Game Music Revue: Rez Infinite (iam8bit Edition)

  • Credited Composer: Various Artists
  • Released February 15, 2017
  • Label: Nippon Columbia
  • VGMdb Information Page

The Rez soundtrack is the dopest shit.

It’s the soundtrack to the future, if your present is the mid-90s. It’s what you listen to when you’re in The Matrix. What you put on your headphones if your Angelina Jolie in Hackers. It’s the top 40 radio of the Ghost In The Shell universe.

It’s music without cultural context or barriers. Ken Ishii and EBZ are Japanese. Oval is from Germany. Coldcut and Adam Freeland are from the UK. Worlds apart geographically, but musically of the same cloth (or circuit board). For me, the Rez soundtrack isn’t just a collection of banging techno tracks, its a showcase that really proves great electronic music is music for anyone, anywhere.

Now, to celebrate the game’s re-release as Rez Infinite on Playstation VR, this amazing collection of should-be classics now has a deluxe vinyl re-issue courtesy of iam8bit, allowing an entirely new generation to experience the soundtrack for the first time…on a flawed format, packaged poorly, lacking in several ways.

Oh well, at least they tried.

There are two editions of this release, a widely available version pressed to colored vinyl, and a limited edition variant featuring picture discs. I snagged the picture disc edition because I already own the original CD release of the soundtrack that came out back in 2002. So I didn’t care too much about buying something that I figured was going to sound like garbage.

Look, picture discs inherently sound bad. When you press a picture onto a record, you’re covering up the grooves. That will always lead to some audio degradation. Sometimes this manifests itself in added pops and crackles, other times it shows up as a subtle layer of white noise that permeates the entire record from start to finish. In the case of this release, it’s the latter. But that’s actually a good thing. The Rez soundtrack is loud, pulse-pounding techno. It rarely has a quiet moment. As such, the white noise is drowned out by the noise of the music in most cases. There were only a few instances where I could pick up the background white noise from the picture disc, and even then, only on headphones. If you’re a casual record listener and you’re listening to this on a normal set-up, it’ll sound just fine. And I will say that the picture discs look pretty damn cool. The images they chose to overlay atop the vinyl fit the style of the game, and they even look good while spinning. Very pretty stuff.

The picture discs are a pleasant surprise. I came in expecting the worst and they proved themselves to be serviceable. With the book, and the packaging overall, it was the opposite experience. I came in with high hopes, only to have them crushed almost immediately.

The cover is kind of a cardboard/paper substance, like the kind you find on hardcover books, minus the gloss. Not only does it feel very cheap and decidedly low-tech when compared to the aesthetic of the game, it just feels bad and isn’t durable at all. Mine dog-eared almost immediately. And since I first removed it from its plastic slipcover, the whole thing has become warped, with the front cover almost concave in appearance now.

Inside there’s a massive book, and it’s full of great interviews and behind-the-scenes information. They probably could’ve sold this thing separately and it would’ve made people happy. In fact, maybe they should have. By cramming the book inside the sleeve, it feels like it’s barely held together. The binding on this is just terrible, and at times exposes itself to be little more than a series of thin strings. I assume they went with a glueless binding so you could see the artwork in all its beauty. but when you factor in the weight of the records, and the heavy front and back covers, the binding just doesn’t feel up to the task. I feel like I’m going to tear the thing apart every time I turn a page.

But even the shoddy build quality of the physical product isn’t the biggest flaw of this set. I’m almost willing to let it slide. It’s an ambitious package, and they probably wanted to keep costs down to a certain degree. I get it. But what I do not get, what I simply cannot abide by, is the lack of any kind of digital or CD audio component. It is, at best, horribly lazy and stupid, and at worst, disgustingly anti-consumer and insulting.

I understand that vinyl is cool. It looks neat when you play it, the packaging showcases the art better and it leads to a more tactile, interactive experience with your music. That’s all great. You don’t have to convince me on that. I own nearly 4,000 records spread across two freaking continents.

But, hey, even I like to listen to music on my iPod. I commute for about 90 minutes a day. That’s prime music listening real estate. I bet the same goes for a lot of you reading this. You listen to music when you’re out and about, walking down the street, in your car, at the gym or whatever. You want your music with you. That’s not a crazy idea. And when you spend upwards of $75 on a “deluxe” box set featuring just two LPs and a bonus 7″ record of music, you should get it.

Excluding a download code or CD release shouldn’t even be a option, yet for labels like iam8bit it’s usually the norm. An overwhelming number of their vinyl releases come without a digital option. And why? They would probably claim its a “right’s issue.” But what that usually means is “we didn’t want to pay for it.” And that’s just insulting when you consider how much some of their releases cost. This was $75. And while I know it took a good deal of time and money to put this package together, its shoddy production quality doesn’t reflect that fact. Also, as far as I know the bonus Area X tracks included on the added seven inch single are exclusive to this release, which means they’re neither available digitally or on CD anywhere! What the hell.

I think iam8bit, and the entire vinyl re-issue industry as a whole, really needs to get its shit together before they fleece one too many customers. This whole re-issue thing is a bubble, it’s going to burst. That’s inevitable, and unfair, poorly constructed, rip-off releases like this only service to expedite that inevitability.

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