The Icarus Kid Is Not Playing Games
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Do you know why I started writing music reviews? No, of course you don’t, so I’ll tell you. Years ago I was reading a review about a new Bon Jovi album. It wasn’t much of a review as the writer began by telling the readers how much he disliked the band Bon Jovi, not their music, the band. He didn’t like their hair, he didn’t like the fact that girls threw themselves at them, he didn’t like their clothes or videos, he just plain didn’t like them. And that was pretty much his review…how much he didn’t like the band Bon Jovi, nothing about the album or their music.
I was so disgusted, I thought what a waste of time; he (the reviewer) didn’t even mention the album’s songs. So, I was left clueless about the Bon Jovi album, but I did learn that the writer did not like Richie Sambora’s cowboy hat. As far as I was concerned this reviewer had done a disservice not only to the band Bon Jovi, but to the readers of the review, and to himself. That’s when I decided that I was going to write (electronic) music reviews and they would be about the music, not my own personal non-music related dislikes.
Well, recently I came across music by the Icarus Kid. I’d never heard of the Icarus Kid, so I went online and looked him up. I discovered that a young man by the name of Dan Crowdus is the mastermind behind The Icarus Kid, and that his music was based on the classic sounds of the Nintendo electronic video games. I immediately thought, “I don’t like video games, so I won’t like this music.” Then I remembered the Bon Jovi album review and thought, “let me put my dislike of video games aside and listen to the music”……and I’m glad I did.
When I first began listening to Icarus Kid’s album and the hypnotic song “Muramasa,” one word jumped into my mind immediately, that word was Kraftwerk. The Icarus Kid brought to mind the legendary German band’s early works and the wonderful “Computer World” album. After a few more seconds of listening I recognized game sounds like Space Invaders and Pac Man. But then something else happened. I realized that the Icarus Kid wasn’t making songs with video game music what he was doing was using video games sounds as a base on which to construct entire songs, and he does an excellent job of it. The Icarus Kid’s video game sounds are wrapped in rich melodies. Look at it like this, with a peach, the seed of a peach is at the centre, the delicious fruit is wrapped around it. That’s the musical concoctions of the Icarus Kid, the electronic video games sounds at the centre are wrapped in such luscious, intricate electronic fruit you forget the game sounds.
Two other bands that came to mind while listening to the Icarus Kid were the 90’s techno titans U96 and Utah Saints. Actually there are lots of techno touches found throughout the Icarus Kid’s album; so much so that the Icarus Kid caused me to do something I hadn’t done in a while. The sounds of the Icarus Kid made me delve into my music collection and pull out techno compilations. The Icarus Kid made me relive my techno days (and nights) and I loved every minute of my return to the techno era. I pulled out the compilations Technomania & Technosonic and I again had my mind blown by techno tracks like “Rave This Nation,” by R.J’s Rule and 2 Fabiola’s “The Milky Way (bigger and bolder).”
After a few days of listening to the Icarus Kid at home, I found myself taking the Icarus Kid with me everywhere. I downloaded the album’s tracks to both my phone and laptop and I made a disc to listen to at work. Listening to the Icarus Kid at work was not a good idea….actually it was a big mistake. While listening to the Icarus Kid at work, I found myself not doing my job, instead I was grooving to the music. So I had to put it aside….ah, the music, not my work (I do like to receive a paycheck every now and then).
All the songs on the Icarus Kid’s album work well together to form a most cohesive album. As for the individual songs themselves, “Dr J” has a festive party feel as does the track “Hammer.” “Hammer continues the party feel but adds a bit of a calypso flavour and reminded me of the song “Jump Up” being played in the island bar scene (when 007 meets Felix Lighter) in the James Bond 007 film Dr. No.
The danceable and engaging “Albatross” has a definite Lady Ga-Ga-ish vibe, while “Octorock” with its swirling electronics is all techno and reminded me of the 90’s techno mindblower “Mind Controller” by 80Aum.
I found that the non-danceable tracks are some of the best. “Maru Mari” is like an epic electronic adventure set to music. The atmospheric “Fast Asleep” is like an enthralling Viennese waltz, yet at the same time it reminded of the lullaby like musical intro of the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo.
The frenetic “Benny and Clyde” is one fast paced mind blowing experience. The song is engaging, consuming and cannot be ignored. It slowly builds in kinetic energy and ends like an electronic maelstrom..….its just awesome!
My favorite track is the brutal “Tank,” its unabashed techno replete with its sampled repetitive “hey.” The song is amazing and I get lost in it each time I listen to it. Tank also brought to mind the techno sound of the Utah Saints.
As I mentioned, the Icarus Kid uses electronic video game sounds to wonderful effect (I was leery at first). But when I found myself groovin’ to the music I asked myself, “What am I doing? This is music based on video game sounds; I’m not suppose to like this.” But like the Icarus Kid it I did, it was a fun listen for the mind that also had my body movin’ and shakin’.
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Artist Link: http://www.theicaruskid.com