Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
Video games completely changed the world. Within around 50 years of them being commercially available, we have witnessed a whole market be created out of virtually nothing. Huge governments have desperately tried to censor games, blaming the ills of the world on those products that explored dark and dangerous subject matter. Video games have bled over into the worlds of film, literature and beyond as fans fall in love with the characters and premise in a way that reaches past a PC or a console. Virtual worlds have even surpassed the importance of the real world in many people’s priorities, with developments such as VR and MMORPG games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. It is impossible to truly take stock of video games as a concept. However, it is easier to contemplate their affect on oneself personally. To explore memories and reminisce about landmark moments in your life that involved a computer screen or a plastic controller is a little simpler.
Portuguese artist Life Patterns somehow explores both the personal, cultural and philosophical aspects of this lofty subject on the album Bedroom Days. As the title would have it, the artist’s drive to explore the concept of video games is a personal one, spawned by reminiscing about stacks of floppy disks and hand-me-down computers. However, Life Patterns starts in the very innards of the video game world on Saturday Morning Fever, as excitable electro blasts out welcoming us into a bright and blocky world. An excitable bassline plays out with as much veracity and hyperactive energy as a pixellated avatar jumping all over a screen. The track starts with cursory channel-hopping, shallow fuzzy TV clips bleeding out of an old set before the game-like music takes hold with heavy bass and drums. It is almost as if the listener hovers uninterested at the hazy nothingness of TV malaise, before diving head first into the colourful world of an endearing game.
The often uncanny world of video games is explored as well on tracks like The World Never Ends. With instrumentation that straddles the real and the virtual, Life Patterns weaves a slightly menacing sound. The title conjures visions of invisible walls and unclimbable terrains, the imprisoning aspects of the game world. This is all before the artist launches whole-heartedly into gristly, powerful rock instrumentation. Guitars whine like tortured electronics as the listener is shown the darker corners of the world of video games.
Bedroom Days is not confined to the inner workings of a games console though, and also explores gamings’ affect on the outer world. Welcome To The Fantasy Zone pits chiptune-y melodies and soaring synths alongside all manner of news soundbites. Casual gamers state that button-mashing is a great way to relax, saying that video games allow you to ‘not think for a while and blow things up’. A while later, a studious voice laments that video games would have never found such popularity if we didn’t live in such an ‘electronic world’. What would a tour of video games be without the pessimistic claims that have burdened the art form since its creation.
Above all, Bedroom Days is at its pinnacle when celebrating the beauty and solace of video games. Imaginary Coastline explores the meditative power that lighthearted games can have, it is impossible not to think of the attractive worlds of games such as Animal Crossing or Zelda as a voice leads us through a pristine and beautiful landscape before epiphanic instrumentation absorbs everything. Keen Dreams of a Better Life explores the ability of our favourite games to enact that wish fulfilment that we crave from time to time, the soaring post-rock instrumentation glides alongside chiptuned synth leads. As a voice wistfully croons the title phrase, the listener imagines the landscapes that they loved to explore and frequent flying past them at a great speed. The placement of this particular track is worth noting as well, as Hikikomori follows after it with angsty melodies and teary-eyed, bittersweet emotion. By the end of the album we have been with Life Patterns for the whole of a console-fuelled weekend. All of the grandeur built up reduced to mere chirping from a fizzling screen at the start and end of Sunday Night Blues.
Though Life Patterns drew inspiration from their own younger days spent on SEGA systems, Bedroom Days speaks to the spectacle of video games in a general sense. The listener lands in virtual worlds that are both daunting and divine, they fly through conceptual landscapes that explore discourse around gaming and its affects on society. The concept is such a large one and could be seen by many to be too difficult to explore, though through the melding of organic and digital instrumentation and the artist’s innate adoration for the subject matter, the release manages to give a beautiful and enjoyable depiction of the incredible phenomena.