum-like space comprising slacks, messaging apps, private groups, storage services like Dropbox, and of course, email, and the informal, untracked, messily human space that the bots and algorithms haven't infiltrated yet.And the Dark Forest is this idea of a place on the web that seems eerily quiet and devoid of life. All the living creatures within it are hiding. Because night is when the predators come out. To survive, the animals stay silent.So the predators are like the tracking bots, the advertisers, the trolls.

I wanted to think about these terms because they chime with the philosophy of indie games – this sense of wanting to protect the space that you're in, to protect it from advertisers, and trolls too maybe. I was wondering if that's how you are trying to interact with the internet now? And where do you stand on having a public profile online?

Lena Raine: Well, first off I'd never heard of that analogy before, but that's a really fun way to think about it. It's been an interesting full circle for me, where when I first started existing on the internet, it was through pseudonyms – you know, the advice was to never reveal your identity, to keep your online self and your personal self separate. And looking back on that I'm like, that's wonderful advice, why didn't we follow that? Then you get to Facebook completely tearing that apart. And I think that is one of the main tipping points of changing the social paradigm of the internet for a lot of people. Instead of just being a different person online, suddenly online was also a window into your life and your world and your reality. 

Like the rest of the internet, I was taken up on that for a while. I had my Facebook page, I had my Instagram, I posted photos of daily life stuff, and on Twitter I talked about real life and posted selfies and just created this sort of curated window into my personal life. And especially as I got more and more popular, and more and more people knew who I was, the less that felt safe, the less that that felt like something I wanted to invite people into. Because suddenly, it was this overwhelming sense of eyes everywhere, this dynamic where people could have their own thoughts about my personal life in ways that were completely different from how I was experiencing life. I got to the point where I was like, fuck it, I don't want to do that anymore. 

So I stopped using my Instagram account, I changed my avatar on Twitter back to a pixel-art version of myself, I focused more on platforms like cohost where there's no big incentiviser for presenting your personal self there, and that feels so much more reasonable to me. I still use the public-facing side of the internet for the things that I need it for – you know, promotion, I have to maintain that in some way. But no one has any right to look into to any aspect of my life that I don't want them to look into.

We should just be pseudonyms, we should just be this weird mass of people online. Because I think the internet is a more interesting space when it is an alternate reality of sorts. There's certain benefits of people using it as a tool to communicate as their real life selves. That's fine. But it's interesting to see that also coincide with big tech's obsession, briefly, with this concept of the Metaverse. “We're gonna live in both the real world and the online space, and it's going to be this hybrid space where suddenly it doesn't even matter, it blends together…”

Chal Ravens: But it looks kind of boring! One day, Mark Zuckerberg was like, “Introducing… legs!” Like, OK, legs? Can't we have wheels, or fins?!

Tom Lea: And you can do that already – you can log into a Grand Theft Auto server with your friends and do something way more fun!

Lena Raine: Right, that's what games are for! That's what these other spaces are for. People have already done that, people have already made their own spaces and made them custom to what they want them to be like. Look at VRChat, that is an incredible other world that you can exist in. And those selves are not invalid selves. I think it's great that people can log into VRChat and hang out with their friends and be literally whatever avatar they create – the 3D modelling, the rigging, all this stuff. It's really cool that we have this space, but it doesn't need to be real life. Real life can still exist in tandem with these spaces, it's not abnormal for you to be able to go into another world.  

Tom Lea: Something that's cropped up a lot on this podcast is the sale of Bandcamp, first to Epic Games and then to Songtradr. As someone who has a significant audience on Bandcamp, and you've had a lot of success on the platform, what are your current thoughts or potential worries about this?

Lena Raine: I’m perpetually worried that it'll get torn apart in some way. That's always the worry with buyouts and any sort of exchanging of hands. I worried about it when Epic bought Bandcamp – it's not like there hasn't been a worry before. So far, the evidence is very small that things are changing, but at the same time, a lot of people have been let go. There's a lot of pushback on the unionisation efforts. There's all of these things that seem to indicate that there is something happening, but we just don't know about it. It's a huge worry, because a service like Bandcamp is essential for an artistic community to sustain itself. At the same time, I feel like if Bandcamp were to go away, there would be something to step in. But the question is what are the specifics of that? How soon would it come? That sort of thing.

It's twofold. One thing is like, it's sad, because I did work a lot with some of the behind-the-scenes people that have since been let go. I was a consultant on their Listening Parties feature that went into effect, and seems to be a success for them. But that came together just before the Songtradr exchange happened. And I worry that it'll either remain stagnant, or get changed in a way that is negative for the artists that rely on it as a resource.

And then the twofold thing is that being a best-selling artist on Bandcamp gives me some degree of insight to the relative statistics of everything else on the platform. And it's interesting to me just how few sales an album needs to chart on Bandcamp. If it only takes several hundred sales to be visible on the platform, how little is everything else selling there? And that worries me too. There's still the impact of streaming, there is still the impact of people generally not buying music. And for Bandcamp to remain a success, I think that needs to be bolstered rather than stagnant, if that makes sense.

