Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Song of the Day #223 - kanoguti - Division of First Love

Diving into the world of cross-medium internet art!


This is probably one of the more obscure things I've featured on my blog. kanoguti is a web artist who produces music, music videos, and interactive art (his incredible 100+ title software library, kanoguti soft). You can see a lot of work on his youtube channel, which has a tragically low amount of subscribers, even lower than my stupid manga reading channel. Granted, his videos do get many more views than mine, but it is still way too low in proportion to his creativity, professionalism, and dedication. Today he released one of his most ambitious projects yet - an hour long complete album of music titled kanogutism. I can confirm that it is quite the experience, but none of the tracks have captured me quite like this one.

Although his work often blends in disturbing themes or is just entirely terrifying, he balances this with creations that are wholly uplifting, inspirational, joyful. Maybe this is just me, but something about this video fills me with an energy that is undeniable as it is inexplicable. Okay no we'll try to explain it. A lot of kanoguti's stuff is based around procedural and/or pseudorandom generation. Like a lot of kanoguti soft is based around setting a few basic parameters and then watching a complex algorithm extract some sort of visual or sound from them. If I can compare it to something relatively popular but still pretty dang obscure, it's kinda like the early DS game Electroplankton.

Of course, "Division of First Love" is not one of those, but it still has the feel of it, y'know? Like the way all the elements synchronize with the music, each following a simple logic of its own, it almost feels like they've been born from the music itself. And conversely, it feels just as easy to imagine that the music was born of the visuals, that each visual action is actually just producing the sound. The result is the feeling that from independent simple impulses, something complex and beautiful and evocative has emerged. What an amazingly inspiring idea!

That isn't what's really happened, though... What's actually happened is that a person has dreamed all of this up, and it's actually them that dreamed and designed it all. But is that not perhaps even more impressive? As far as I can tell, this video required kanoguti to:
-compose the song
-come up with programs to procedurally generate each graphical element
-time each of them to the song
-layer them and meld them
-do all of it perfectly

Not only does each step require a creative insight into an unexplored aesthetic, working on a level too abstracted and elemental to have external inspiration, but it requires untold hours of precise and tedious work (I think. I know nothing about graphics). You have to wonder how many times he watched a flawed or incomplete version and considered abandoning it, only to remember his initial vision, his imagined perfect version, and persevere.

Oh man, and what a vision it is! I just want to list all the aesthetic modes it taps into... there's the "reminiscing about the journey you've made right before the last boss of a JRPG" feeling, which combines super nicely with the "Yume Nikki-esque outsider art with surprising depth" feeling, like this could be the music that plays at the end of a game with the outsiderness of Yume Nikki and the scope of Final Fantasy VI (is this what Undertale is?). The directness of the almost programmatic "music to visual" not only inspires that "beautiful complexity from simplicity" idea, but also reminds me of background movies in games like iidx, that almost assisting, but not distracting, feeling. Speaking of iidx, it reminds me of something like the Tricoro splash screen, or Atlus's new logo, hyper clean and colourful and "hi res perfect", but like a very early version of it, like something that someone worked really hard to produce on an NES, and was just incredibly ahead of their time in vision and implementation. And then in this mindset it becomes both futuristic and nostalgic, like you're nostalgic for feeling like you got a glimpse of a future that never really happened.

And not least of all is just how catchy and powerful the music is as music alone. All the synths and drums hit this sweet spot of "full loudness" that I've talked about with stuff like Lagrimas Blancas or 0PN's Zebra. It has that sort of relentlessness too, that feeling of things pushing a little past where you think they could manage, and then a little bit further past that. Some elements have a wonderful quality of sharpness to their noise, a sort of unmastered rawness, which makes the transitions at 1:18 and 2:25 so godlike... it feels like whole jagged layers are being shedded off. If my previous two Song of the Days have made me feel like some sort of internet badass and a Hollywood hacker, this one makes me feel like some sort of 8bit monk at the point of total religious enlightenment... and then that super noisy ending, like the cartridge has been ripped right out...

Just incredible stuff. I didn't mean to go on for so long, I hope some of it made sense, or at the very least it made you want to check this guy's stuff out. I've been a fan for years and I hope that I've done whatever I can to convey the appeal. Even if you don't like this particular thing, I highly recommend looking out for these sort of obscure cult content creators. The internet is absolutely swarming with them, and you'll find that they can satisfy aesthetic cravings that you didn't even know you had. It really makes you remember fondly how great the internet can be.

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