If you grew up watching cartoons as a kid, chances are you've heard of Samurai Jack. The animated legend of a sword wielding warrior trained to vanquish a tyrant of darkness filled the heads of many kids in the early to mid 2000s. James Kristopher (known throughout the electronic music scene as OMNI) was one of those kids, but his interest fell onto the antagonist of pure-evil, The Shogun of Sorrow himself - Aku.
I'm starting a project based on the rave episode of samurai jack - rewatched it like 4 or so times thinking what Aku could possibly put on a CD made to indoctrinate ravers into his legion. so I'm gonna make it. expect acidcore OMNI real soon. pic.twitter.com/7nnyMGLUq7— OMNI @ home :( (@OMNI6664) April 25, 2019
"This was after watching Samurai Jack's 3rd season, 2nd episode "Jack And The Rave" about 7 times in a row. Funny enough, I hadn't actually started anything for the project when I made that tweet. It was just an impulsive thought that brought my attention to making something strange. A little under 5 days later, I had uploaded another tweet with a picture of the album cover and the simple word Tomorrow."
“AKU” - Art painted by James Kristopher & Viktor Kadic.
On April 30th, the next day - James released this sudden 12 minute project for free download on Soundcloud and Newgrounds. Between the striking imagery and the sudden urgency of the release, it’s hard not to be pulled in.
“Growing up with Samurai Jack as a child definitely had an effect, I admire this image of a time-stolen samurai unrelentingly fighting through a strange and caustic cyberpunk future overseen by a dark overlord.”
While Jack himself may have been a big influence on James growing up, it was the pure evil, world dominating villain "AKU" that peaked his interest for this particular project. Now a musician studying rave culture and music in Brooklyn, it seemed that the pieces were destined to fall into place. Having binged the episode “Jack and the Rave” multiple times in a row, he was confronted with a prompt.
“I thought to myself - What could Aku possibly put on a CD to indoctrinate thousands of ravers into his dark legion? An almost possessive energy took over and led me to create it myself.”
OMNI cites his inspiration for the production style coming from the episode’s soundtrack, composed by James L. Venable. Listening closely, you can hear pieces of Venable’s work shine through AKU.
“His take on the essence of rave music was strange, creating a hypnotic blend of Samurai Jack's iconic atmosphere and the playful upbeat nuances of rave music.”
In Venable’s soundtrack, you can hear different flavors of early rave production. Some of these include acid 303 basslines, pitched-up and chopped vocals, and heavily distorted 909 kicks.
“Even for a show geared towards a younger audience, these compositions paved a very important influence and groundwork for AKU.”
According to James, the album never started as just that. Initially, he had started it as an extended and ever-changing song - similar to that of a 1970's progressive rock track. And You And I (1972) by Yes is a prime example of the composition style OMNI was pushing towards.
“Each section tells a different part of a story, I had literally made the entire project chronologically in the order shown on the cover. The only exception was the intro track.”
The introduction in question is fun and overtly grand - almost cartoony - including lines from DJ Stylebator, the hypnotizing villain set in “Jack and The Rave”. A big part of the 12 minute experience is the seamless transitions from track to track. Part of this is due to the way it was produced, having the notion that it was going to be a single track rather than a last minute album.
“My motive wasn't really clear even to myself, I didn't exactly know what I was doing when I made it. The decision to split the project into 8 short tracks and call it an album came to me the day before I even posted the teaser. The next day it went public. Completely impulsive.”
The album itself takes a step back from the typical standard of writing in genre. After the intro, the style swaps seamlessly from a fast-paced SAMURAI WHACK to an atmospheric and pumping 135 beats-per-minute for ENTER THE VOID, NIGHTMARE, and SHIFTSHAPE. As the previous track smoothly transitions out, you are met with a looming chant - suddenly entering the invasive and hypnotic praising of the dark lord MANTRA rising back up in speed. However, it's the hard-cut to the face-melting gabber track BLACK MASS and breakcore influenced FRONT&BACK at 200 beats-per-minute that really smacks. If being brainwashed wasn't convincing enough for you, maybe slamming your body against the abrasive gabber kicks out of the void will trigger something more chaotic. After a run through that madness, the appropriately named dance track JACK ATTACK closes out the album with driving basslines and looping vocal phrases.
“I definitely made the project with a live audience in mind, subconsciously gauging how a real crowd might react to each section - whether the reaction is visceral or not is something that peaks my curiosity.”
In addition to the album, James had also made multiple promotional pieces dedicated to different tracks on AKU.
you can listen to the full AKU Album/Mix below or on OMNI's Spotify
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