【review/rate】serial experiments lain / cyberia mix (soundtrack)

Today marks 20 years since Konaka Chiaki’s gritty, thought provoking magnum opus “Serial Experiments Lain” aired in Japan, and I thought i’d pay tribute by reviewing one of the soundtracks released for the series, the futuristic “Cyberia Mix”, a concept album of tracks that you’d most likely hear if you were logged into the series’ global communications network “the Wired” and on drugs at the “Cyberia” club.

It’s an album that has aged surprisingly well and remains as cutting edge as its parent anime, while being one of my initial forays into electronic music at a young age as well. I hold this record in high regard, and I hope it is appreciated and treasured by many others to this day.

Cyberia Mix opens with keyboard clicks that welcome us into the world of the Wired, and “Speed” is an opener that is relentless with its bass, beats and climaxing breath samples.  The constant bpm keeps you dancing, and there’s a massive finale when the blaring sirens come into the mix.  This is definitely a track you can lose yourself to.

An aptly titled “Cyberia” remix of Lain’s opening song “Duvet” follows and slows the pace down, while offering a chilled out, clubbier take on the iconic theme. There’s a really cool part at the end where drums are added to the mix, and I love the way they take the song to its end in a raw manner.

“Professed Intention and Real Intention” brings us back into the club side of things with its very 90’s piano and synthesizers, hell, it even has that “Viva la revolucion” sample that i’m sure we all remember from Jet Set Radio.  The announcer’s “mmmmmm yeah!” is SO camp that it’s great.  One of my favorites on the record for sure.

The crown jewel of “Cyberia Mix” is the fourth cut on the album for me, “Antidepressant 044” is a massive rave banger that is perfect for that ecstasy peak.  (life polyphony does not condone recreational drug usage!!! :^D)  The six minutes of this track take you through multiple genres of electronic dance music, an audio journey that doubles as one of the most intense and well crafted cuts on the album.

If “Antidepressant” was the hardest banger of Cyberia Mix, then “Psychedelic Farm” is the clubbiest offering.  A steady 125 bpm and a fantastic mishmash of tribal chanting and hi hats that culminate in a brilliant rhythm section, “Psychedelic Farm” is for sure one of another one of the best tracks.  There’s even banging on a gong!

“Invisible file” is another break in the pace after three phenomenal dance tracks, but its more suited to background music than an actual piece of dance music in my opinion.  I also remember parts of it in the show itself.  It’s very interesting and experimental, but not something I listen to often outside of a full album playthrough.

“Prayer” is one of the more organic tracks on the album, opting for an authentic drum/bass arrangement with a bit of male vocals and rap added in for good measure.  It’s a very good song, with fantastic guitar and an extremely groovy bassline, but again, it’s one of the more left field tracks in the context of an electronic album.

We’re onto the tail end of the record, and “Island in Videocassette” is a return to the club oriented sound of the first half, with the soothing sound of waves masterfully layered under a classic house beat.  Aside from being very catchy and atmospheric, there’s really not much else to say about the song.

“Videocassette” has a sister track in the form of “K.I.D.s”, in that I find them both extremely similar to each other, but also distinct.  The beats are there, the atmosphere is there, but the latter has its own feeling that’s less dancey and more of a dramatic revelatory type of song.  This is definitely one of the more “Soundtrack” styled cuts for me.

Penultimate track “Cloudy with Occasional Rain” is a downtempo piece, primarily driven by its piano and rhythm sections.  It’s got a funny midi flute(?) that I found a little obnoxious, but overall this is a quality listen.

Cyberia Mix closes with “Infanity World”, an RnB tinged spoken word featuring none other than protagonist Lain’s voice actress Shimizu Kaori.  I really adore the guitar during the verses, and while Shimizu’s english isn’t the best, I found her relatively easy to understand and the lyrics are quite nice.

(I’ve excluded the TV sized edit of Duvet as it’s mainly a bonus track of no relation to the central concept of this record.)

Cyberia Mix is a half dance record/half soundtrack that has managed to stay sounding fresh, creative and modern two decades on, and I find myself always coming back to it when I have those nostalgia kicks.  I’m still floored by how immediately danceable some of the songs are, and how beautiful a few of the others are.

  1. Speed ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  2. Duvet (Cyberia mix) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  3. Professed intention and real intention ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. Antidepressant-044 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  5. Psychedelic farm ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Invisible file ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  7. Prayer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  8. Island in videocassette ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. K.I.D.s ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  10. Cloudy with occasional rain ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. Infanity world ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Must Listen : Speed, Antidepressant-044, Psychedelic Farm, Infanity World
(these are some of the strongest offerings in electronic music period.)
Skip : Invisible file, Cloudy with occasional rain
(the soundtrack specific cuts may not be palatable to people looking for a purely dance record)

 

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