SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent by R23X
SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent by R23X pressed on white with mint green splatter vinyl by Plus100 Records
“Sitting on the top of the pile was a tape…”
──『 PROLOGUE 』── [VHS]
Dig out that old VHS player and calibrate your tracking as we take a look at SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent by R23X. Originally released in 2016 from Dream Catalogue, this vaporwave, vgm, lo-fi beat album has been completely reborn in the form of a re-release of the full length audio-visual experience on VHS as well as stunningly gorgeous white with mint green splatter vinyl from Plus100 Records. This week I sat down with R23X (Marc Junker) to uncover the mystery behind this glitchy and artistic musical experience. While SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent isn’t a video game soundtrack, what has been created here is the soundtrack of our nostalgia, and unequivocally, the soundtrack of one man’s discovery to define himself.
──『 CHAPTER ONE 』_ Mysterious Past ──
R23X, otherwise known as VHS Stills, Video-20XX, or just simply Marc Junker, is an award-winning artist, composer, musician, producer, clothing designer, and avid cyclist based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Best known for his incredibly atmospheric and vaporwave style tunes, Marc has accomplished a lot for himself and the community that he has helped to cultivate. As an artist and producer at The Yetee, Marc has a deep connection with the world of video game music vinyl, and nothing less could be said about his involvement in its growth over the years. Being an avid gamer himself, Marc is intrinsically connected to the work he creates and shares with the world. As a vaporwave artist he has completely woven all of the things he loves most into an expression of his passion for gaming as an art form. Marc shared with me the sheer happenstance that led to his wonderfully artistic renaissance.
“I think it was around late 2012 or early 2013... I had discovered a box of VHS tapes on the side of the street. There were some classics in there but also a bunch of home recordings. Sitting on the top of the pile was a tape with ‘FFVII Aeris Death Scene’ scrawled in mechanical pencil on the spine. I was immediately interested and biked to a thrift shop and picked up an old RCA VCR, sat down, and watched the entire tape. It was basically all the good cutscenes from FF7, 8, 9, Chrono Cross, [and] Parasite Eve: the classic PS1 era. The dullness of the VHS visuals/sound and the early high-concept 3D was too beautiful... so I started the VHS Stills Tumblr (http://vhsstills.tumblr.com) around this time and started just posting pics of the TV [with] that tape. I eventually decided to plug in my Wii and PS3 to the VCR and start making my own captures of NEW and OLD games on VHS. Zelda: Skyward Sword, Journey, Tales of Destiny II, [a] bunch of classic FF games; I went on a rampage replaying classics and discovering games that I'd missed. I was making lots of recordings while playing. I guess this is what got my blog attention [in] the vaporwave community. It's actually how I discovered vaporwave in 2014. People were very interested in my raw, glitchy VHS aesthetic. And they were even more keen that it wasn't a filter... that it was actually analog. So I had a lot of people approaching me, and the blog gained a lot of steam. During this time I started avidly making video game-centric beats -- R23X was born; my first 3 releases OST(1).rar, OSV: Original Sound Version, and SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent were all made back-to-back in the 2014-2015 range."
Those scenes sprawled across this magnetic tape of memories is a hallmark to the emotional connection games have for those who play them. Whether it be cartridge, disc, or digital, one thing is for certain: the intrinsic connection that we all have with video games is something that will always transcend the medium in which it inhabits. This same connection is the very drive that pushed Marc to turn something as innocuous as a box of VHS into his own playground of sound. There's something so cryptic and moving about that tape’s existence that is truly magical to me, and Marc’s manifestation of what that tape represents is, in a word, otherworldly.
Crafting the fantasy landscapes of what some have coined as mist-wave requires a dedication to the original medium, one that Marc undoubtedly holds dear to his heart, and it is one of the driving factors that makes his music so believably authentic. This dedication translates over to his own set up that truly embodies the purity that he strives for in his compositions.