Tom Lea: We hit up a few friends who we knew were fans of yours and asked if they have questions. This is from Joe Moynihan, who makes music as Yamaneko. “When it comes to making music for a game that's difficult to the point where people will be playing the same sections over and over again, such as Celeste, does that affect your composition process at all? Knowing that what you make will be heard on repeat for periods of extended frustration, does that play a conscious part in how you make music for those levels?”

Lena Raine: Yes, absolutely. One of the most difficult things to think about when you're composing looping music is, you know, how tiresome is this going to be on the fifth loop? Or on the 100th loop, whatever it is.

Tom Lea: As someone who's played Celeste, I'm more a 100th loop guy.

Lena Raine: One might say that the difficulty of the game might contribute to people's affection for the music, because they've been forced to listen to it so much [laughter]. But the thing that I think is most important for that sort of composition is: is your musical idea catchy? It's one of those things of like, how do you write a hit tune? How do you write a popular melody that's gonna persist forever? There's no real science behind it, but I've come up with my own personal theories of why some of my melodies hit more than miss. Some of that has to do with the psychology of constructing a melody, where if you’re writing something melodic, if it is really complex then it is just going to lose people. But if you write something that is simple and repetitive, if it's a good groove then it's going to stick with people. 

You can have a section that is entirely just a vamp, and if you've got this four-bar vamp that is doing the catchy chord progression, anything can happen there. That's why it works for jazz, you make a really good vamp and you can solo in your head all day. You don't always have to have something immediately interesting happening. If it comes back then people look forward to it, right? So if you have a cool little melodic phrase or something that starts the track and you're like, yeah, I'm grooving with this, I understand where this is going, this is a catchy melody. But then it just goes into the chord progression for a while, that's OK. Because then people will start either hearing the melody that they remember, or they start riffing to themselves internally. And I use a lot of that kind of jazz sentimentality to construct looping music, because in its essence jazz is operating on that same level of creating something that is a hook that gets you in, and then anyone can just be riffing off that idea for 10 minutes and people love it. So you have to bring that sense of riff-ability into how you're composing these loops. 

Chal Ravens: That is very good, that's a genuine tip.

Tom Lea: OK, final question, which we always ask our guests. What's a film that you'd recommend to our listeners? 

Lena Raine: So I'm just looking at my Letterboxd history, and the last movie I saw was Madame Web. It is a terrible movie. It was extremely fun to watch, but probably against what they're going for…

Tom Lea: [Opening Lena's Letterboxd] You just watched Broadcast News!

Lena Raine: Broadcast News! That is an incredible film. Let me just do that one: watch Broadcast News. That is a film. I recently watched that with my wife, and yeah, just the character acting, the complexity of the characters... They used to make movies, you know?

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Episode recorded at: SRP Studios
Theme music: Jennifer Walton
Branding: All Purpose


Lena’s No Tags playlist, in her words: "I wanted to start with a total banger from one of 2023's best games, Alan Wake II. It then transitions into tracks from two of my favorite Japanese artists, Eve and Bump of Chicken, that both coincidentally have a bit of an Irish folk influence to them. Then, a fave track from ChoQMay with some gorgeous violin playing in addition to her gritty vocal style. Transitioning into the electronic side of things, a fave from last year's Wednesday Campanella release: ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. The bridge track is ‘Piece of Cypher’ by ELECTROCUTICA, a 2013 release that made me sit up and pay attention to the style of electronic production transforming vocaloid tracks from mostly pop singles to wild experimental music. Then, a more recent vocaloid track from last year by Kikuo that amps up a gamelan inspiration with Hatsune Miku vocals. Rounding out the electronic section are two absolute killer tracks from Sleepnet and Justice that dropped this year. And closing out, another banger vocal song from a game soundtrack, Phantom Liberty by Dawid Podsiadło and P.T. Adamczyk."


Quality Assurance, or QA, is a software testing process for video games: essentially playing them extensively to catch any bugs and iron out any kinks.


Tom’s Local Action label released Lena’s album Oneknowing in 2019.


AAA is a classification used within the video game industry to signify high-profile, big-budget games, typically produced and distributed by major publishers.


God, where to start. Gamergate dates back to 2014, and can loosely be boiled down to an online backlash against an increase in diversity and progressivism in video game culture, and a subsequent campaign of harassment (from death threats to SWATing) against mostly non-male developers, journalists and general industry figures. You know exactly the kind of people we’re talking about here.


Chal quotes from a few different sources in this section: Venkatesh Rao’s theory of the Cozy Web, Yancey Strickler’s proposal of The Dark Forest and this Maggie Appleton article which neatly summarises the dynamic between the two together with some neat diagrams. Dense stuff, but really worth digging into!

No Tags
No Tags
No Tags is a podcast and newsletter from Chal Ravens and Tom Lea chronicling underground music culture.