This is a CYBERPUNK playlist I started working on a few months ago, and finally feel good enough to publish it. These playlists are always a work-in-progress but this one I completed enough to share with everyone.
I can’t play CYBERPUNK 2077
The release of CYBERPUNK 2077 is imminent, and I’m jealous!
I also had a stroke last year that left my dominant hand unable to play games that require much dexterity. I play a lot of
turn-based games Civilization VI, since I can let it run while I do other things.
As a result, I made a CYBERPUNK playlist
So, I won’t be playing CYBERPUNK 2077 with you. As part of my grieving process (not really. It’s 2020, there have been too many things to grieve.), I took my nearly 30 years of listening to grimey, industrial and techno music and assembled a cyberpunk playlist to rule them all.
OK, not really. There are a lot of amazing cyberpunk playlists. But this one is mine.
Let’s talk about CYBERPUNK
Look. I’m Generation X. Well, I’m actually the “Oregon Trail Generation”. I sit at the tail end of Gen X but am a bit old to be considered a Millennial by any metric.
We had an Apple II in my classroom, which I seem to recall being 2nd or 3rd grade. Honestly, I’m old and had a stroke so I don’t remember specifically.
I died of dysentery more than a few times.
Recently, I ran across a meme on Twitter that got me thinking.
I like Solarpunk. I don’t relate to it, and this meme taps into the spirit of why I don’t. I also disagree with this meme’s subcontext.
Those of us in Generation X aren’t just depressed Boomers. We were disillusioned by Boomers in much the same way the younger generations are now. Some of us slipped into college before the costs got crazy, but just so. Many of us have no retirement savings or own houses. It’s the same situation, though I will admit y’all got it WAY worse.
Part of it is because of the “trickle-down economics” pushed in by the Reagan era in the ’80s. Shit, politicians still push this tripe. Ronald Reagan is the reason everything is so fucked now. Trump is just the inevitable snowball that resulted from the nefarious shit that really got implemented and started by Reagan. He just did it with a smile and an optimistic facade vs the hate-driven Trump.
CYBERPUNK: defeatist or realistic?
The point is that cyberpunk came about at a particular time where cultural themes of rebellion coincided with a foreseeable rise in corporate dominance and an unreliable government.
Most cyberpunk I was exposed to, the enemy was evil corporations, not the government. The government was by no means absent, but if anything, the government worked for these corporations.
We were seeing corporate power and technology in a way that, when reduced to the absurd, the conclusion was undeniably dark.
This increasingly has come to pass. So it wasn’t just Gen X being cynical, it was Gen X being disillusioned and realistic.
I think we all agree solarpunk is the future we want, but cyberpunk is the future we fear. It was never a fantasy that we hoped came into being, but it was a future we saw us heading towards.
The ’80s scared the shit out of us
I’m not saying the ’80s were worse than now. Shit, the rise in school shootings is so much worse than what we dealt with. The idea of having the internet as a kid is horrifying(more so than fascinating which it is too). But, we were surrounded by a culture of fear.
This was at the conclusion of the “red scare”. Our boogeyman was nuclear war. This mentality is on full display with movies like The Terminator, Akira, Mad Max, and even later films like The Matrix. Even video games like Final Fantasy VII carried these themes. I remember The Terminator scaring the shit out of me when I was a little older.
The movie that rang home the most was Red Dawn. Red Dawn isn’t remotely cyberpunk but it has the themes of systemic collapse and rebellion. For one, Red Dawn was about school-aged kids during a Soviet invasion. The scene early on where you could see paratroopers dropping in through the windows… that shit was terrifying and seemed fully plausible at the time.
After all, this is the period just after the world saw Star Wars released in 1977. It imprinted the spirit of rebellion on us for years. That’s the solution all types of punk pursues: rebellion.
Cyberpunk wasn’t defeatist. It was about rebellion. That’s where the “punk” part comes in. We were just pessimistic, and I’ll agree with that accusation all day. We saw the technocratic oppression as inevitable. I’m still pessimistic, though that pessimism is sprinkled with hope. All of this always has been.
CYBERPUNK in the early ’90s
I remember friends playing a lot of tabletop Shadowrun campaigns. I was playing AD&D and was involved in too many things already. I still found the setting fascinating. It was through this connection that we were introduced to bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Frontline Assembly, and so on. I still see many of these bands as quintessentially cyberpunk, despite the insistence that Billy Idol owns it.
Billy Idol, I’m afraid.— CrypTicuS (@Crypticus) July 31, 2020
Movies were cropping up. It really started with Akira in the ’80s but the ’90s really started to see a lot more derivative films like Johnny Mnemonic, Total Recall, Hackers, and so on.
This period defined CYBERPUNK for me, but it was absolutely fueled by the ’80s scaring the shit out of us with nuclear holocaust.
My CYBERPUNK playlist
All this is what has gone into my playlist. I didn’t include a lot of older music. I included older artists, and I included new artists emulating ’80s styles and techniques. I tried to put together a myriad of styles that when combined made a mood for the CYBERPUNK rebellion.
Note: I didn’t include any hip-hop or rap. I tried working in artists like clipping. and JPEGMAFIA. I’ll end up making a playlist more focused on this. I was having a hard time blending in the energy they bring without it being incongruent, and while exploring it I started making a new playlist. I have done a few other CYBERPUNK oriented playlists already, so what is one more?
The styles I’ve included center around hard EBM, industrial sludge, with some older artists doing newer music. I tried weaving in some higher tempo and heavier synthwave material. My guess is synthwave purists have specific micro-genres this material falls into but I can’t keep up with micro-genres anymore!
Most of it is higher BPM. Some of it is straight up club and dance music.
Some of it has vocals, some don’t. Some use movie samples, some don’t. For legal and artistic reasons, movie samples aren’t in such high usage anymore, but I consider them a defining mark of CYBERPUNK music from the ’90s.
Despite the genre and style bouncing, I think I’ve found a consistent feel through the entire experience.
The playlist started with the older artists. Then I included material from artists like MASTER BOOT RECORD, Makeup And Vanity Set, Odonis Odonis, and then built from there.
My other CYBERPUNK playlists
I have some other CYBERPUNK playlists that diversify the mood.
LOS ANGELES NOVEMBER, 2019
I put together this playlist last year to mark the real-time passing of November 2019, the setting in Blade Runner. Most cyberpunk aesthetics are inspired by the art design in Blade Runner. I put this cyberpunk playlist together to capture a more ambient mood, including mostly instrumental tracks created by many different artists using an analog synthesizer sound.
I put this cyberpunk playlist together years ago. It’s mostly danceable and intended to be slightly less oppressive. It definitely has a pop music feel, while still being kind of edgy. It finds inspiration in the ’80s more solidly and includes a lot more synthwave. I do some genre bouncing with it though. I still actively maintain this playlist, so it changes quite a bit with time.
My favorite inclusion lately is Parralox’s cover of Lucretia My Reflection, which is a wild cross-genre cover of Sisters of Mercy’s epic song. It fits what I was going for so well.
Other playlists of mine
Shuffle Off, Repeat On
I don’t recommend playing this with shuffle on, though it does work. If you have a free version of Spotify, it still is enjoyable. I do recommend having repeat on. Spotify’s algorithms are confused by this playlist and recommend some weird shit. You may find some interesting things if you leave it on, but it isn’t recommended. Yuck.
A hardedge CYBERPUNK playlist.
For the cover art, I used “Ship” by Masashi Kageyama.
Through this process, I really struggled with an image to use. There are a LOT of amazing artists on Instagram doing work in this style and I highly recommend checking out their work.