Playlist Notes: Novas Chronology

(previously: Mixtape of the Found Decade)

Novas is a cyberpunk rock opera built entirely out of mostly 1980s music (primarily New Wave but including punk, disco, progressive rock, New Age, folk, and pop… and dipping into other decades as and when necessary). I don’t know why it exists. It’s a ridiculous thing to do except that it’s maybe not been done before (except for that Abba musical and that Beatles circus). And it’s only possible because of Youtube, it probably won’t survive because of Youtube, and it exists in a liminal space somewhere between ‘you can’t’ and ‘you really shouldn’t’.

It’s an example of hypermedia, I guess, or what could be done with hypermedia if we had a proper hypermedia platform and not just ‘platforms’. An aesthetic of radical remix. Does that make it punk enough, or is it too cyber? Or is it just the right amount of cyber?

It just sort of came out of my subconscious, because most of this music is what I heard in the 1980s as a kid, and it always seemed like there must be some kind of backstory to all these strange people dressing like scientists and singing about nuclear war, space, and living inside computers. When I rediscovered this music in the mid-2010s, somehow the suspicion grew on me that I could write a story out of all these found components. And so this is that story, for that kid in the 1980s.

If you’ve been following but haven’t quite been keeping up, maybe start here.

The Novas series is something that grew organically, in four sets, and I think is probably best listened to in that order, because the story starts simple and then gets more complicated.

Core Story: That This Nova Won’t Burn Out
Novas 0, 1, 2, 3

Intermission: In The Dome Of The Spheres
Novas 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8

Expansion: When The Stars Begin To Fall
Novas 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 6

Prelude: Tomorrows Filled With Promise Stretch Forever
Novas 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6

But here’s the full story, in chronological order, as near as I can figure it.

Oh, and one thing before you start: Sometimes the Youtube embedded video thingy on a web page just randomly refuses to play all the songs (because some videos are rights-cleared for full-screen viewing, but not for embedding). Clicking the link above the embedded video will let you see them all, assuming they’re not deleted or blocked in your country.)

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Playlist Notes: Novas 0.6: The Day After Tomorrow

(previously: Novas 0.1)

(previously: Novas 0.5)


More of an end credits, really. 0.5 leads straight into ‘Tomorrow’, but 0.6 follows up quite a long time afterwards. After the Simulation, after the Revolution, after the Satellite, after… everything.

In terms of actual vs fictional 1980s theming: while 0.5 was sort of inspired by Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland and EPCOT Center, this one is the 1988 Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival.

Novas 0.6: The Day After Tomorrow

Hey everybody, tell me how do you feel? Are you satisfied with your life? Do you think it’s real?
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Playlist Notes: Novas 0.5: The Wonders Of Today

(previously: Novas 0.1)

(previously: Novas 0.4)

Pentaptych, then.

I felt like we still needed an explanation for how Jack and Susan got back together. And a kind of emotional buffer to round out the 0.x series so it plays together as a unit, whether or not you listen to the core trilogy or the 5.x series. And in fact this one does have an internal palindrome structure too, so it bookends nicely.

Susan and Jack have both lost their conscious memories of each other, but something beyond the System keeps drawing them back together.

Novas 0.5: The Wonders Of Today

Here’s to the future, here’s to the future, here’s to the future. Here’s to the future and you.
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Playlist Notes: Novas 0.4: The Light Catches You

(previously: Novas 0.1)

(previously: Novas 0.2)

(previously: Novas 0.3)

(previously: Novas 5.4)

So much for a triptych. Quadriptych?

(There is a trilogy structure here: 0.1, 0.3, 0.4. 0.2 is the odd one out, being more dreamlike and adjacent to the fiction of Novas).

Jack and Susan broke the Simulation once but failed to escape. With their memories erased, they are still Assets of the System, separately developing their music careers. But the geostrategic game is constantly interrupted by simulations of nuclear war.

Novas 0.4: The Light Catches You

Just like a flower when winter begins. Just like a candle blown out in the wind. Just like a bird that can no longer fly. I’m feeling that way sometimes.
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Playlist Notes: Novas 0.3: The Second Hand Unwinds

(previously: Novas 0.1)

(previously: Novas 0.2)

And since these things seem to come in sets, I felt like this was a triptych: two halves and a centre. The Moon in the middle; the story on each side.

Like the other three, it was an experiment, with a lot of ambient music. But it turns out I really like this one.

Jack, still working as an Agent for the Company, continues his search for Susan across multiple incarnations of the Simulation. But time is running out.

Novas 0.3: The Second Hand Unwinds

Look at me. Do you like what you see? Good. Because it’s not me.
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