Shut down the mainframe! Disable the software! Cyberpunk is coming back!
Back in 1993, when the Internet was still terrifying, and the spectre of Skynet still hung over the world like a digital Grim Reaper, Billy Idol released an album called Cyberpunk. His record, mauled by the press and ignored by audiences, laid out a sonic template for like-minded technophiles to experiment with, while he faded into obscurity.
The flavours Billy Idol used – a pinch of Cabaret Voltaire, a lick of Gary Numan, a dash of John Carpenter and a sprinkle of the Wax Trax! sound, blended with the essence of game soundtracks and big-city claustrophobia, resulted in a strange brew that has refused to die. Since then, David Bowie released 1.Outside, Nu-Rave happened, Goths started dancing under motorway bridges, and all of the Matrix movies came out. It would seem that Cyberpunk will never die.
Especially while bands like Go Dark keep the neon flame alive.
Vocalist/producer Ashley ‘Crash’ Gallegos and bandmate Adam ‘Doseone’ Drucke, the duo responsible for Neon Young, have created a puzzling, odd collection of songs that amount to a restating of the classic Cyberpunk manifesto: this is music people would listen to while popping Red Pills, reading Akira, waiting to get a limb upgraded. It’s a replicant wet-dream.
The record is – deliberately, no doubt – overstuffed and erratic, and a lot to take for us organic, soft body types. The music here is as overwhelming and disorienting as The Knife or Crystal Castles, but it’s a lot less commanding than either of those projects, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as menacing. As a result, Go Dark have one of the main selling points of the genre – the idea that digital sounds can be used to invoke fear.
Take for instance, the misleadingly-titled “Murderous”, which sounds anything but. The blend of Crash and Doseone’s vocals are positively angelic, and the thudding beat that underpins the whole track is almost polite. It almost sounds as though they’re not quite willing to push it into the realms of being ‘difficult’.
“Get Out”, on the other hand, is so dense it seems as though it could shut down at any moment. It’s also incredibly loud. It sounds like a computer on cocaine. There’s so much going on at any one point, and none of the ideas in the track stick around for very long.
“The Brand”, which pops up towards the end of the record, beeps and boops along like the Tron soundtrack on acid. It’s numbing, but enjoyable. The erratic rhythmic oddness of “Numb” seems to draw from trap and hip hop, while clearly not wanting to take too much from either.
“Beautiful Bitch” has a sensual, slow-jam quality to it – but it’s creepy rather than sexy... like being seduced by a sex robot. The shame is real.
“El Barrio” - the best thing on the record – is more relaxed and thoughtful than the rest of the tracks. It’s slower, more focused and more streamlined in terms of sonics. There’s enough space in there for a listener to consider what they’re hearing before they’re pummelled with a new idea, which is what happens on most of the songs.
Overall, this might not be a pleasant listen for the layman. It’s overstuffed and bloated, despite only being eleven songs long. Unfortunately for Go Dark – who, if nothing else, have mastered the aesthetic they’re aiming for – this kind of music can, at best, be mildly interesting, at worst be incredibly annoying. This record is no different.