Monday, 13 May 2013

Review| MrWimmer- Once More Unto The Breach

The relationship between chiptune, guitar and vocals has become more varied in recent years. Artists have been slowly testing the water; Noisewaves blended chip with post-rock, Starpilot offered it post-punk, and chiptune’s most successful chiprock alchemist, The J Arthur Keenes Band, wielded equal measures of reggae and baroque pop. MrWimmer joins his contemporaries with his own concoction; chiptune and indie pop via The National. He’s not new to this; MrWimmer has been releasing music since mid-last year, though this is surely his most definitive statement thus far.

Firstly, I’d recommend tackling ‘Once More Unto The Breach’ with headphones. The production throughout is muddy and the nuances which give this release its character will often be missed on laptop speakers. Saying that, the vocals sound fantastic throughout. The croons in ‘Dreamzzz’ and the title track features some fantastic Jay Tholen-like moments of desperation, and the vocals in ‘I’m Not That Kind of Boy’ add to its pre-Beatles ballad pop atmosphere.

The guitarwork is also fantastic throughout. Unlike some other chiprock out there, (early Gooch, touches of Noisewaves and I Fight Dragon’s entire discography), MrWimmer manages to avoid the common pitfall of using guitars or chiptune elements just for the sake of aesthetic gimmickry,  which often leaves the two fields of live instrumentation and chip output sounding disconnected from each other. These two elements combine, along with the anguishing lyrics, to form a thick atmosphere of unrelenting murk not seen often, if at all, within the chiptune world.

The last of the trifecta, the chiptune elements, are where the problems arise however. Whilst portions work well, for instance, the drifting melodies of ‘A Good Night’s Sleep’ or the stunningly beautiful opening of ‘Possibility’, overall the chiptune elements sound messy and sometimes detract from the hard-won atmosphere. ‘She Closes Her Eyes’ as a whole sounds quite jumbled, moments of ‘Blasted Field’s eastern melodies sound like a forced, desperate grab for variation, and the introductions on a whole are dismal.

However, it does end on a high note. Final track ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have New Things’ is a fantastic piece of composition. It’s the only track on the album to engage instantly, flowing into a chiptune prog pop epic with dizzying heights, before plummeting from its melancholy peak to the bleak desolation atmosphere of previous tracks.

Overall, ‘Once More Unto The Breach’ is ambitious, but often doesn’t quite hit its own targets. The album sounds like a collection of studio outtakes; in fact if segue-way tracks ‘A Good Night’s Sleep’ and ‘Blasted Field’ were extracted the release might have flowed better.  However, with tracks as great as ‘This Is Why…’, the title track and ‘I’m Not That Kind of Boy’, ‘Once More…’ sounds like the album before THE album. The ‘Hello World’ before the ‘Unconditional Acceleration’. The ‘Power Supply’ before the ‘Dawn Metropolis’. Full of promise, uniquely austere and invigorating when it does find its feet, I recommend ‘Once More…’ if only as a prelude to the meteoric rise I’m sure is on MrWimmer’s horizon.

1. She Closes Her Eyes
2. A Good Night's Sleep
3. Dreamzzz
4. I'm Not That Kind of Boy
5. October
6. Possibility
7. Blasted Field
8. Once More Unto The Breach
9. This Is Why We Can't Have New Things