Odeko A History with Samus

[Gobstopper; 2016]

Styles: Cyborg-grime, Gobstopper Records, Metroidvania
Others: Antwood, Dark0, Loom, Iglew, Silk Road Assassins

Grime’s connections to video games reach back to the genre’s roots. The appeal is clear: the video game offers both escapist fantasy and agonistic play — two cornerstones of grime culture. In recent years, as the instrumental side of grime has expanded and fractured, an increasing number of producers have used the genre’s sound palette to explore these speculative impulses, sketching new sonic and affective topologies. Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper Records is one of the best sources for these kinds of open-hearted investigations, and Odeko’s first release for the label sits well alongside fellow travelers like Loom, Dark0, and Iglew.

A History with Samus draws one in gently, beginning with the rain-soaked “Setsuko.” Restrained synths delineate a space of contemplation and quiet, underpinned by scraping percussion and trap-indebted hi-hats: the grime tune as loading screen. “The Yumato Spring” follows, sounding like Everytime’s grime-y cousin by combining keening, melodic pulses with the distinctly human sound of fingers hitting keyboards. The track breathes, expanding and contracting, building and subsiding. The listener is taken through several distinct affective states, in a manner akin to a classic adventure game (Metroid, Castlevania, etc.). This is where Odeko reveals himself to be an adept archaeologist of the particular affect produced by video games — a nostalgia for worlds inhabited, imbibed, and internalized.

The penultimate track, “Sugar Acid,” is the most percussion-driven. Like “The Yumato Spring,” the song has a keen sense of movement, shedding layers as it ascends slowly upward, before finally breaking through the clouds into a plane of lightness and beauty. It then crashes dramatically back to earth, as the beats and melodies rust and decay in real time. Finally, “Tsundoku” splits the difference between Fuck Buttons’ epic drones and Lorenzo Senni’s trance deconstructions, performing a sly inversion by using an abrasive synth lead to engender a sense of poise, restraint, and care. Grime’s aggression here is turned inward, toward a space of calm, which slowly wears itself out until, like a machine executing its final, sighing action, it draws to a close.

Odeko has spoken of his interest in “exploring […] humanity’s developing obsession with technological integration, the process of creating synthetic life, virtual realities and environments and the potential future of companionship between human and AI.” Indeed, the album’s most affecting moments result from its grappling with the potentiality inherent in the video game, using texture and melody to foreground the interface between human and game, tracing the complex emotional interplay set in motion when a game boots up. In so doing, Odeko uses grime and video games as technologies, which, following Mark B. N. Hansen in Bodies in Code, enables the ontological and empirical status of the human to become visible. In this sense, A History with Samus’s title is instructive: it’s a very human labor of love, a sonic archive recording the emotional effects of interfacing with the virtual. In mapping a virtual and affective geography, Odeko is always returning to the human, whose embodiment engenders this exploration. It’s an old position: the wide-eyed kid, enraptured by the glow of another world.

Links: Odeko - Gobstopper

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