Artists who emulate video game music are on the rise. TeamRKT’s June release ‘Cities’ is a neat four track EP which brings the widespread influences of the PC music group to the local scene. TeamRKT, of course, named after Pokemon’s most infamous criminal organisation is made up of Rory Powers and Kit Grier. The pair are childhood friends, originally from Portstewart, now based in London.
TeamRKT’s video game references run deep. The project came together when the duo began writing lyrics and singing over music they wrote specifically for the Nintendo Gameboy. The budding North Coast music scene gave them a supportive launch pad for their experimentation with 90’s Japanese video game sampling and remixing. They released their first track ‘Comets’ in 2017 with a sound that is at once energetic and familiar, marking out a nostalgia for the near future.
It seems apt then that their first EP should be crafted almost entirely online. All four of ‘Cities’ tracks were written as a collaborative effort via email between the two friends as they were living in separate cities. Their mission statement with this record was “to make high-energy, emotional electronic music that deals with themes of growing up, love and nostalgia through the lens of digital life”. And they succeeded. None of these tracks would be out of place in a LEGO movie soundtrack.
The opening songs (‘Cities’ and ‘Awake’) are immediately reminiscent of Owl City, or the more contemporary (and arguably much cooler) Kero Kero Bonito. TeamRKT make neat work of layered looping, sampling metronome kicks and sustained synth to world build in the space of a few minutes. Cleverly capturing the busyness of life in a city with video game franaticity, touching on the subjects of not sleeping and working on rest days. In a chiptuned game world, these things save time but in real life have less productive consequences. The median interlude track (‘Interlude’) then slows and strips back to a piano that can’t help but remind of the soothing Minecraft or Animal Crossing soundtracks. This breather preludes the final track which again fizzes to life.
The restrained world TeamRKT creates in only four tracks really emphasises the digital nature of the EP. The ability to keep up high energy requires specific programming and a skillset that showcases the calculation within musicianship. The duo are able to contrast this chiptune sound with lyrics that delve into more universal tropes.
TeamRKT’s named influences include Charli XCX, Anamanaguchi and Hatsune Miku. These artists, who bring artistry into music production and crafting as well as just lyric writing are all brought closer together thanks to internet collaboration. With this, locality can take on a new meaning. It is down to this that Belfast based Me & U2 can be featured in PC Music’s Appleville music festival having more listeners in Chicago and LA than in their most geographically local scene. It is also due to this that ‘Cities’ was able to be put together in the first place. With nostalgia comes melancholy but with the digital ages comes the ability to look back on it together.