Tuesday 16 March 2021

Blue-in-Green:PODCAST #81: Misery Loves Company ::: 'The Hero's Journey'

Welcome to Episode #81 of the Blue-in-Green:PODCAST which sees Imran flying solo for the third in his Misery Loves Company series.

This episode sees the podcast embrace the concept of The Hero's Journey - through wide-ranging discussions and examples we explore the concept using Joseph Campbell's 17-step template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. And that's just as a starting point. From there, we explore soundtracks created for movies that don't exist and, even more niche than that, soundtracks created for video games that don't exist. There's a lot to unpack for this episode and it's a real joy to do so, so join us on our own journey through music.

'Graviton: The Calling' by Andrew McCormack

Ubuntu Music, 2019

Pianist Andrew McCormack's limitless talents were really put to the test in his debut record for Ubuntu Records.  The incredible ambition of 'The Calling' aims to represent the archetypal monomyth - in many ways the backbone of this entire episode - perhaps better referred to as "the hero's journey".  Professor of Literature, Joseph Campbell's theories regarding the common template of stories that involve a hero who 'goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis and comes home changed or transformed' were famously outlined over seventeen steps.  The steps themselves have varied through the years - with further suggestions from psychologists ranging between 8-12.  For 'The Calling', McCormack and his team, which include vocalist Noemi Nuti, deliver ten tracks charting their very own captivating adventure – from the trepidation of 'Crossing the Threshold' to the unease and despair of 'Belly Of The Whale' and the triumphant 'Returning'.

'The Big One' by Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers

Royal Family Records, 2011

The following text is taken directly from the Bandcamp page for this release...

"Royal Family Records' Alan Evans has unearthed a lost gem. Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers, a band born in 1974, once recorded a soundtrack to the motion picture "The Big One". This Shaft-meets-007 blaxploitation film unfortunately never made it to the big screen, as the movie was said to have been lost in a fire soon after completion. Earlier this year, Alan Evans discovered the original soundtrack and has brought it back to life for all to experience."

... and all of it is a delicious lie.

The project was actually created by Alan Evans (Soulive, Alan Evans Trio) in a bid to unveil his Crushed Velvet alter ego.  (This week's episode actually features a snippet of Evans from a past episode of the Blue-in-Green:PODCAST discussing the project and the concept behind its mystique.) 

'Galactic Warrior' by Santiago Bosch

Self-release, 2019

Even without being told directly, the fact that thematically the multi-faceted pianist from Venezuela has strived to emulate the soundtrack to a video game would in complete honesty leap out at you – with song titles like 'Level 8', 'Main Menu' and 'Finding Your Way Out', and compositions which, at times, emulate the fervent and desperate pace of a hero committed to the fulfilment of his quest like those enshrined within an early-1990's Sega Mega Drive classic like Shinobi or Golden Axe. But the fact that this aesthetic is still presented as a contemporary jazz record is, well, fascinating.

The real strength and charm in 'Galactic Warrior' comes from the skill that Bosch demonstrates in interweaving these varying styles like incredibly subtle themes of electronica and jazz-funk into the arrangements.  'Persecution' is a notable mention as this overwhelming cacophony of sounds transports you through this surreal cosmic nightmare that you ultimately realise is best appreciated when you just give yourself over to it.

'Gaijin Blues II' by Gaijin Blues

Shapes of Rhythm, 2019

Exploring our fictional video games examples even further takes us to the work of the Gaijin Blues duo - Naphta and PlayStation Yoga Music.  Seeking boundless inspiration from Japanese Role Playing Games and that of a range of expansive adventure games like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Phantasy Star, Gaijin Blues present their music through a variety of samples, live instrumentation and programming as they tip their hat to these epic soundtracks and narratives.

As perhaps best described by Gaijin Blues themselves, the following is taken from their Bandcamp page:

"This is a sequel to a story you've never experienced. You are the protagonist who is coming back home to see his world completely changed by seemingly harmless technology. Each track is a chapter in this tale. Collect the items, gather a party and use your wit and imagination to find out the truth. Because technology usually comes at a price…".  

'Lagos Pepper Soup' by Michael Olatuja

Whirlwind Recordings, 2020

And we conclude as we begin - with the hero's journey.  Bassist and composer Michael Olatuja created a wonderful project celebrating the music he has been fortunate to create with collectives from Nigeria, the US and the UK.  With exquisite production, and a fantastic array of artists enlisted for the project, 'Lagos Pepper Soup' boasts an awesome *cinematic* aspect to the whole album, thanks in large part to the beautiful orchestration throughout. The entire project comes off like an intricate sequence of events celebrating life, love, joy and hope – it’s the type of vision that forever emphasises the importance of a fully-realised album. 

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