tech noir – The Collection
Artist: tech noir
Album: The Collection
Release date: 2 February 2016
Label: self-released / Plastic Response Records
- Cassette, edition 140 (Plastic Response Records, 2016)
- Digital download (Plastic Response Records, 2016)
- Digital download (self-released, 2016)
I see you with that that incredulous look, wondering how The Collection received only one-sun. Don’t send me e-mails just yet! This is why I don’t call these articles “reviews”;1 there’s too much context to put behind albums for a single rating to be accurate. Suffice to say, my issue has little to do with the music in this release – it’s the presentation. Read on so I can assuage your frustration (or maybe make it worse).
First, an introduction: tech noir is a long-running ambient vaporwave project that operated from 2015-2016, releasing a couple full-length releases, several EPs, and a single massive 16.5-hour album of half-hour-long tracks of ambient music. The project is named after the “Tech Noir” nightclub, where Sarah Connor meets The Terminator and Kyle Reese in the first Terminator film. The artist behind tech noir is 회사AUTO, who is far more well-known as a producer of synthwave, future funk, and VHS pop since 2012.
tech noir has always been a tightly-wound concept project, with releases being short vignettes into 회사AUTO’s imagining of a futuristic city. It’s not necessarily a utopia, but it is multicultural, it is economically successful, and it has things, uh, generally just going well – all of which are provided through the project’s visions. tech noir’s releases take you through its streets, alleyways, clubs, restaurants, and enterprises; it serves as a sonic tour throughout the constructed world, but one that’s constructed out of very real things we have now if only we had the desire to realize them.
All of the tech noir releases are available digitally on the project’s own webpage, but many of them were released on labels that are quite different from each other. 信 was released on TKX Vault (then known as Tokyo Exchange), an imprint of Dream Catalogue that catered toward highly experimental forms of vaporwave and cyberpunk music. 齐 came out on Elemental 95, a French label that almost exclusively releases classic-style vaporwave and hypnagogic drift. The mega-boxset 完 had an eight-cassette release (with truncated run-time) through Chilean label No Problema Tapes. But before 完 came The Collection, a compilation2 with a cassette release through Plastic Response Records.
The Collection is a sizable release, hitting eighty-nine minutes in length. It collects all EPs and selected tracks from tech noir’s full-lengths with no adjustments. These releases feature ambient vaporwave, wifting synth soundscapes with sampled city sounds, classic-style vaporwave pitch-/tempo-shifting, and hypnagogic drift; they’re identical in sound to those on their parent releases. In concept, those who enjoyed tech noir’s releases will fair just fine here, and the compact cassette edition makes listening to all albums at once easier.
However, there are a few important changes. The EP releases – while short single compositions – were split into different tracks based on the movement. The Collection mixes them as single tracks denoted by the EP’s titles. This takes away some of the context of each EP, and it’s harder to identify specific movements to which one might want to listen or remember in a way other than timestamp (which is partially why tracklists are useful in general). Additionally, the tracks are not in chronological order of presentation – unimportant for some, but important for those who enjoy hearing how an artist’s expression of intent changes over time such as deep concept works like this.
There are some notable excisions but also some notable inclusions. The track “紫禁城” is gone – this was exclusive to the Vape Council, Pt. IV compilation released through Elemental 95 in October 2015. The 30-minute 齐 is only halfway compiled, with six of its eleven tracks strangely being the first on the compilation – “strangely” because 齐 was the final tech noir release other than 完. “生命之河” is present – that one was on the Stories compilation through BLCR Laboratories. There’s also the Windows 98の remix of “war dusk”, which closes out the album.
Overall, the problem with listening to The Collection as The Collection is that these works are best when they’re on their own and acting as discrete identifiers of emotion and experience. That nuance is lost when heard through the lens of a compilation album. Make no mistake, this is not a mark on the music of The Collection, but its presentation seems inappropriate given the project’s goals. It’s a specific criticism that is inapplicable to many other compilations but is unavoidable here.
If you are interested in tech noir, acquire the individual releases and listen to them that way. Experience the truly beautiful album artwork with its surreal pattersn of greens, reds, and blues – often silhouetted against a city scene. Take the time to check out translations of those track titles, most of which are single words or phrases meant to take one into the scene. Give each song the attention it originally deserved, whereas listening to them in context of The Collection is a bit of an awkward experience that is not as deeply rewarding. The music is no problem – the lower-than-expected recommendation is only because this is not the ideal way to experience tech noir.
1. 假設 > > > – (3:34)3
2. 實驗-A405 – (3:06)4
3. 數據-1a – (2:39)5
4. 實驗-B405 – (5:30)6
5. 數據- 估計 2a – (1:36)7
6. 結論 ：結果 – (5:57)8
7. 術 (I) – (5:39)9
8. 精神 (II) – (5:47)10
9. 愛和無情 (III) – (11:09)11
10. lone – (1:11)
11. 未來的夢想 (IV) – (6:16)12
12. 招財進寶 (V) – (6:56)13
13. 水 (VI) – (8:30)14
14. 無 (VII) – (7:00)15
15. 信 (VIII) – (9:58)16
16. 生命之河 – (2:44)17
17. war dusk [Windows 98の Remix] – (2:19)
1They’re just articles!
2I fought the strong urge to write “collection”.
3Chinese translation: “Assumptions >>>”
4Chinese translation: “Experiment-A405”
5Chinese translation: “Data-1a”
6Chinese translation: “Experiment-B405”
7Chinese translation: “Data-Estimate 2a”
8Chinese translation: “Conclusion: Results”
9Chinese translation: “Surgery (I)”
10Chinese translation: “Spirit (II)”
11Chinese translation: “Love and ruthlessness (III)”
12Chinese translation: “Future dreams (IV)”
13Chinese translation: “Lucky fortune (V)”
14Chinese translation: “Water (VI)”
15Chinese translation: “None (VII)”
16Chinese translation: “Letter (VIII)”
17Chinese translation: “River of Life”