‘Diggin’ In The Carts’ Series – RBMA (2014)

Meant to share this when the series first concluded, but totally spaced on it until earlier this week, and thought I’d get it up now for anyone that missed it as it happen. Diggin’ In The Carts is the brilliant documentary series about Japanese video game music from 8-bit to 32, covering roughly the period of Japan’s music output up until late 90’s.

Put together by Red Bull Music Academy, the six-part Diggin’ In The Carts series is now housed on it’s own sub-site, spawning tributes, mixes and even live events from global top names, giving credit and exposure to an accidental evolution of sound that influenced millions of people around the world.

There’s a possible explanation as to why we’ve always been drawn to early video game music, offered at the start of each episode in this series. The narrator points out “that for many of us, the music of video games played more in our house than any form of music growing up.” Looking back, this is very true for the first decade of my life.

Well known gamers such as Oh No, Just Blaze and Flying Lotus pop up alongside diggers such as J. Rocc and even a few London heads I wouldn’t have associated with the scene at all such as Joker, Ikonika and Dizzee Rascal, all of whom share a similar level of influence from these sounds as we do.

Directed by Nick Dwyer and Tu Neil and featuring the godfathers and mothers of video game music, Diggin In The Carts is scarily spot-on with what we love. They discuss gaming companies in the way you may discuss record labels of an era – the difference in style and sound between Konami, Namco, Sun Soft and Capcom to name but a few, and the brains behind their sounds.

As an 8-bit Nintendo generation kid I knew enough to be familiar with the great Hip Tanaka, but had never thought of his predecessors in the arcade, his influence on the sound or just how groundbreaking he was. And as it turns out, he’s just one of many.

Starting in the ’80s with the first sound effects on games such as Space Invaders slowly turning in to chip-music, the first four episodes take us up through familiar ground, form the arcades to home entertainment systems to 8 and 16-bit composition with enough time spent on Street Fighter II to leave us happy.

Even the hardware parts – where they talk about the limitations of composition, the way chip music works and even breaking up the machines to show their creations – are done in an interesting non-too-technical way so as not to lose the viewer. Massive props to the production crew here for that.

Episode 1 to 4 is really where it’s at for us, with episode 5 dedicated to the Final Fantasy series and episode 6 moving away from cartridge music on to the disc medium; an era where proper soundtracks and club mixes started appearing in games.

And our lack of interest in those two topics is personal preference that shouldn’t stop anyone from watching, but it does raise our only real complaint. Why was there no Zelda? The greatest game series and possibly soundtrack of all time in my opinion – shocked to see it not appear here. Can only assume it was disqualified for a regional reason.

Love everything else about this, from the soundtrack that takes me to back in the day, to the way it’s shot with beautiful high-def aerials, establishing shots of the sound designers favourite hangouts from their key time of composing and even bespoke shots of modern-day Japan sliced in to areas where they want to let the original music play. Effect manipulations and time-lapse allow them to match scenes of transport, markets, streets or countryside today to the original sounds of the games, painting them in a whole new light.

Check out the series embedded below, and be sure to take a look around the mixes and ‘Bonus Levels‘ after over at the main site: http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/enhanced/diggin-in-the-carts