'The People's Toonami Site'

Author: Nick

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February 20th: Deep Space Bass

toonami deep space bass joe boyd vigilAt last we come to it - Deep Space Bass, the only physical Toonami CD to see the light of day. This album was Joe Boyd Vigil's debut and, quite frankly, his best work. Although certainly more enjoyable when served with a hearty dose of nostalgia, the tracks that lie within are solid and custom-made for Toonami.

Regrettably, the album didn't do too well; exact figures aren't known, but Sean Atkins called sales a 'disappointment' and hopes for similar CDs - such as the Black Hole Megamix - were dashed. The album is long out-of-print, although it can be streamed at Last.FM and is consistently avaliable on Amazon.com. Aftermarket prices run right at $20. Unfortunately we cannot host the MP3s at this site, as the tracks are still under copyright. That said, shelling out a twenty note plus shipping fees to 'SuperSpaceCat' isn't going to help out Joe Boyd Vigil, Toonami, or Turner. Therefore I find it morally acceptable to suggest a simple Google search. For the truly hardcore, only the real thing will do, but hey...

One of the neat things about the CD (at least back in the day) was that it contained a secret weblink that lead owners to a site with wallpapers, icons, and unreleased remixes. That page is unfortunately down and not avaliable on any of the standard web caches such as the Wayback Machine. However, Jay from the Toonami Fan boards recently gave me the heads-up that he contacted Joe Boyd Vigil about the extra tracks. Mr. Vigil directed him to Frederick Awich's interview, so apparently those .MP3s are the ones. Thanks for finding that out, Jay.

And for those without a physical CD, we've got some booklet scans thanks to Daikun. But enough introduction; on to the review!

The album is fairly lengthy, with 18 tracks running for three minutes shy of a full hour. Most of the songs were used in custom intros - the short lead-in sequences used to free up time for commercials. (Read more here.) The rest originate from special promos and clips. There's a lot of variation stylistically, from berserk loops to contemplative grooves, but the connecting thread is, appropriately, bass. And lots of it. Melody and tonal harmonies take a backseat to thunderous bass, and I really recommend you do not listen to the album on an iPod with the standard-issue earbuds. The whole point of the album is bass, so your enjoyment will be crippled by tinny output. Plug it into your stereo system or home theater; break out those stupidly oversized headphones. For me, finding a good rig meant retreating to the car, but let me tell you - there's no better way to rumble the neighborhood than with a copy of Deep Space Bass.

 

"Ignition": Sara kicks things off with a history lesson for the Toonami revolutionaries. "From the beginning, there has been one mission - blaze a path across the universe. In our wake, highly advanced robotics, space-age plastics, and phat beats are left as testament." A quick cymbal skips into play and rolling bass follows into into a funked-out drum loop. Ominous chords underpin the piece throughout. Suitably grand; a great way to kick off the CD.

"Gundams Are On Earth": This one was commonly played during the Gundam Wing intros, and is notable in the way it uses clips from Ko Otani's score for the anime along with a custom beat. The result is a stand-out hybrid of orchestral melancholy and defiant rhythm. The level of sampling used creates a very reminiscent experience. This is one of my favorites, but it's definitely unlike any other track Mr. Vigil has composed to date.

"Anvil Snare Remix": This one announced Sailor Moon every afternoon, but it's not the sort of cheery, teeny-bopper stuff you'd expect. A depressed jazz-bass plucks absent-mindedly alongside a steady hammer-'n-tongs percussion. The track definitely speaks more to the demonic side of Sailor Moon than the power of love or anything fluffy. My only problem with this one is the way it fails to go anywhere. The first thirty seconds are representative of the entire 2:39 duration, and that's a shame. It could have been great with a bit more texture.

"Dragon": The tempo kicks up a notch with this Dragonball Z piece. It's not a stand-out track at all, unfortunately, and suffers from the same cripping lack of direction that afflicted 'Anvil Snare Remix' before it. Luckily DBZ gets another, far superior shot on the CD, but for the moment I have to persevere through another full minute of this droning... Catch you on the flip side.

"Information Leak": Another Gundam Wing showing here, and it's the tonal counterpoint to 'Gundams Are on Earth'. Falling, sadistic chords create an oppresive air over softly plinking piano notes. It's not a song I'd want to wake up to in the middle of the night, but the combination of aformentioned chords, death guitars, and hopeless chimes certainly evoke a response. Gundam Wing never looked so bleak.

"Arabic": This second Dragonball Z track starts off almost playfully. A few seconds of stop-and-go teasing melds into a cautious guitar accent. It definitely conjurs images of the green fields of Namek and the pulsating glow of chi auras for me. The song isn't the best, but it's leagues ahead of 'Dragon' and sure got a ton of playtime in its day. Worth remembering.

"D&B Remix": Ah, the chaos of afternoon action gives way to uncut glory at midnight. Yep, this is the theme of the Midnight Run, and it offers the first hint so far of the 'space' aspect of Deep Space Bass. Vigil's trademark nirvana chords compliment a down-low bass line. This is probably one of the best tracks to listen to with amplification, so toss aside your pansy earbuds and be a man. I only wonder what the original 'D&B' sounded like.

