As reflexively as we may now describe the 2019 Los Angeles of Blade Runner as "dystopian" — and indeed, as vivid a modern dystopia as cinema has yet produced — who among us wouldn't want to spend at least a few hours there? Much of the surface appeal is, of course, visual: the rainy neon-lined streets, the industrial fearsomeness, those tower-side video geisha. But no film truly succeeds, at creating a world or anything else, without the right sound. We may not consciously realize it when we watch the movie, no matter how many times we've seen it before, but the sonic elements, all carefully crafted, do more than their fair share to make Blade Runner feel like Blade Runner.
And so the best way to put yourself into Blade Runner's world may be to surround yourself with its sounds, a task made much easier by "ambient geek" Crysknife007, whose Youtube channel offers a playlist of ambient noise from Blade Runner places. These include Deckard's apartment, the Tyrell Building, the Bradbury Hotel, and others, each of which loops for a continuous twelve hours. (The complete playlist above runs for 72 hours.) Some of the locations even die-hard fans of the movie might not recognize, because they come from another extension of Blade Runner's reality: the 1997 PC adventure game that has a new cast of characters play out a different story in the proto-cyberpunk urban setting with the same necessity for just the right sound to create just the right atmosphere
Crysknife007, who as an ambient musician goes under the name "Cheesy Nervosa," seems to have a side line in this sort of thing: last month we featured other sci-fi-inspired selections from the same Youtube channel like the sounds of the ship's engine from Star Trek: the Next Generation and the TARDIS from Doctor Who. But it's Blade Runner, as Thom Andersen says in his documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, that "continues to fascinate. Perhaps it expresses a nostalgia for a dystopian vision of the future that has become outdated. This vision offered some consolation because it was at least sublime. Now the future looks brighter, hotter, and blander." But even as the real 2019 draws near, whatever the future actually ends up looking like, we at least know we can keep it sounding interesting.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.