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The Motoko Files: Cyber Prophecy - Review by George Miler

posted Jul 8, 2014, 1:52 PM by Nummer Eins   [ updated Oct 19, 2014, 3:10 PM ]

A Review by George Miler, 7/8/2014

I became intrigued when I began seeing The Roboter – The Motoko Files showing up on my (Facebook) homethread newsfeed. By my usual stochastic process I discovered that The Roboter was associated with it, so I decided to give it a spin. The download and extraction resulted in something similar to the theme of the double album, the second being an audiobook, but I’ll reserve that for later. The fact that the first track is called
Aftermath” may give you some idea. This track is nice and dark enough, the kind of thing I like, but I can’t say that it stood out particularly. Obviously this is going to be an evocation of Blade Runner, Johnny Mnemonic, and cyberpunk such as Akira…

O.K., so NOW the hair on my arms is standing up. This ought to be the Cyber Prophecy bit; I’ll say why in a sec. This track is “Fragmented Memory.” Servomechanisms actuate, there’s a slow low grinding growl in back that adds to the bleakness of the ultramated megacity, but what gets me is the refined suspense created by the high sustained strings. They turned my nervous system into one big antenna, tunable and receptive to anything that came next. This must be the undecided fight-or-flight or friend-or-foe our animal brethren feel when they seem to growl at nothing in the darkness. Every system is on high alert, quivering, expectant, waiting, uncommitted, but at a critical point, some kind of cusp where the topology can change for bad or good. You just don’t know. From there it’s on to…

The Cyborg Factor.” The story is developing. These are not tracks as much as they are episodes, but I don’t feel like giving anything away yet. It’s meanstreet-dramatic until the prototype-synthesizer beeps hoist you into the far future and into a robot dance of self-discovery. I’m guessing but I imagine that the protagonist Motoko is realizing that she’s a cyborg. More than that, a cyber-cop. My policy for listening to new music is to follow a raw protocol, which means ignoring the promotional penumbra that comes with a new release so that I don’t form any pre-judgments or inflexible expectations. The track titles are tantalizing enough, such as…

Restore From Cloud,” which makes me think Motoko is recovering her memories after her personal data, existentially personal, are lost. My own dicey-dodgy file extraction (the fault of my VLC player; in the download folder the music files are arrayed in perfect order, which meant listening to each track one at a time instead of as a playlist, which is best for reviewing anyway) must have been a synchronic-coincidental foreshadowing of Motoko’s dilemma, which verges on the Dicksian.

I’m so involved now that I’m worried about her. Will her cyberization help or hinder her in re-possessing herself? The following two tracks, “Investigation” and “Origins,” give you a hint. (I won’t be surprised if I’m off by more than a few degrees.)

For those listeners who are impatient for the facts (rather than impatient with the facts), the audiobook begins at track 28 in the well-modulated tones of Steven Barber. I was doing my own investigation at this point, immersing myself in the Borders Edge Music page and the other links that came up. The details are there, the credits well-deserved. This is the second album by The Roboter and includes the short story to which the tracks are the background score. Motoko does do a self-diagnostic after she wakes up and realizes that she is a cyborg.
Firewall” (08) sounds like the workings of a completely connected global net, an audible cyberspace (Kuutana has left a signature here) -- and a creepy one invaded by an avatar known as the Platinum Prophet.

 I endeavor to avoid spoilers, but the music and story
complement each other very well (no wonder, since they’re written by the same author). Both are above average, a contribution to the genre, but my bias is toward the music, (the cool sigh of the flute in 12: “Dragon’s Den” followed by
the lush Japanese concerto as Motoko recalls the Cherry Blossom Festival;
the ominous 10: “Alternating Currents”; 07: “Underground Attack,” which calls back every cyber-horror movie ever made) especially during Motoko’s self-diagnostic where those incomparable strings frame the entire album by galvanizing the listener while disconnected images flash in her head. This sense of powerful mystery is revivified in such tracks as “Unintended Consequences” so the mood is maintained throughout. I recommend that the whole album be experienced in its entirety.

I think that The Roboter has brought something new (or maybe old) to the manga scene. With all due respect to Ghost in The Shell and its many anime adaptations, a certain tension is missing, a tension between the known and the unknown. As taut as a wire, release is the only remedy. But I don’t want release. Even after Motoko regains her identity, the search is on for the Platinum Prophet, a mystery beyond the mystery of the truth of her soul. This elusive feeling is electrifying. Practicing magicians have informed me that their spells are not efficacious without that “tingle.” As long as you have it, life is never boring.
George Miler

Storybook version on Rdio

Album Name: The Motoko Files
Title: The Motoko Files: Cyber Prophecy
Artist: The Roboter (Borders Edge Music)
Contributors: Kuutana (music) Steven Barber (audiobook narration)

This album contains original content only, music and story, written by the author. The following references are for illustrative purposes only (any semblances to people, organizations, or places real or imagined outside of the story are purely coincidental) :

(1) Blade Runner is a 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott.
(2) Ghost in The Shell is an original work by Masamune Shirow.
(3) William Ford Gibson is a Canadian author know for his novels in the Cyberpunk genre.


released 04 July 2014

Special thanks to:
- Steven Barber for his wonderful voice narration of the short story
- an09 at DeviantArt for sharing her amazing cyborg art photo-element used in the image cover.
- Jean-Luc Charron for final album artwork