And he woke again, thinking he dreamed, to a wide white smile framed with old incisors, Aerol strapping him into a g-web in Babylon Rocker.
And then the long pulse of Zion dub.

~ Neuromancer by William Gibson

What does cyberpunk sound like?

We’ve discussed what it feels like, and what it may look like at times, but the cyberpunk soundscape is transient and varied.

Dub reggae plays a big part in Gibson’s Neuromancer. Music speaks for the book’s Zionite characters, forming the soundtrack of their orbital colonies and even providing Case with audio cues to wake him from brain-death. Music is also acknowledged in the Lo/Rez rock group of Idoru (Gibson) and voice of the refugees, cyber-brain rapper Densetsu (Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd GIG), to name but two.

"Densetsu", a cyber-brain rapper and target of the Individual Eleven assassins.

Cyberpunk is usually associated with techno, but this is often down to the influence of cybergoth culture. While there are electronic artists making cyber-friendly tracks like Return of the Machines (Oforia), Red Shift (Ayria) and Elektrobank (Chemical Brothers), do they represent the sum total of a cyberpunk soundtrack?

I wonder if, for example, you associate certain rock tunes with cyberpunk. Reggae seems at first glance to be quite an organic genre, but its echo-effect dub remixes speak to a certain sub-culture in Case’s world, of people who pursue Zionite ideals in face of a depressed Babylon. That in itself suggests the cyberpunk condition; a willingness to escape the ‘meat’ reality and embrace something other. Perhaps you eschew electronic music for jazz when contemplating the ordered chaos of our own ‘matrix’? It may be that there are lyrics which speak to you of a cyberpunk reality, or that techno beats really do transport you to the neon, computerised matrix.