Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
The imagined worlds of science fiction have often proved a source of great inspiration for musicians and artists. The dark and futuristic lands begging to be explored through a number of mediums. Over the years, there has been many a good album that has presented interpretations of a dystopian future. However, few have been able to meld story with sound in a seamless way. Awakening by 部屋 208 tells the story of two ‘synths’ that rip their world apart when they bring to light the murder of a politician who empathised with their kind’s struggle.
2197 welcomes us into the bustling cityscape. Heavy and confident steps sound as our protagonist V cuts a path through the neon streets. At the very start, there isn’t much to separate the environment from our own world. Save for a few peripheral, space-age sounds. The bleating of of a door’s access panel signals our entry into the throng of a crowd. Music plays, barely cutting through the lively atmosphere. The situational sounds are striking. 部屋 208 sets out a context long before beginning to weave in any sort of melodic progression. The world is not painted with any musical grandeur, it is a cold and methodical environment. An explosion in Sector 19 transforms the mood. As V leaves the location and walks back out into public, the sound is distinctly different. Distant screams and panic can be heard ebbing towards us on the wind. Friendly digital interfaces are peppered into the mix as V opens a vehicle door. There is an interesting contrast between the wholesome sounds of doors and cars, and the warning sirens that hark through the streets. A stark difference between those technological advancements that help and those that warn.
Rain falls and thunder splays itself out across the low end of Welcome Home as an eerie, foggy pad seeps in. The world around the listener is dark and volatile. The artist gives a little respite, the absence of situational sounds inferring a time of seclusion. The sweeping pads move like a slow, cinematic pan across an apartment window. Destruction and death as a dramatic synth and melancholy piano trade blows between each other. 部屋 208 expertly employs those feelings of longing. A dystopian world set out in front of the listener, sadness and despair as we watch it burn. All of the things that could have been done to help progress peace and acceptance of those that are different tossed onto the flames that reach toward the towering neon buildings.
Dissonant winding noises begin Looking Into The Abyss. More pads carrying tragic melody whisper past us on the wind. 部屋 208 works in the first percussive section on Awakening, beginning as frantic clicking and whirring and building up to heavy, momentous drums. A bass pings from one side of the framework to the other. Deep synthetic sounds fringed with sporadic machine-like noise as snares fire like laser guns. The artist communicates a chaotic aggression through the din of percussion and bass. The meaningless destruction wrought on the city turning spiteful and evil. A slow and steady knocking begins as 部屋 208 illustrates a ruinous location. As the knock climaxes, we hear laboured and emotional breathing. An unnatural force begins to unleash itself onto an already frenzied population, as ties between human and robot tear apart at the seams.
Matching the urgency of the track’s title, Pursuit finds the protagonist V walking toward their car and beginning their journey swiftly. Once again the situation is painted for the listener down to every little detail, the sporadic splurges of sound from the radio system in the car, the tinny ringing of the seatbelt alarm. A voice on the radio system becomes the focal point, the location of who we are looking for is given. The beat slams into life. A heavy bass with acidic high frequency resonance infers the car moving at high speeds once again. 部屋 208 meshes the situation with its music accompaniment so well. The story progresses smoothly as the musical elements polish critical, story-based elements.
A steady binary rhythm conveys the steeliness of an industrial location. Slowly, more euphoric melodies and sounds filter in, lighting up a dark and forgotten corner of 部屋 208‘s world. A muffled rhythm leaks out, shrouds of pad sound buffeting along with it. A twinkling sound flickers in the distance, beckoning us toward it with an eerie glowing melody. Still the suspense is there, 部屋 208 manages to bring the track to a more restful pace but still maintain intrigue and tension
A low, almost choral voice precedes an ominous beat in the distance. A feeling of darkness and villainy permeates Ritual, the shifting pulse of the rhythm, the strange droning sounds. The scene clears and we find ourselves in a shabby motel. Strange juddering cries float down toward us from deep within the bowels of the building. The walls breathe in and out as villainous laughter rings. Once again, a heavy, dark synth beat breaks through. The inevitable demise of the pleasure synth Aria played out through thumping kick and bass. Trickling metallic sounds fill the periphery of the mix. The intensity is stepped up even more, the beat recouping and blasting towards us again with high-pitched shrieking worked into it. Wires and circuits gashed and ruptured, the sound of fans whirring as synthetic systems begin to shut down.