“The VHS Stills project has made me constantly reassess how my consoles/gear are intermingling with both my VCR and my computer. It's simple for me to sample games direct from console with my setup. Most of R23X comprises a mixture of my own compositions run through a VCR, then twisted/sampled and a PsOne plugged into my computer, pilfering sound effects/clips. I will often just play a game for a limited amount of time and capture it on VHS... then what I've recorded can be used for R23X and for VHS Stills… Writing SOUND_TRACK (and OST/OSV) involved the following: Computer (Ableton and Logic Pro), RCA VCR, Playstation 1, Casio PT-80, Alto Saxophone, DMG Gameboy running LSDJ”
✧_。_ Isometric Worldview (Far Away Village) _._ ೨
Marc's dedication to bringing authentic analog experiences to the modern age is something that has always fascinated me, and is the main reason I began listening to vaporwave, collecting tapes, and VHS in the first place. There's something so raw, authentic, and purely nostalgic about it. Marc is an extremely driven person, and it shows in every single aspect of his ingenious ideas. The creative freedom he has allows him to push the medium beyond the place it inhabits, and is ultimately what I find so amazing about the R23X project. There’s almost this gravitational force that pulls in anyone that discovers it’s transformative nature that is completely intoxicating and unmistakably original. Like all the games that inspired him, Marc creates this tapestry of hypnotic fuzz and wobbling tones that teleports you deep within his own melodic adventure. Like lightning in a bottle, Marc has seemingly found a way to capture his own discoveries in a tangible and artistic way that resonates with anyone immersing themselves in it’s ambient hold. The R23X project is about self-discovery -- creativity in its purest form -- straight from all of our nostalgic past. From his original VHS Stills concept to R23X’s ephemeral beats, what Marc has accomplished here is incredible.
“I never know what I'm going to end up when I make music... that's kind of my formula (for R23X at least). Usually I'll be playing something and using a menu and just hear something and I'm like 'damn I want that to be a snare' lol. I love cancel sfx and 'flee' sfx so much. The blend of sound effects, environmental sounds, and music excites me, even IRL. If I'm walking and listening to music: opening a gate or pressing a crosswalk button or hearing baristas rattling around at espresso machines..... sounds a little John-Cage-4'33-ish, but I truly am interested that blend of life/sound/music. Like... listen to a dryer spinning for 30 seconds... compose a bassline based off how the denim and the quilt and towel rumble together type thing.”
☞ Heal Your Party!
John Cage is a truly moving artist for many, and is a pioneer of found sound. It's no wonder that Marc's similar discoveries resonate so much within himself as well as the listeners of his music. The eclectic nature of his compositions are intrinsically playful, and always carry the same sense of wonderment that we all share in our own experiences. Whether it be through gaming, music, or the world around us, one thing is for certain: art is everywhere you look. I feel that Marc has captured that feeling wonderfully with this album. Whether it's from a familiar sound effect or a passage of music, the trek that Marc will take you on is of his own prismatic view of reality.
༄ Organic Machines ༄
I asked Marc if he’d share his favorite memory from the writing sessions of this album, and nothing really jumped out to him specifically as one focal point. However, he did reminisce about a general sense of experimentation that totally encapsulates the kind of passion and method he applies to everything he works on.
“This music really represents a time of experimentation and freedom for me. I don't have a specific memory of a moment, but I remember being glued to my desk or out walking glued to my headphones listening to work-in-progress pieces. Every day I just felt galvanized to drop everything and experiment. Very happy to bring this one back on Vaperror's label Plus100.”
⚔ Necessary Crafting & Alchemy ⚔
All of this musical prowess and love for the art that is created has been something that Marc has carried with him for a long time. One should look no further than his own musical influences and experiences to truly get a grasp on just how in love with the creative process Marc really is.
