Two Things: ‘The Secret City’ & ‘Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar’

Two Things

Two Things is a new feature I’m starting. This is the first in a series of posts in which I gush about two semi-related things I love, explain why I love them, and what they have in common. I know, it all sounds so riveting. But I hope you’ll at least find it mildly entertaining, and maybe even discover some cool things you might not know about.

Today’s semi-related two things are an ’80s television show called The Secret City and an album called Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar.

Now on to the awesomeness:

Thing #1 – The Secret City

Children of the ’80s who watched a lot of PBS should remember The Secret City Adventures*. It was a a sci-fi themed educational program for children that taught basic drawing techniques in a really fun, imaginative way and was hosted by the enthusiastic, mustachioed Mark Kistler, better known as “Commander Mark.”

*I’ve always referred to the show simply as “The Secret City” or “Secret City” but Wikipedia tells me its proper name is “The Secret City Adventures.” The more you know.™ On a related note, I’m disappointed the Wiki page for this show is severely lacking.

I recently found out that most if not all of the episodes are available to watch on YouTube, reminding me once again why I love the internet. Here’s a clip from one of the early episodes:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tK70tHKhME

The show also featured some recurring live-action and puppet-like characters from the imaginary world of Commander Mark’s drawings, or sometimes they’d pop in to see what he was up to and help out. I used to live for the surprise appearances by “Cindy,” who was some sort of friendly, giggling dragon-like creature—or at least, that’s what I assumed she was; we only ever got to see her hands.

Cindy

I loved everything about this show. Commander Mark made me feel like I could draw anything! (Even though I couldn’t). And it had one of the coolest, most memorable opening sequences that took you on a first-person journey through the hand-drawn chambers and corridors of the futuristic Secret City itself. The thing I loved most, though, was the synthy, spacey music that conjured up all sorts of wild, cosmic imagery in my head—distant planets, alien cities, lunar landscapes. Just listen to it at 8:09 in this clip. I wish I knew who composed it. (By the way, if anyone reading this knows, please leave a comment and let me know!)

I’ll stop right there because that’s a great segue into the next thing I want to tell you about:

Thing #2 – Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar

This is a brilliant instrumental album by Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, an artist who composes video game music and designs musically-driven games. He’s most well-known for his beautiful, ethereal score for the critically-acclaimed indie game, FEZ. I cold easily dedicate a whole post gushing about FEZ, but instead I want you to listen to his 2011 album, Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar.

First, have a look at this gorgeous pixel art:

Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar

Vreeland describes the premise for the album like this: “A small band of galactic travelers are bound together by mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, in the darkest reaches of the universe, an unparalleled force dwells on ambiguous intentions.” His combination of chiptunes and synthesizers on this album sounds like something straight out of the Regan era. It’s dark and spacey, but at the same time dreamy and uplifting. This music takes me to so many places.

I highly recommend giving the entire thing a listen because it really is quite fantastic. You can listen to the full album with the embedded player below, or on Spotify.

By the way, if you like this music, do check the FEZ score too, as I mentioned above. It’s amazing.

What do these two things have in common?

Fantastic, progressive synth music and elements of futuristic sci-fi. When I first heard Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, I was immediately reminded of music from The Secret City and couldn’t help but envision the sprawling, alien-looking metropolises from Commander Mark’s drawings. I think anyone who grew up watching The Secret City and enjoyed its music and imaginative scenarios would enjoy listening to Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar and appreciate its musical narrative.

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