American Go E-Journal

Music in the stones: Wave Collector releases new go-inspired album

Monday April 18, 2022

It’s unsurprising that music and go found an intersection for Neal Wright. He had been involved with both for years. “I started playing go in middle school at the Boulder Go Club in Colorado,” Wright told the E-Journal. “While I didn’t study the game more seriously until years later, I always looked back fondly on that time. We were all just there to play a game we loved.”

Neal Wright

Music came soon after when Wright started writing songs at 19. Following his time in an indie rock band, he began experimenting with the electronic stylings that would eventually become his current project, Wave Collector. When he attended his first U.S. Go Congress in 2017, the two worlds came together.

“I…really got excited about studying the game. From there I came to appreciate the strategy on a deeper level and started learning about the history of the game. As I dug into some of the notable games in history, I realized it would be a perfect theme for an album.” That album would become Wave Games. Check it out on Spotify

The first song to manifest was inspired by Lee Sedol’s famous ladder game; it appears on the album under the name Broken Ladder. The song is reflective of Wave Collector’s style, which has been called downtempo electronic or even—appropriate for a go-themed album—”intelligent dance music.” The initial arpeggio of Broken Ladder is meant to “mimic the sort of back-and-forth nature of a ladder being played out.”

Then there’s Ghost Moves, named after the 1835 Blood Vomiting Game, one of the most famous games of the Edo period, in which it is said Jowa was given three brilliant moves by ghosts of long-dead players who rivaled the Inoue House. The vocals in the song are affected with a sort of ghostly quality and are meant to represent the spirits speaking to Jowa.

Wave Games cover art

The album was in the works for five years. Though the last of the nine songs were finished in 2020, the pandemic delayed production of the vinyl by more than a year. “I had always wanted to press this album to vinyl. So by the time I finally got (it), it was February of 2022…(and) I released it as soon as I could.”

Over the course of production, some song ideas didn’t make the cut, such as the Mirror Game, a call-and-response melody inspired by Go Seigen’s famous match against Kitani Minoru, and the Self-Atari Game, a melodic reincarnation of Nakano Yasuhiro’s famous game-losing self-atari. Others that did make the album include Bright Pearl Comes Out from the Sea (based on a famous go problem), Game Between Gods (inspired by the mythical Axe Handle Game), The Masterpiece (named after a Dosaku game), Move 78 (based on Lee Sedol’s winning move against AlphaGo), Move 127 (based on the Ear-Reddening Game) and Triple Ko.

Meanwhile, Wright is enjoying the satisfaction of completing a years-long project. “Despite the long delay, I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
– Hailey Renner