Throughout her new EP, 'Virtuality', Melbourne-based producer CORIN (government name: Corin Ileto) uses two key synthesisers to blend a series of familiar motifs and techniques drawn from classic technopop, 8/16-bit video game music, and instrumental grime. Concise and hard-hitting, the five tracks on 'Virtuality' shuffle and groove with a frosty man-meets-machine transhumanism, all rendered with a '90s CGI cyberspace glow.
Following on from the Tristan Jalleh-helmed video clip for her EPs second single VOID, 'Virtuality' takes us deeper into CORIN's sonic investigations of the ever-blurring relationship between man and machine, and sci-fi film and television's ongoing obsession with dystopian futures. With 'Virtuality' due for release on October 28th through Wondercore Island (home to the likes of Hiatus Kaioyte, Oscar Key Sung and Sampha The Great), we connected with CORIN to discuss amongst other things, cybernetics, dystopian futures, video game music, translating her sound into a live experience. You can stream 'Virtuality' below.
CORIN: "Over the course of recording 'Virtuality', I found myself informed by the narrative of Motoko Kusanagi, the lead character from the 1995 anime 'Ghost in the Shell'. Motoko is a cyborg who was previously human, but following a childhood accident was rebuilt with superhuman cybernetic parts for the purpose of fighting crime in assistance with the government. A central theme of the film focuses on Motoko’s existential crisis and doubt about her previous existence as a human and whether the memories she had were artificial. I think it is this blurring between real and machine that really interests me. Motoko is a female with superhuman capabilities, a subversive element within the system challenging those who have oppressed her existence."
How did you become interested in the idea of cybernetics, or the man/machine interface and dynamic? How have your thoughts on these ideas evolved since?
CORIN: "It came through my own experience of producing music and coming to terms with how the music I was making could be performed. I’ve used a Nord Stage 2 HA-76 keyboard for a while now and during my earlier experiments, I became interested in the idea of synchronicity between humans and their interaction with technology. I set up a lot of delays on the keyboard that had to be triggered at the right moment in order to sync with the track. A lot of my earlier compositions involved using the Nord not only as a synth but also as a drum sequencer, manipulating the LFO on the Nord to create glitches that could be used as percussive markers. Since then, I’ve expanded my set-up to include a Korg Poly 800 and a sampler with backing tracks and sound effects, with a lot of my initial performance ideas remaining the same. I try to interconnect live and non-live elements with the use of the sampler."
I’m also interested in the idea of live performance as a simulated rendition of the original material. I love how early electronic groups like Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra managed to infiltrate pop culture at the time with their own agenda about trans-humanism. YMO are especially inspiring to me because of the way they would replicate their recorded material. I particularly like how they didn’t think to use a computer technology in their early recordings because they were already such highly skilled performers. They eventually used computers to generate sequences for their recordings to eliminate the variation in timing that occurs during a live performance.
However, as it was the pre-MIDI era, they would still perform their recorded material with live instrumentation, and it is this human element I think they are best remembered for. They have continued to inspire me to communicate those ideas, perhaps in a more subtle way."
It's easy to be cynical or take a dystopian view on the direction the relationship between nature and technology is headed. I have a feeling it might not be so black and white for you. Where do you see things going for us in this regard, do you think positive outcomes are still possible?
CORIN: "There are a lot of sci-fi films, in particular, cyberpunk from the 80s and 90s like 'Ghost in the Shell', 'The Matrix' and 'Blade Runner' which all explore the danger of a high-tech future controlled by computer technology. I often wonder why people are drawn to creating these imagined dystopian futures. What does it mean to them, is it a warning about the future or is it a comment on the present?"
In these movies, the future is often depicted as a post-capitalist dystopia where global mega-corporations have a monopoly over society. The protagonists are often anti-heroes and dissenters on the periphery of society, trying to reclaim or hack the technology that had been created and controlled by the elite. I think these narratives are still relevant in today’s society, and that positive outcomes are possible, but perhaps the change will come from overthrowing or subverting the system."
The influence of 8/16-bit video game music and instrumental grime comes through quite clearly in your music. Where do you think this comes from?
CORIN: "My earliest memories of video game music are from when I lived in Japan for a year when I was a kid. I was home-schooled by my mother, in between lessons I would sit in our lounge room and play 'Sonic the Hedgehog' on Sega Genesis. I like how composers such as Kenji Yamamoto were able to evoke a theme, mood or character with only a few synths and little dynamic change. Yamamoto’s Brinstar (Underground Depths) from the video game 'Super Metroid' is one of my favourites."
"In a similar way, my interest in instrumental grime music stems from my appreciation for minimal composition. Visionist’s 'Safe' released last year on PAN, stands out to me because he used what seemed to be only a few vocal samples to create complex harmonic layers and counterpoint."
In a lot of ways, what you're making is very production-heavy music. How hard has it been translating it into a live show that works and makes sense for you?
CORIN: "The keyboard has always been the instrument I have felt most comfortable with, so it has always been central to my performance. In earlier performances there was an incessant need to do everything live, however, recently I haven’t necessarily felt that is as important anymore. I try to create a bit more of blur between live and non-live instrumentation, through the use of samplers. I still see the synth as the dominant voice which I use to perform certain lead lines, bass or particular sequences from my recorded material."
'Virtuality' is out October 28th on Wondercore Island.