96 Back – The Neon Pack

3 out of 5

Label: Central Processing Unit

Produced by: Evan Majumdar-Swift

Likely very effective as its intended art concept soundtrack; moreso interesting as a standalone listen.

The score for a 360 degree VR experience designed by Human (designer of the CPU look / packaging), 96 Back’s The Neon Pack does continue the artist’s exploration / pushing into further realms of electronic music, with two of its tracks being wholly ambient, somewhat along the lines of the dense emptiness of Amon Tobin’s Dark Jovian. However, while that project existed unto itself, Neon is meant to complement another experience, and just like how some film scores are perfect for the movie, but lack a little something on their own, the three tracks here don’t quite have as much of an emotional core as the artist has brought in the past when, perhaps, separated from their intended visuals. And stemming from that, the sensory effect is minimal – only opener Hopertrope really conjures a clear and consistent vision, but that’s because the vision could be said to be somewhat shallow: a dancehall; a rave. It’s a club track; deep and dense, compositionally, and quite fun – definitely a standout – but shallow nonetheless. Taxi Requiem’s nighttime insectoid buzz is perfect for about half its runtime, about ’til when another layer of synth floats in, and then it stalls; the last half is essentially a slow drift to a fadeout. Pairing this with the equally muted closer Concrete Out-Glo doesn’t give the listen much track-to-track growth; Glo is very much a coda.

These are all compelling, for sure, and very listenable, just perhaps not 96 Back-memorable. That said, I’d belief the artist did what they were supposed to in scoring the VR experience: I don’t have a headset to check out the whole thing, but watching the preview gives me an idea, and I can totally get how the music supports the visuals 100%, which is more rightly the task. That CPU also put this out for us 96 Back fans is thus appreciated, even if it’s not the artist’s most notable stuff on its own.