Music

Starscream: Future Toward the Edge of Forever

Like the music of Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky, Starscream's Future Toward the Edge of Forever is a perfect soundtrack for sitting and imagining things.


Starscream

Future Toward the Edge of Forever

Label: Self-Released
US Release Date: 2011-05-11
Amazon
iTunes

Starscream functions within a music genre called chiptune, which typically consists of instrumental music by way of bleepy-bloopy audio effects from outdated computer and gaming hardware, infectious dance rhythms, and rapid arpeggios in lieu of melody. Like all nostalgic meditations, much of the appeal of chip music is its evocation of a simpler time. Yet the fact that chiptune’s particular retrospection is based around technology also tends to create a strong sense of irony. The subject of chip music’s nostalgia is obsolete technology, yet it is largely arranged and reproduced by way of modern computers. This music seems to revel in the humor of an obsession with the past as projected through digital age artifacts, a genre meditating on the limitations of our digitized world while simultaneously smugly congratulating oneself in recognizing those limitations.

While there are immediate pleasures in the above-described aesthetic, Starscream’s take on chip music is much more formally ambitious. It is a band not content to revel in either nostalgia or novelty, pushing past the “Eat, drink, and code, for tomorrow we die“ mentality. If most chiptune bands are like a group of robots who become self-aware and decide to have a dance party, Starscream’s music is like the morning after, when, hung-over, the robots start to actually question what their self-awareness means.

In all ways except the actual sounds they produce, Starscream's music is more akin to the melodically layered instrumental compositions of such bands as Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You, Black Emperor than chip's beat-driven dance affectations. As with those bands, melody and polyphony figure at the forefront. Another extremely important feature is Starscream’s use of live drums in performance -- the band consists of two members, Damon Hardjowirogo (the primary composer and programmer) and George Stroud, a drummer playing on a very standard kit. It is no accident that the driving force, the heartbeat of Starscream’s electronic music is generated not by a machine but by a human being playing an instrument.

Like a lot of people, I was turned on to Starscream’s music via their appearance on MTV’s Skins. The band appeared during the Season 1 finale to back a rendition of Tears For Fears’ “Shout”, sung by two of the show’s stars, Danny Flaherty and Britne Oldford. (Starscream not only appeared on-screen but also arranged the backing music for this musical production.) The band had been hand-picked by show-runner and resident TV genius Bryan Elsley, after the Skins music supervisor Matt FX played him on of the band's EPs. Starscream had created several EPs up to that point, but appearing on Skins enabled the band to produce its debut LP, Future Towards the Edge of Forever. And the new record is a significant development of the already brilliant music on the EPs, The Space Years and Future, and It Doesn’t Work, as well as their short TV interlude.

Future Toward the Edge of Forever feels like a fully-realized space opera. Songs often stretch past the seven or eight-minute mark with interweaving, layered melodic themes, at all times evoking images of space. “Mira, Ultraviolet” begins with one of the albums’ several moments of non-musical sound effects, a metallic static gradually forming into notes, almost suggesting the above-described robots being born into consciousness and gradually taking stock of their surroundings. The next song, “Galeforce”, begins with a minor-key melody rendered playfully melodramatic with the 8-bit quality of its timbre; this very gradually builds into a repetition of the initial melody, this time made more serious with a piercing, almost-vocal tone. Difference of sounds on Future, thus, gives way to a range of themes and musical statements. Other highlights from the album include the meditative “Outer and Onward” and the album’s first single, “Space.” Like the music of Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky, Starscream's Future Toward the Edge of Forever is a perfect soundtrack for sitting and imagining things .

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.