neon whitea laser fast First person shooter thingunfolds in a heaven where angels threaten to blast your face and experimental music outfit Machine Girl pierces your fake moves with saturated breakbeats.
The game inspires you with its lightning-fast graphics – turquoise waters, cold-blooded girls with rainbow hair, buildings cast from pure porcelain – to move quickly through the levels as if you are in a pretty nightmare, but the glittering puke music of Machine Girl keeps you moving. I’m obsessed with the soundtrack so I asked Ben Esposito neon white‘s developer and Matt Stephenson, the producer behind Machine Girl, on how they made it possible.
It began in 2020 when modern life imploded and Esposito Stephenson, with whom he had previously had no connection, emailed.
“I’m working on an unannounced PC game right now,” Esposito said, “and I think your music has the perfect energy for it (it’s a fancy 2000 Deviantart anime first-person shooter…think like a lost PS2.” -Match for the general tone and style). Been a fan ever since Twins but i heard ‘Cyan hardcore‘ I thought to myself… this is it.”
The album 2015 Twins and the track “Cyan Hardcore” from the EP 2020 Reporpoised fantasies are both sprinkled with groundbreaking Machine Girl sounds, like smashing, glassy synth samples and drum-fill sprays and breaks. “Cyan Hardcore” in particular has the same “I’m in a game, underwater” quality as many of the tracks neon white
Because of this sonic parallel (and perhaps emotional parallel), Machine Girl’s songs are filled with the same soaring energy you get from playing a game like demise) Machine Girl fans have been translating Stephenson’s music into games for years. In 2020, an independent development team was released nightmarea static first person shooter it said “strongly inspired” from the 2017 album …Because I’m young and arrogant and I hate everything you stand forthat fits into the gory shooter aesthetic.
Video games and Machine Girl’s discography are best friends and their relationship is appreciated. Eli Schoop, a experimental music writertold me that “Machine Girl is sick because she uses the breakbeats and MIDI instrumentals from early PS1 and [Sega Saturn] Play and add hardcore and rave shit to it like few others do.”
“I think it’s probably an intrinsic thing for anyone who has both likes digital hardcore and games to synthesize these loosely intertwined subcultures,” Schoop continued. “[Stephenson] is definitely a real fan [of both]so it feels real and goofy.”
Acknowledging his influences and the power within his fandom himself, Stephenson tells me, “I think it’s pretty obvious from all of my music that it’s heavily influenced by video games.”
“I loved video games as a kid, and certain soundtracks (especially the ones on the Sega Dreamcast) were tremendously informative for me. But I only really started thinking consciously about video games while I was making music until I worked on this neon white
“I think for anyone who grows up playing video games, we develop emotional attachments to the video game OSTs of our youth,” he continued. “If I can offer that to everyone, that’s the most important thing for me.”
In 2020, Stephenson accepted Esposito’s email pitch after realizing he wasn’t “just a kid in his bedroom making a video game,” and the two began collaborating on the soundtrack. The process was difficult but ultimately fruitful (clearly…did you hear it?)
“When we started working on the score, Matt sent an extremely intimidating Dropbox folder of unfinished music,” Esposito said. “There must have been at least 50 tracks with filenames like ‘mg2019 alpha 16 2020 D.mp3’.”
After trawling through dense filenames, the two came out with a handful of incomplete bursts of music, fireworks waiting to be ignited.
“In the end, probably about 50% of the soundtrack was created from the material we already had, and the other 50% was created from scratch for the game,” Esposito said.
But shaping and completing this material specifically for neon white presented Stephenson with a unique set of obstacles. He had never composed music for a video game before and currently has no additional soundtracks planned (although he would like to change that), so working under someone else’s creative vision required some adjustments.
“Sometimes it felt like you were trying to solve a mystery and find the right vibe for certain songs,” Stephenson said. “Each song in the game had a prompt of where to fit, so I had to focus and try to make songs for specific levels, cues, or menus. I usually do things a lot more consciously, so it took more discipline and focus.”
At times, Esposito’s prompts were difficult to follow, and tracks were cut because they “just didn’t fit the mood,” Stephenson said. But his fresh focus showed and ended up in a final soundtrack that both he and Esposito were happy with.
Stephenson calls the finished product “colorful, luscious, energetic, spastic, whiplash-inducing, fast-paced, excessive, maximalist, proggy, danceable, and low-fat.” The description matches how you feel playing the playthrough – the giggling angels going through shoot the air and shoot skinny monsters until you reach the end, all guided by Machine Girl. You feel like you’re driving something weird and aggressive, beastly but lively.
The music is pretty handy too. Esposito notes that the songs that accompany the actual gameplay, which requires speed and precision and flying, are particularly “hard, maybe harder than you’d first expect, but that’s by design,” he said. You don’t want to be sluggish as you smash through demons and crave absolution, as is the game’s premise. Like heaven itself, Esposito says the soundtrack should be “ambitious.”
“If the music feels too fast, then you’re not playing fast enough,” he said.
Redemption, Demons and jungle Music. Taken together, they sound like one fucked up subreddit. But like the careful planning of the soundtrack, this is intentional. After all, according to Neon White’s marketingthe entire game was born with “freaks” in mind.
I asked Esposito how “freakiness” lives in every aspect neon white.
“neon white doesn’t make sense on paper,” he said. “It shouldn’t work, but it works because it doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. It’s a celebration of fringe play and aesthetics. You absolutely don’t have to be a freak to have fun neon whitebut it was made for the geeks who love media that’s weird, off-kilter, and 100% true to themselves.”
The game’s music, an ankle sandwich of candy-sweet, sizzling breakbeats, delivers hyperactive gameplay to geeks with solemn passion.
“It wouldn’t be the same game at all without Machine Girl,” Esposito said. “Not just because Matt is a great and prolific producer, but because [Machine Girl’s] The art reflects the same passion for over-stimulating, off-kilter, and unloved media that the game was designed to celebrate.”