Yesterday, Red Bull Music Academy released episode two of Diggin’ in the Carts— their new series exploring the history of video game music and the far-reaching influence of Japanese composers and game studios on contemporary electronic music, hip-hop, and Western pop culture. So far the series feels more like a pastiche of fascinating little stories from the intertwined development of game music composition and game hardware rather than a fully realized chronicle of the history with complete context. Regardless, there’s much to be gleaned from these first couple episodes.
This installment covers the monumental legacy of Konami and lesser-powerhouse Sunsoft, the raw power of Castlevania and Contra, Masashi Kageyama’s masterful soundtrack for Gimmick!, the convergence of Jpop composers like Akio Dobashi (of Rebecca) and video game music, and the use of additional sound chips within game cartridges to push the sound capabilities of the NES to their limits. Lagrange Point, a game that featured a soundtrack composed by Dobashi, actually had a six-channel FM synth chip embedded in the cartridge. Just amazing.
I’m also reminded that I need to give a shout out to comedian Brent Weinbach’s amazing video game music podcast, The Legacy Music Hour. These guys have definitely been diggin’ in the carts and have covered some of the best game music of all time, including some truly deep cuts even for those well-versed in the genre. Enjoy the new Diggin’ in the Carts episode above and be sure to go check out their podcast afterward.