Hey friends, here’s my latest mix. I named it Jungle Bump. This is a colorful blend of woozy deep house, epic ambient, melancholy techno, and all sorts of genre-agnostic magic that fits between world music and new age and humid environmental bliss. It’s meant to conjure the specific type of daydream euphoria I associate with getting lost in the sprawling weird world of JRPGs, without using music that actually comes from or sounds like those games.
So really, it’s the soundtrack to a certain shade of nostalgia that runs through memories of exploring spaces that don’t exist, from early childhood on up through today, now playing with my own kid on my lap. It’s a warm feeling, utterly lost but totally relaxed, at peace, vibing with existence – and it’s a place I go to in my head when I need to calm, re-center, check myself, whatever. I figure that’s something we can all use now and I hope this music conveys it well.
Track list appears as the songs play, and at the bottom of this post.
This futuristic, forward thinking, otherworldly music flows with the same colors and feelings as that warm streak of nostalgia I hold for the hours and days alone at home, getting lost in virtual spaces – but not just any. While I grew up playing a variety of games and still do, I’ve always felt closest kinship with the wonderfully off kilter worlds of jrpgs. From Crystalis and Final Fantasy in my early childhood to the grand Studio Ghibli partnership Ni No Kuni just a couple years ago, these kind of experiences have become the background, the canvas itself of what I like about video games. Sure, I love puzzle games and platformers and action games and weird walking simulators. But comfortably settling into a nice lengthy jrpg, with a hyperbolic story that moves from pastoral wandering to eventually shattering dimensions or killing an evil god, has always struck closest to my core enjoyment of the hobby.
This genre provided some of the first video game soundtracks I ever sought out once the internet became a thing, downloading Nobuo Uematsu midi files on sketchy Angelfire and Geocities fan sites, trying to immerse my everyday world in the mood I felt while playing. But rather than use selections from actual jrpgs, I wanted to sequence tracks that, to my ears, undeniably evoke that same feeling, that familiar nostalgia for places that never exist, crafted solely for enjoyment, concentration, falling into a rhythm and exploring in a safe & relaxing space.
Why jrpgs and not all rpgs? I think there’s something nested deep in my personality that warms to the friction that comes from deep engagement with another culture, with its own millennia of mythology and storytelling tradition and art styles. I got hooked on this stuff as a kid, long before I could articulate what it is that attracted me, and the connection has never waned. The music itself is a fine indication, built upon Japanese tradition rather than Western canon, so even my young band geek ears felt tickled by something fresh and gently alien. As goes the music, so goes the rest of these games.
In a way, this is my “2020” mix, finally. It’s the one most packed with current-year music that I’ve made all year, or really ever most likely. It’s not often when the new music I’m getting into meshes so well with stuff I’m already digging and putting together in a mix, so I’m seizing the opportunity to share some incredible up-and-coming artists.
The mixtape begins with KMRU aka Kenyan ambient composer Joseph Kamaru, creating something quite a bit more forceful than he’s become known for (such as breakthrough album Peel on Editions Mego); it’s the perfect introduction to this sound-world, all epic build and interstellar synth crashes laid over an environment buzzing with birds and insects. Next comes a pair of Japanese composers who crafted the soundtrack for a number of games over the years, but also dropped exquisite bouncy deep house in between: Soichi Terada and Shinichiro Yokota. The cross-medium pedigree here made their sound sort of the key to opening the home of this mix, all kaleidoscopic adventure and banging dance rhythm. There are a few other older pieces throughout the sequence, including a pair of tracks from actual video games, though not jrpgs: small clips from Fez, perhaps my favorite puzzle game ever made, and Ico, the first atmospheric masterpiece from designer Fumito Ueda (Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian). The latter track is actually the save room music, a perfect breather that feels like stepping out of an adventure for a moment’s rest.
French producer D.K., aka Dang-Khoa Chau, brings both a dubby deep house remix and his own towering techno creation to the set, the latter of which he describes as winding “up and down between fantasized exotic landscapes.” TALsounds, aka Natalie Chami, member of Good Willsmith, enters with an experimental, minimalist choral number that cuts open the second half of the mix, a refreshing gear change pointing toward the distant destination of the journey. Producers like Khotin and LNRDCROY conjure the kind of aimless dream grooves that could drift for hours, soundtracks for a secret, special place tucked into mystical woodlands or enchanted caves, where the biggest bosses and sweetest treasure can be found. One of my latest discoveries, Vague Imaginaires, drops a sprawling piece that moves between warm new age and tribal pomp and cosmic crescendo – exactly the kind of music that I love to share but resists definition. One of my longtime favorites, Hiroshi Yoshimura, arrives with a sparkling little gem from an obscure 1993 CD release that I will simply call the calm little soul of the mix. His work has always sat close to my heart and with every release I get into my ears, becomes more and more my go-to for blissful relaxation.
I don’t want to ramble too much longer, because the music speaks for itself. I just wanted to point out a few particularly notable moments in this 106 minute set, for anyone curious.
About the cover art: this is a photo of a cicada husk that I took last month, right here at home. My son and I were exploring the yard on that macro level that only children tend to do, on our hands and knees, pressing our noses up against the foliage and the dirt, when we found it gripping a stick. He was speechless; I told him that this was one of the LOUD bugs we hear all day every day in the summer, buzzing from every tree in the neighborhood. They create an all-consuming aural environment that, once acclimated, becomes a cozy womb of sound, as comforting as a swaddle for a baby. Since he’s been watching a lot of Miyazaki movies, particularly Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (pictured on the cover of the Echo Station mixtape), he actually thought it was a “baby Ohm” at first, which truly tickled me. There’s nothing like the magical outlook of a child to highlight the beauty and strangeness of the natural world. So of course, this is where my mind went after completing the mix.
And the title? “Jungle bump” was simply a phrase that grew out of a long succession of interlocking gobbledigook nicknames I have for my son. I can’t say exactly how it evolved, but I adore how it rolls around in the mouth, how easily it bounces out. I figured it also could easily work as the name for a track in an actual jrpg game, playing while the characters explore some tropical, magic-misted landscape. So there we are – it’s kind of silly and dumb, but it’s natural and it’s real. Enough of my writing; it’s time for music.
I believe jumping in blind is best, but if you prefer to know what’s coming, that’s cool. Each track is shown with the original year of production, linked to the release where the song was sourced, to make it easier to explore. I fully recommend everything linked below. Here’s the full track list:
01. KMRU – Erased 
02. Soichi Terada – Saturday Love Sunday 
03. Upsammy – Echo Boomed 
04. Shinichiro Yokota – This Moment 
05. K-lone – In the Pines 
06. Seb Wildblood – Interlude (D.K. remix) 
07. Hiroshi Yoshimura – Mist 
08. Disasterpiece – Flow 
09. Khotin – Looping Good 
10. D.K. – Voices 
11. TALsounds – No Rise 
12. Asa Tone – River at Work 
13. Pentagon (Kouichi Yamazaki, Mitsukuni Murayama) – Heal 
14. LNRDCROY – I Met You On BC Ferries 
15. Tengger – Bliss 
16. Frederik Valentin & Loke Rahbek – Scarlett 
17. Shanti Celeste – Moon 
18. Vague Imaginaires – Deep In Blue 
Thank you so much for listening.