“Some of my bigger influences from a young age are Björk, Eric Serra, Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Enigma, Joe Strummer, and Madness. I was avidly downloading every iteration of Final Fantasy soundtracks during high school. I was also in a punk/ska band that didn't really go anywhere. I'm still a huge proponent of two-tone 2nd wave ska. I still want to start a ska band. I think the 4th wave is coming. But at that time my musical environment during school was very formal -- being in concert/composition program and also the R&B band on saxophone, I felt very out of place: it just felt like schoolwork. I was among people chasing their dreams following the R&B/Rock ‘n’ Roll dreams, modelling themselves after the greats. It wasn't until a friend asked me to score a short animation funded by the provincial government after I graduated that I was able to pull myself away from the school scene and think, ‘I'm a composer, I can do this.’ Find my own voice. I just used garageband at the start and made weird MIDI piano music... but it was awesome. Hauschka's prepared piano work still stirs me to this day.”
There it is, that freedom Marc was talking about earlier. The freedom that gives way to his innovative sound. See, Marc likes working outside of the confines of traditional musical creation, and nothing is more proof of that than his writing process; pulling pieces out of their original forms and context distorting, bending, and guiding them along a path of his own clever design. Like a world map, he plots these tones and sound effects guiding you, the listener, or player as I like to say, through his own RPG of music. Transforming his love of fictional works with his own original compositions, Marc creates a totally new and cohesive experience that truly fuses that original feeling we’ve all shared into a sentimental dream-like manifestation of his imagination. Anyone want to start a Ska Band with this dude? Hit him up!
一二三 Escape Through the Mist ☁️
Marc's dedication to bringing genuine experiences to his fans is truly the hallmark of this entire project, in my humble opinion. The pure and rich analog tones that he creates are one of the reasons the music resonated so much with that early vaporwave community, and is the reason his music continues to captivate anyone who dives deep into this rich and ethereal world Marc has created. These albums aren't just an experience, they are a transformation that you take along with Marc, and one that will surely stand the test of time.
Everything falls away and you are left in this imaginative and misty world…
──『 CHAPTER TWO 』_ Activate Mecha ──
This album is so ambient and is just purely aesthetic in all the right places. Marc's experimentation on Side-A of this album is so fuzzy and discordant that I couldn’t help but get lost in its dreamy sounds. As soon as you drop the needle into these experimental grooves, you are teleported deep within Marc’s glitchy and hazy world of analog tones. Side-B is filled with more experimentation but incorporates some of the sample work he is best known for. From the character select screen all the way to the final credits, what you have here is a masterpiece of design and imagination. The whole quest just feels alive with vibrant and trippy tunes that will have you tracking that needle for another playthrough of this instant classic.
Don't Stop! Don't Slow Me Down! [VHS]
Plus100 Records have completely knocked this release out of the park. Everything from the packaging, the bonus poster, and hidden song to close out the album, down to the vinyl color itself is just gushing with love. Plus100 is ran by Jeff Cardinal, otherwise known as Vaperror, an incredible vaporwave artist based out of Atlanta, Georgia. While primarily a start-up for pressing his own albums to vinyl, Jeff and Marc teamed up to bring SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent back to life with a first ever vinyl release and an incredible audiovisual experience from award-winning director and actor Denver Jackson of Cloudrise Pictures, with acting from Marc himself, Denver & Tessa Jackson, and Christoph Jablonky. The entire film is completely filled with incredible animation and acting that goes along with Marc’s music. Stunning pixel scenes from Drew Wise that are present here are so great, and help tie the animated and live action scenes together with beautiful intermissions of analog greatness. The way Marc plays with the knob distorting the visuals created just adds that extra bit of charm, that makes the whole experience this degraded amalgam of eye candy!
“A lot of my visuals are animated by Denver Jackson. He's an extremely talented animator, director, and a good friend of mine. I've had a good handful of opportunities to work on music on his film work and it's always rewarding work. He will often be able to do weird blends of live action/3D/compositing for me... and I then record it on VHS. When he has the time, he loves to create stuff experimentally based off my music. Again, the lower the quality the better. I specifically use an old, fully analog VCR (I've had it repaired twice). No digital tracking adjustment.. just a knob I can freely use to distort the visuals.”
