Chiptune has a tendency to excel on a higher level when it ceases to be defined by its genre boundaries and becomes something other than ‘chip’. minusbaby’s ‘Bias’ is a catalogue of Latin-heavy house, C-Jeff’s ‘Preschtale’ is a progressive jazz rock epic, and barbeque’s ‘pizza lord is sleepy’ is a trip hop/IDM behemoth; they all just happen to be written in the chiptune medium.
barbeque’s sophomore effort is the follow up to last August’s self-titled, and it’s a different beast altogether. Where the debut hit with noise and discomfort, ‘pizza lord is sleepy’ heals with liquid flow and widely accessible, tightly wound beats spat out on the Piggy tracker. Cuts like ‘2oz’ never feel static for a second, constantly moving with sinuous grace, whilst ‘pelicans’ contains a lucidly slow jam with a huge hook and some stellar beats to back it. The beats, in fact, are some of the strongest around. ‘brain’ uses some hard hitting syncopation, ‘orange’ moves gracefully from trip hop beats to industrial tinged breaks and ‘skitchin’ spits KODEK sounding swagger.
The actual music itself is great too, though you wouldn’t expect such a coating of all-consuming creepiness from an album titled ‘pizza lord is sleepy’. Not many releases in chiptune lend themselves to discomfort so willingly. ‘mellowmouth’s dissonant piano and the disorientating melodies of ‘brain’, not to mention the countless vocal and noise samples throughout, all add to the sense of unease. This vibe doesn’t relent until the anomaly and oddly 80s sounding album closer ‘doubleheader’, but its upbeat melodies find a good home as a climax.
There are a few missteps though. Opener ‘gruff’ is a minute too long for what it ends up delivering (i.e., not much), ‘vvv^s’ is simply of inferior quality to the rest of the release and ‘holywaterjug’ has moments of greatness, but the forced sounding dip into breaks midway through results in some weak melodies.
That being said, the experience garnered from ‘pizza lord is sleepy’ is overwhelmingly positive. The whole release thrives on repetition, but it’s a repetition that sounds meticulously controlled and precise. Every nuance sounds specifically placed and the aura of anxiety so perfectly crafted it’s hard not to get lost in the unrelenting barrage. Sounding more influenced by 90s downtempo than Nulsleep or Bit Shifter, if you like your chiptune vibrantly expressive and immersive, I could not recommend better.
Favourite track: orange