Sounds of Travel 5: One Night in Tokyo

Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs. Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll post it at the end of the series.

WEEK 4: Colder – One Night In Tokyo

Japan has a reputation of creating bewilderment and a sense of wonder for visitors from the Western world. For anyone who has ever gotten lost in the “fiction” of Japan created by movies like Lost in Translation or anime series like Gundam, there is a perception created of a place that looks strangely familiar yet somehow slightly askew, like your friend was hiding around the corner, waiting to jump out and scare the crap out of you. You’re left constantly on edge, ready to be surprised, shocked and amused by a constant barrage of stimuli.

It was with these thoughts in mind as I landed in Tokyo for my first trip to Japan earlier this year. My home base for the next 10 days was a high rise in the Shinjuku neighborhood – a bustling, neon-lit business district in central Tokyo. As I unpacked my things in my room, I flipped on my iPod to a song by Colder, a French electronic artist known for his moody, atmospheric compositions, fittingly selecting one of my favorite tracks called “One Night in Tokyo.”

As the track slowly kicked in, I took in my surroundings. Dusk was beginning to settle over this massive metropolis. Thousands of office towers lay before me – giant monoliths of concrete and glass glistening quietly, silhouetted against the quickly darkening sky. Each pulsated at the top with the intermittent blink of tiny red light, creating a vision of thousands of tiny insects flashing alone in the dark, performing a giant light show for an unknown audience that rushed by, oblivious. The scene was punctuated by the clackety-clack of endless subway cars as they rumbled into the gigantic Shinjuku rail station down below.

“One Night in Tokyo” was the perfect complement to my overwhelming sense of vertigo at the scene before me. The song builds slowly, adding layer upon layer of warm keyboard synths, dub echoes and handclaps, while lead singer Marc Tan sings in a detached, mysterious monotone. The sound effects fade in and out of the song chaotically, much like the intermittent trains that pierced the silence of my quiet hotel room.

As isolating as this all may sound, One Night in Tokyo was absolutely perfect for setting the right Tokyo mood. It captured what I found so intriguing about Tokyo at night – the air feels thick with excitement and potential. The dark alleyways, the searing neon, the bustle and the activity all created a sense of mystery and excitement. There was a constant sense that at any moment I would be thrust into my own movie plot, filled with strange characters and shady villans darting onto subway platforms and down sidestreets.

My next 10 days in Japan presented me with an experience I will never forget. The Japan of reality is surprisingly not like the one portrayed in my imagination – in fact it’s far weirder. But for those first few hours in Tokyo, as the day began to dim and One Night in Tokyo slowly dissipated from my speakers, my fantasy vision of Japan was alive and well.

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