"Depthcharge": Instantly recognizeable with its sonar pining samples, 'Depthcharge' used to lead in to the short-but-sweet Blue Submarine No. 6 miniseries. The track is ridiculously long compared to its predecessors at a leisurely 5:32, but it has enough variation and throbbing synth to keep you interested. The plinky trilling and bleeping might be the artistic representation of playful sealife, or it may just be there to annoy me.

"Tension": If there's one thing you should remember from the Tenchi shows, it's that Love Stinks. 'Tension' is a largely down-tempo piece with a light Asian theme. Much like 'Walking Stick' later on in the album, this one was a lot better with visuals (in this case a bunch of gorgeous anime babes running around in the foreground). It may not be too hot by itself, but the track is definitely worthwhile and I like the use of the Tenchi in Tokyo earcatch.

"Prayer": I sometimes wonder what exactly Mr. Vigil was praying about. The track fades to total static at the end...maybe suggesting that the request was ignored, or not answered? Who knows? The track is a solid combination of Toonami-style zero-grav trance and cruisin' beat. For an unmarked 'extra', so to speak, it isn't bad at all. There's even a synth choir later on.

"Crashgroove": A balls-out beat loop with a heavy-handed opening that doesn't stop. Great for shaking things up after all those slower pieces. This is the only track to use a voice sample from a Toonami show - namely a maxim about cultivating the soul, courtesy of Grandpa Masaki (Tenchi Muyo). The unreleased Black Hole Megamix would take this idea and run riot with a host of sound bytes, but in an otherwise desolate album this single glimpse of human existence is welcome. Space is the (lonely) place.

"Puff&Bass": The Powerpuff Girls is the other 'girly' show represented on this disc, and this time around the theme actually offers a modicum of frivolity in the form of a bouncy high-note. It's almost drowned out by a rolling drum symphony, of course, but it gets backup later on with some chimes. I'll level with you - this one doesn't do a whole lot for me.

"Darknight": There's an interesting story behind this one. In his comments in Frederick's interview, Mr. Vigil reveals that the track was changed after the covers were printed. The original song, Darknight, was deemed too down-tempo. Although this track is named Darknight on the cover, what you're hearing is actually called Hyperspace. So there you go - impress your friends. Regardless of its name, this track is best described as aural chaos. Several drums overlay shrieking tones; the whole song is filled with distortion and mad inertia. Best played loud. Very loud.

"Starwind": This one wins the award for most beautiful track. Although the upcoming 'Broken Promise' probably has the best feel, 'Starwind' beats it out for melodic content. The appeal of electronica is the way it can express complex emotions through simplistic means. The quiet, echoing notes at the beginning of the piece exemplify this characteristic. A beat soon breaks things up, and a more definable loop from Outlaw Star (which 'Starwind' introed on Toonami) takes center stage for most of the remaining time, but by the end we're back to those suppressed strains...

"Capslock": This one will shake the glass in your car like there's no tomorrow. Thrumming bass warbles throughout the entire song. What's funny is that this was the intro for Ronin Warriors, but I remember it best from the epic promo 'In the Distant Future', the mega-hot Gundam Wing advert that was so great it made it onto Bandai DVDs, complete with the "weekdays at 5:30, only on Toonami" line. In short, 'Capslock' is fun, fast, and furious.

"Broken Promise": This is my absolute favorite Toonami track of all time. For years I would listen to it every night before I went to sleep, allowing the chilled bass line to unwind my weary muscles and calm my busy mind. To this day I know of no better aural sedative. What's more, this was the track used in Toonami's inspiring 'Dreams' promo. It's funny that such a repetitive song can stand up to so many listens, but this one hasn't grown old for seven years. (Yes, seven - I taped the audio on cassette back when the promo first aired.) To this day I find myself gravitating to it whenever I want to accentuate a quiet moment with my own thoughts.

"Walking Stick": You should recognize this from Mad Rhetoric, everybody's favorite Toonami action promo. This one is quality, but is also basically underwhelming on its own; the track needs frantic imagery to work, and listening to it without the helter-skelter combination of explosions and neurotic voice clips is a somewhat lacking experience.

"Spacetime": Our journeys are over? Apparently so, and the album that came in like a lion with 'Ignition' goes out like a lamb, thick with reserved musing and a shimmering tapestry of New Age cascades. This track is truly a musical vision of the far-flung reaches of space, complete with the disembodied voice of TOM to cap it all off. "Hey, thanks for checking out the first Toonami CD. We hope you enjoyed it. Remember - the Revolution will be televised."

 

Many people 'in the know' would argue that this is just a subpar electronica album. My guess is that they're probably right, for the same reasons that I snooze through Vigil's later albums, namely Deeper Space and The Inevitable Course of Events. But the reason I listen to this album is not because I think it's the best electronica ever made. When I que it up I hear bass, and drums, and cymbals, and synth, but I also hear TOM laying out the status of the Revolution, Sara talking about RPGs. I hear Goku's stomach growling, and the scream of OZ pilots as they get bagged by a Gundam. I hear myself as a kid, going on and on and on about which of the Ronin Warriors was the coolest. I hear myself choking up when Ryoko came back at the end of Tenchi Universe. I hear a host of things that remind me of times gone by and friends - both animated and otherwise - long departed.

If you feel the same way, then Deep Space Bass is for you. The more cynical probably won't care.

 

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