Load New Simulation [VHS]
The mastering and visuals are absolutely insane; it is just oozing with creativity that flows off the screen, casting gorgeous colors and sound across the room! A subtle yet mysterious narrative is shown incredibly well throughout. You can tell a lot of thought went into its adaptation and execution. It’s sort of prequel to Marc’s recently released tape RE-GEN, which I highly recommend as well! It’s seriously one of the most incredible aspects of this album. The visuals and storytelling here add so much to the already creative and dreamy music that must be experienced. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you pick up the tape as well, I can’t even describe how much it builds on to the already compelling work here, adding a whole new facet to this already incredible piece of art!
Sentient Mecha [VHS]
Design for this vinyl release was re-imagined by Drew Wise and Marc, taking the original 2015 geometric-driven design and adding a little extra flair and charm that they are both known for. There is a great cohesiveness between both the vinyl and VHS packaging. The design on display here is just stunning, and goes to show just how inventive and passionate everyone involved in this release truly is. I especially love the use of the OBI strip to give this release that extra bit of flavor that’s just fun to pour over while the record spins. Included with the first 100 orders of this album is a gorgeously designed poster by R23X with a cool glitchy background featuring an artistic illustration of R23X by mitch I.! I really like it when special little bonuses are included in releases like this -- it’s an awesome, frame-worthy piece for sure! So much detail and design was put in to make the packaging here truly special!
Mastering for both releases was carried out by none other than ... yep, you guessed it: Marc! The richness and clear noise floor on the vinyl release is just breathtakingly quiet and adds that extra bit of clarity to bring out all of the nuances and charm in the music here. Being as Marc was the composer it makes sense just how rich and full the tones and beats are accentuated as they rumble through the tone arm and out into the world. One can easily get lost amongst all the lovingly crafted grooves here!
“Mastering for vinyl is an art/technical process I have been getting my feet wet [with] and learning/working on projects at Yetee Records. For the VHS, if one of my tracks says [VHS], that means the last step was ripping it on VHS and then back on to my computer. It may need some touching up after it's been VHS'd but that's just usually subtle adjustments.”
Gear Initialize ギア ベギン [VHS]
I just love this album, and cannot recommend it enough. If you are even slightly interested in this video game adjacent album, I implore you to go check it out for yourself. A lot of what Marc creates with the R23X project is so above and beyond anything I have experienced out there. It is simply magical.
If you want to keep up with Marc, he shared with me some very exciting stuff that you may want to keep an eye out for!
“I'll be appearing at 100% Electronicon in NYC August 31. I have also been collaborating with EQUIP on some new music. Expect some big announcements from us in the near future. Under my own name I've been scoring films and completed two animated feature soundtracks in 2018. I've started preliminary work on a new film as well. In the very near future, my OST for Esluna: The First Monolith animated series will be released digitally alongside a screening at SDCC in San Diego this year. Very excited about that.
──『 CHAPTER THREE 』 ──
A lot of stuff is coming up if you are a fan of Marc’s work. I know I am extremely excited for the upcoming project with EQUIP, and can’t wait to see all of the magical performances that come out of Electronicon in August. If you want to stay up to speed with all things R23X and Marc related, feel free to head over to the artist page I have here on the site to get links to all of his stuff around the web!
I want to give a huge thanks to both Marc and Vaperror (Jeff Cardinal) of Plus100 Records for being so awesome throughout this whole process. It was a pleasure to talk with both of you and help spread the word of this awesome release. Big love to both of you!
I’ll have a few Bandcamp codes to giveaway for this album courtesy of Marc himself, so keep an eye out on social media for a chance at getting one of those
Where to Buy?
This album is still readily available to purchase directly from Plus100 Records. Limited to 300 copies, I can’t imagine there are too many left. If you like what you have read here, and want to experience the whole adventure for yourself, head on over and grab a copy now. The VHS is limited to 100 copies and is a must have in my opinion as it adds so much to this already incredible album. SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3].torrent is also available directly from Plus100’s Bandcamp page if you’d like to support this release digitally!