We rejoin our main protagonist walking matter-of-factly toward the scene of the preceding crime. The tone is noticeably different, the horror of the previous track having disappeared as 部屋 208 shifts the focus much like a film director cutting between scenes. One lone pad sound bounces off of the dripping walls of a long corridor. The footsteps do not falter, V determined to save Aria. A door shrieks open and the cool, smouldering instrumentation rises up a little more. A saxophone curls in a film noir style as V edges closer toward the scene. The percussion writhes from one side to the other, and ghostly, digitised vocal samples illustrate the eerie situation perfectly. V opens the door to the sound of dripping liquid within the room. A cold silence save for the last machinations of Aria’s body.
I Still presents a change in mood and style as well. The hazy situational dreampunk replaced with a more musically-focused excursion. Cascading piano falls into a watery-eyed R&B rhythm. The percussion expertly engineered, fizzing and sparking as our protagonist looks upon the decimated and defunct body of his love. The artist borrows from more contemporary notions of love for this part. The vocal parts hold the same sickly sweet notions of love as modern pop songs.
部屋 208 brings us back to cold, filmic soundtrack. The dripping of rain on streets outside. The harsh reality of the world illustrated by a murky pad. The protagonist steps outside, greeted by the enemy, those that hate his kind and deem him a threat. The artist employs a low trumpet and dramatic drum rolls to symbolise the almost unstoppable forces of evil bureaucracy. A face off begins. The lovestruck and devastated V against the dystopian government. A slow-moving beat gives rise to a heartfelt piano riff, the sense of love and rage melding together as one. Dread and despair fringes everything. All of a sudden, a granulated bass begins to rise, screeching out a triumphant melody. The visceral synth slowly becomes more and more acidic in its delivery. 部屋 208 shifts the sense of doom and demise to one of fiery retribution, the lead synth becoming an incendiary beam of light shooting through the background instrumental. As it peels off suddenly, the artist keeps the beat moving while panning past the unmoving bodies of the police officers. Justice has been served.
V carries over his joyful slaughter into Awakening. Bright and echoing synth notes begin to form a arpeggiated rhythmic melody. He unleashes fury against the unsuspecting group of officers. 部屋 208 instills a real sense of power in the track, illustrating that all of this destruction is wrought in memory of Aria. A huge kick drum smashes into a heavily side-chained, searing bass tone. 部屋 208 washes away the sorrow of loss with violent lashings of synth and chattering hi-hats. The protagonist returns to their primal function.
The weather has been a huge factor in the journey the listener has been taken on. That metropolis rain is now joined by a cold, new wind. The environment is eerily quiet, a sense of rebirth emerging. Ghostly notes emerge from the silence. 部屋 208 imbues these apparitional sounds with organic life, as their delivery varies from soft to harsh. V begins to feel real emotions for the first time in his life. The passing of his love, the deception of the state and of human kind, all of these things emblazoning a fiery passion into his circuits. Heartfelt instruments fill the soundscape, the descending chord progression representing the pain that will never leave the protagonist. Birds begin to sing as the last sombre keys die away. The rain continues, thunder rumbles, but there is a weight and darkness lifted from the atmosphere.
部屋 208 engineers an incredible story on Awakening. From the very start, the situation is illustrated with pristine clarity through the use of carefully crafted sound. The dystopian neon tinges are injected through the use of shrouded pads and humming, resonant bass. It is an album of huge cinematic proportion, but the care and love that has gone into it is what stays with the listener most of all.