I Found Some Rad Tracks At This Virtual Japanese Music Festival

I Found Some Rad Tracks At This Virtual Japanese Music Festival
Each kiosk has a music player, two side art slots, and a purchasing link (though a few goods are actually free). (Screenshot: HIKKY / VRChat / Kotaku)
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Instead of highlighting a single soundtrack today, I wanna tell you about my visit to a virtual music festival this weekend, where I found lots of great tracks.

So that was cool.

It started when I got a PR about a five-day virtual music convention called MusicVket 2 (website / Twitter), held in the popular game VRChat, and put on by a “VR events” company called HIKKY. Sounded neat. I don’t have VR hardware, but was happy to learn that VRChat has a desktop mode, too. It’s free to play on Steam, so why not?

My first time in VRChat. I figured out the client (not impressed, to be honest), got some avatars, and teleported to the MusicVket 2 entrance world. After some mouth-breather kept trying to make a nonsensical joke about my very cool Cool Spot avatar I switched to a DQ healslime and proceeded unbothered thereafter. (I found myself hesitant to adopt a more conventionally attractive or feminine avatar due to worries about other players reacting. VR is weird.)

Japanese fandoms have a rich history of fan-created content, referred to as doujin, which is often made to be sold at massive fan conventions/markets. The most famous by far is Comic Market (Comiket), which has been going strong since, gosh, 1975. The linked wiki entry reports that some 35,000 doujin circles (creator groups) showed up for the most recent Comiket in 2019. Think about how much fan-created content that implies…staggering!

MusicVket 2 is tiny by comparison, with nine main exhibition spaces hosting only about 25 artists each. Still a lot to get through, but a far cry from 35k. I randomly picked a teleporter, walked up to some music kiosks, and started listening. Each kiosk could only play one track, but some artists used it for a sampler medley of their albums, which was nice. If something strikes your fancy, clicking the buy button next to the player opens the relevant page in your web browser.

At first I was struck by how everything was fast beats and EDM, but soon realised the exhibition spaces were organised by genre and I was in “Techno & Club.” Oops. “Classical, Ambient, Folk Jazz, Fusion” sounded more relevant to my interests, so I warped over to those halls. Much more to my liking! I found some cool tracks and clicked the “buy” links well over a dozen times, opening up a bunch of browser tabs to check later.

I was struck by how a lot of works seemed to be based on fictional concepts like games that don’t actually exist, make-believe environments, or vague-feeling genres like “fantasy music.” Case in point, the artist Hagall’s Festival of “illuminous” 01, which they call a “soundtrack” with a focus on “coined words.” Check out the embedded sample above, it’s gorgeous. So is the Festival of “illuminous” 02 sample. The first album is three tracks for ¥850 ($10) and the second four for ¥950 ($11). I might pick ‘em up.

Artist singing yelka is also on the fictional OST beat. Describing their album “白銀航空師団の最期” (website), via Google Translate: “This work was created as a fictitious SRPG soundtrack inspired by the Megurine Luka song ‘The End of the Silver Aviation Division’ created by furafura (jumboP). Contains 14 songs.” The samples are decent, but this one only seems available via mail order, unfortunately.

Some exhibitors are selling more than just music. I ran into several offering 3D models, the most expensive of which was a (very cute) furry for ¥15,000 ($180). Remit General Factory wrote a great image song about a floating city but also modelled the city itself, which they’re selling as a 250,000-polygon model for use in VRChat. (There’s also a second track meant to evoke an RPG dungeon.)

It is an image song that looks at the aerial city with gears flying in the sky from above.

Look at the huge and old-fashioned floating city.

I hope you can feel the romance.

I’d really like these two tracks, but have no use for the (very cool-sounding) 3D model so the ¥1000 ($12) feels a bit prohibitive. Still, I love how esoteric and creative this feels, unbound by the conventions implicit in basing fan works on existing products, as is common in fanfic and the like. It’d be nice to hear more about this phenomenon from folks versed in Japanese fan culture.

Perhaps my most exciting musical find was “digital pop unit” SortM (Twitter). I can’t embed the Vket track they’re selling, but you can hear the sample here, which is pure mid-tempo synthesiser bliss. If they have more like this consider me a fan.

That gets at what was ultimately so cool about visiting MusicVket: It offered me a venue to demo music I wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. Not to mention the ability to compensate the artists directly.

I’m way over my word count and still have a lot of artists to mention. Briefly, everything I sampled from SHIONY T.O. is amazing, definitely buying some tracks there. Same for ak+q, whose work is somehow simultaneously mellow and high-energy. Recezza looks to be a very solid jazz fusion quartet, one of few Vket artists I encountered without any obvious game, anime, or fandom subculture connections. I don’t know much about Pitronica’s music but I sure dig their super-cute harpy character. And mikaRing takes us back to the made-up OST thing, with a great-sounding score to a fictional JRPG.

Whew! That’s it for today’s Morning Music. A little curveball this Monday, eh? MusicVket 2 has about two more days left, so you can jump into VRChat and check it out for yourself. (You can’t miss its prominent placement in the UI.) I found Vket a pretty cool, novel way to discover new music. I wonder if this’ll catch on more?

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