Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Pachinko in Your Head

The melding of music and environmental sound is nothing new. In fact, the so-called ambient and new age genres have been founded on the reduction of music to emphasize the combination of manufactured and found sounds over notes, harmonies, and melodies. Even in popular music, a sound form as distinctive and abrasive as scratching can be catchy enough for people to reproduce in oral form (i.e. "wicky-wicky-wack").

Deeper into this notion is pure environmental sound as music which is what Pachinko in Your Head: Non-Linear Music (PiYH) is based on. Recorded in 1998 at the Shinjuku Aladdin, a parlor that still stands near the southern exit of the Shinjuku train station in Tokyo, PiYH is one full hour of environmental sound. PiYH, in essence, is just a constant buzz of 8-bit melodies, machinery, yells, bells, bings, and whistles - the din of a parlor at what sounds like its peak time. It's doubtful that many will find value in buying this CD for this very reason and, to reflect that, it seems merchants on eBay and Amazon will practically pay you to take their shrink wrapped, mint condition copies off them. However, a release like this will always possess some sort of curious appeal to audio nerds who think far outside the box. Sure enough, upon extended listening, there is a sort of fascinating order to the chaos, a sort of din not unlike listening to a hive of bees at work (again, if you might be into that sort of thing).

I, myself, bought PiYH out of curiousity and nostalgia, both stemming from being a big pachinko player during my Japanese residence (more about that in later posts). Sure enough, there are sounds that I can pick out easily: the melodies of certain machines (the most dominant being that of Gingira Paradise), the rush of pachinko balls moving from storage zones into machines, the tell-tale ringing of small payouts, the crash of an attendant dumping someone's winnings into a counter, etc. Eclectic German producer Eckart Rahn actually did well in producing the sound of this disc as it never gets too abrasive and even has some dimension to it. Still, or those of you might still have some curious interest in this disc, what you're getting with PiYH can be replicated by looping the following video:

See? I saved you some money, so don't say I never gave you anything before.

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