The Novas Cycle: An Experiment in New Wave Futurism and Youtube Archeology

In a crowd, in a city I call my home
Undercover, on the edge I move alone

(August 2019 update: Well, the weird experiment seems to be holding so far. With Novas 5, 6 and 0.X, it’s now spun well beyond the trilogy format, though it’s still a consistent cyberpunk-opera storyline. The documentation for Novas 5 begins here.)

A set of ‘concept playlists’ (in the sense that they’re structured like concept albums, as ‘soundtracks for imaginary movies’)-  built from original organic free range vintage 1980s (mostly) found music harvested from Youtube. New Wave, Synthpop, and assorted electronica.

This is the music that was playing as cyberpunk fiction was born. It was an era that was, underneath the mainstream, a lot more innovative and forward-looking than maybe we remember. As we move into an era where the wildest cyberpunk dreams and nightmares have just become everyday reality, perhaps looking back might inspire us to take the next step forward.

The first playlist, Tomorrow, is generally structured around the wide-eyed early 1980s ideas of ‘the Future’ in general.

The next three form a more tightly structured trilogy about three core obsessions of the New Wave era: nuclear war, punk rock rebellion, and spiritual transformation.

They do flow together as a set: each playlist has an emotional arc, and the endpoint of one is that starting point of the next. So listening in sequence will definitely enhance the experience.

Since it’s on Youtube, the whole Jenga pile (much like democracy, the Antarctic ice shelf, and the global ecosystem) might collapse at any point, so maybe listen while you can, before our corporate masters take even our memories of the past away from us.

Novas Overture: Tomorrow (58 minutes)

this is the future we are living in
growing older with our problems

wistful, melodic, tragic, pop

( an introduction here ) and (detailed notes) – however these are of the original ‘Demo Edit’, which I’ve now tightened down to ten songs

01. The Monitors – Singing in the 80’s (1980, Australia)
02. Martha and the Muffins – Danseparc (Every Day It’s Tomorrow) (1983, Canada)
03. Rational Youth – City of Night (1982, Canada)
04. Christian Bruhn – Captain Future Theme (1980, Germany)
05. Simple Minds – New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982, Scotland)

06. XL Capris – World War 3 (1980, Australia)
07. Logic System – XY (1981, Japan)
08. Cast of ‘Annie’ – Tomorrow (1981, USA)
09. Alphaville – Forever Young (1984, Germany)
10. Yvonne Elliman – Edge of the World (end titles from ‘Wargames’) (1983, USA)

Novas 1: Radiant Energy (64 minutes)

powers below have analyzed my fate

pure tones, arpeggios, detuned keyboards

(detailed notes)

01. The Sound – All Fall Down (1982, England)
02. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Radio Waves (1983, England)
03. Martha and the Muffins – Echo Beach (1980, Canada)
04. Spoons – Nova Heart (1982, Canada)
05. Heaven 17 – Lets All Make A Bomb (1981, England)
06. Industry – State of the Nation (1983, USA)
07. Dollar – Videotheque (1982, England)
08. The Electronic Circus – Direct Lines (1981, England)

09. Rational Youth – I Want To See The Light (1982, Canada)
10. Blue Peter – Radio Silence (1980, Canada)
11. Kraftwerk – Radioactivity (1975, Germany)
12. New Musik – All You Need Is Love (Non Beatles) (1982, England)
13. Modern English – After The Snow (1982, England)
14. Missing Persons – Destination Unknown (1982, USA)
15. Ultravox – Astradyne (1980, England)
16. Max Carl – Come And Follow Me (end titles from ‘Short Circuit’) (1986, USA)

Novas 2: Solid State Revolution (55 mins)

warning warning can’t you hear it
leave your dreaming yesterday

digital synths and guitars

(detailed notes)

01. Helicopters – Solid State Logic (1981, New Zealand)
02. Depeche Mode – New Life (1981, England)
03. Propaganda – p:Machinery (1985, Germany)
04. Fay Ray – Different Morning (1982, Wales)
05. Modern English – Someone’s Calling (1982, England)
06. Anthony Moore – World Service (1981, England)
07. Ann Steel, Roberto Cacciapaglia – Media (1980, Italy)
08. Strange Cargo – Have A Nice Day (1982, England)

09. This Final Frame – Take No Prisoners (1985)
10. The Sound – Resistance (1980, England)
11. Drinking Electricity – Breakout (1982, Scotland)
12. Crown of Thorns – World Radio (1984, England)
13. B-Movie – Remembrance Day (1981, England)
14. The Terminals – Chinatown (1982, USA)
15. The Buggles – Elstree (1980, England)
16. Hi-Techs – Pompeii (1979, USA)

Novas 3: Harmony Of The Spheres (57 minutes)

across the boundaries in your dream
worlds that we have never seen

warm analog pop and meditative disco

(The title of this playlist has changed as of August 2019: previously it was titled Now They Are Dreams. There are several reasons for this, all aesthetic, and spinning out of the Novas 5 project: all the other playlist titles are exact quotes taken from song lyrics, while the first two of the core Trilogy are abstract names which don’t occur anywhere in a lyric. I want the core trilogy to stand out from the other lists. Also, the emphasis in Novas 3 should not be on the song in which that quote occurs, which reflects the Simulation and not Reality. So it’s fixed now.)

(introduction) and (initial notes) and (revised notes)

01. Instant Music – Everybody’s Gotta Mutate (1981, Germany)
02. Fair Fax – Satellite Dream (The Capricorn Disaster Mix) (1986, Germany)
03. Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate (1978, USA)
04. Freur – Doot-Doot (1983, Wales)
05. Daemion – Human Arcade (1982, England)
06. Eurythmics – It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) (1985, England)
07. Full Moon Tan – Believe In Aliens (1983, USA)
08. Tandy Morgan Band – Escape from the Citadel (1983, England)

09. Donna Summer – I Feel Love (1977, USA)
10. The Techno Orchestra – Mechanical Ballet (1982, England)
11. Monsoon – Wings of the Dawn (Prem Kravita) (1982, England)
12. Planetary Peace – Medicine Wheel (1980, USA)
13. Telepathic – We Are Telepathique (1982, France)
14. Suzanne Ciani – System 55 (2015, USA)
15. Peter Schilling – Major Tom (Coming Home) (1982, Germany)
16. Katrina and the Waves – Love Shine A Light (1997, England)