Before you begin reading, open up another window or another tab and follow this link. Then, grab a pair of headphones or turn up your speaker and skip to track 5, “Krystal”.
Everybody ready? Good.
What you are embarking on is the musical story of an android named Krystal, a highly intelligent female whose logic can’t rescue her from the infinity of human choices. Welcome to Heart Beat Circuit, the first album by up-and-coming British musician by the name of Smoke Thief- or, as non-androids might call him- George Baker.
Upon graduating with a master’s degree in Music Performance in 2010, George immediately got to work on his first album, Heart Beat Circuit, and moved to Japan. Varying from song to song, the album melds together multiple genres of music while leading the listener through a singular narrative vision. Along the way of this musical journey, George signed with a lesser known music label called Brain Wave, who helped introduce him to renowned Japanese composers Manami Matsumae, Takahiro Izutani, and Saori Kobayashi.
“Essentially I’d dreamed of working with musicians from the golden era of Japanese gaming since I first played Mega Man, Kirby and Street Fighter II when I was, like, seven,” George explained. “I was hypnotized by how melodic the music was and I’d try to copy it on my Casio MT-240.” While discussing the album with Mohammed Taher, founder of Brave Wave, the idea of using collaborative elements came up. “I fell off my chair, got back in it, and said I agreed,” George told us. He later met the composers featured on the album — and many more — at the company’s annual party.
From there, the humble George explains it was a “simple” matter of collaborating with each of the artists online, so everyone could get into the music without feeling stifled. “I’m ecstatic about how these tracks turned out and I will definitely be buying each of them a drink to say thanks!” the musician told RocketNews24. Explaining what each of the artists added to the music, George said that both “Matsumae-san and Kobayashi-san […] added their majestic touches to my arrangements.” As for Izutani, George tells us that the composer basically shaped “the raw melodic materials […] into some otherworldly voyage!”
The album, available on Bandcamp, is just one of the many release from Brave Wave, a label focused on video game music in Japan and the West. Though the label may not be a household name just yet, they are certain only their way thanks to their numerous signed artists, like Manami Matsumae (Mega Man), Yuji Takenouchi (Dark Souls), and Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II). Brave Wave has also signed a host of Western musicians, Smoke Thief included, rounding out their roster with unique, talented artists from around the world.
While the label is largely focused on video game music, not every release is exactly that, and Heart Beat Circuit is a perfect example of the kind of collaborative concept album the label purports. Smoke Thief’s album, which combines electronic, jazz, retro synthesizers, and crazy time signatures, is entirely original and unrelated to any game. However, the musician was quick to emphasize that he’s not just out there trying to mess with genre labels. “I’m just following whatever impulses arise. So, while it might not be music for a video game, it still has the same storytelling heart and atmosphere of “video game music.”
Look out world, Smoke Thief wants your ears!
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