Video games have entered the realm of art. Nuanced portrayals of both imagined and quasi-real worlds, like that of BioShock and Grand Theft Auto, have altered the way we view games. Once a childish escape, video games are now a medium of cultural heft. This recent reappraisal has brought attention to elements of older video games. Suddenly, the full importance of past soundtracks becomes apparent. The beeps and boops of old Sega games, like Streets of Rage 2 and Journey into Dreams, appear more than just backing noise. Instead, they can be seen as the influential forebears of a broader electronic genre. And it is in these footsteps that Vancouver’s Shitlord Fuckerman walks.
Throughout 2017’s Investigate Loud Earth, Shitlord toys with the constraints of electronic expression set by these Sega sounds. While repetition was used by video game composers to imbue a scene with menace, suspense or relief, Shitlord utilizes this tool to deconstruct. On “Cicada Banana,” for example, a repetitive host of beeps rattles on. New elements are gradually added until the song shudders and finally breaks. The hum of synthetic noise ceases and the only remaining sound is that of a piano, playing along to the forgotten melody. In this moment, the listener becomes acutely aware of how these songs function.
At other times, Shitlord moves beyond the coy and the witty. Sega appears far in the rear view mirror. Songs like “Thank You For Your Time On Earth” elicit a genuine emotional response; a swell of notes and the sudden lurching stop of the rhythm section leaves the listener wistful and nostalgic. Likewise, on “If I Don’t Get The Respect I Deserve So Help Me God,” Fuckerman croons behind a shield of reverb. Haunting and removed, their voice builds until the backing ambience of electronic tones overwhelms everything and the song is lost.
These moments of clever and emotionally genuine expression, however, only make the weaker aspects of Investigate Loud Earth more frustrating. “Muzyki Jaja” is an honest homage to the beeps and boops of Sega and Nintendo, but almost painfully so. As the tempo accelerates, the listener’s patience dwindles. With no visual aid to distract, the fever pitch infuriates and one pleads for it to fucking end.
Despite these shortfallings, Investigate Loud Earth provides a compelling and enjoyable experience. Witty and filled with energy, Shitlord Fuckerman explores and builds upon a fruitful area of electronic music.