Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Whilst I Was Gone, Part 2

Part two, and the final part in fact, of the write up series covering 10 releases that released whilst I was gone! I started last week by covering releases from DESUMATE, Smiletron, Dark Oyster, xyce and EGR. This post I'll be covering new releases from: Peaches The Wale, Blitz Lunar, Ralp, shanebro and Yerzmyey! So, hope you all enjoy!

Godinpants’ alter ego/ nautical hand puppet Peaches has released ‘her’ third EP recently. Featuring the familiar Peaches sound, sampled glitched up breakbeat with drill n bass, jungle and dips into seapunk, ‘Lovely’ cements this alias as one of the highest quality ‘jokes’ the scene has ever witnessed.

The title track has an infectious hip hop gleam, ‘Australia Exam’ uses samples to form a party-rife rave cyclone and ‘Jungle Jungle’ features a formidable fall into jungle mayhem which is, in two words, fucking astonishing. Also, moments of ‘Grumpy Wombat Tantrum’ go full Aphex Twin mode, and when it does it’s captivating.

‘Grumpy Wombat Tantrum’ is nowhere near the quality of the other tracks though, and the Taylor Swift cover is diabolical (though there is definitely a sense of purposeful awareness attached), but apart from that the faults in this 5 track opus are insignificant. I regularly found myself dancing statically and throwing my hands up like it was Detroit. Long live Peaches, both the best animal and the best jungle producer in chiptune.

Favourite track: Jungle Jungle

Produced in Logic and utilising sounds from various trackers, released on Ubiktune and with fantastic cover art by the hugely talented ‘ui’, this had all the markings of pure quality.  It doesn’t disappoint. I often steer away from making comparisons between chiptune and VGM, as to do so feels descriptively weak and lazy, but Blitz Lunar’s debut full length honestly encompasses a soundtrack to the last 20 years of video game history.  The industry is doing itself a disservice by not coaxing a soundtrack from this fantastic composer.

The first three tracks, ‘You (and a prefix)’ sound exactly like the releases’ title implies; insane psychedelic chiptune melding elements of 80s electronica and breakbeat into jazz prog; Zan-Zan-Zawa-Veia crossed with C-Jeff through Dillinger Escape Plan. The end of ‘You Universe’ leads nicely into the rest of the album’s calming embrace, spiralling into psychedelic ambient space jams at the drop of a hat, a further manifestation of Blitz’s incredible composition prowess. ‘Honest Truth Zone’ flirts with more familiar chiptune sounds whilst displaying hints of Flying Lotus, and ‘Hidden Heaven’ and ‘Comfort Zone’ have a contemporary Nintendo vibe about them.

There is dip in the album’s quality between ‘Comfort Zone’ and ‘Ego Bubble Zone’ though. Whilst all the tracks sound fantastic (I’d like to in particular note ‘Holyday’s audio personification of cute quaintness), there isn’t much that keeps the tracks memorable; they flitter by with incredible grace but with little emotional substance. But there is more than enough to keep fans of chiptune, video game scores or electronic music in general ecstatically happy. One of those debuts that really was worth the wait. Nintendo, take note.

Favourite track: You Universe

Known as much for his huge back catalogue of chip as for running Spanish label Low Toy, Ralp returns with another bruising manifestation of club-ready tunes and complex LSDJ/Nanoloop programming, this time in the form of the 24 track progressive monster ‘Petaxer’.

Following the similar trait of previous albums, ‘Petaxer’ almost plays as a single, uninterrupted song. Couple this with the fact the release is only 30 minutes long, those swayed by the huge track count should not let themselves be put off, as what lies within is a tour de force of bite sized LSDJ and Nanoloop mastery.  Ideas are dropped instantly at their peak of quality, flitting to something new , giving the release an unmatched urgency and pace. There is also a huge amount of diversity; ‘Lubra’, ‘Utoh’ and ‘Mitical’ all explore swaggering hip hop beats and melodies.  ‘Psudasco’, ‘Oblea’ and ‘Pungo’ are all gut punches of bass, Monodeer via KODEK, and every track from ‘Toeph’ onwards cranks up the melodic mastery leading to a euphoric and urgent climax on ‘Statoplax’.

You’d thinks with so many tracks there’d be a fair few undesirables. There aren’t. There is nothing but quality here.  Whether you want driving dance floor destroyers like ‘Daxa’ or glitched out melodies in tracks like ‘Virtua’, ‘Petaxer’ shows quite efficiently how versatile both LSDJ and Nanoloop can be in the right hands. One of the best releases of the year, if not ever, in chiptune.

Favourite track: Oblea

Relatively new to the scene, LSDJer shanebro recently put out his first full length and second release overall, ‘When Hearts And Minds Collide’. With a fantastic track on last year’s ChipWINter compilation, it was with enthusiasm that I began listening. However, it quickly became apparent that shanebro would have been much better off releasing another EP or two before tackling a full length.

The theme seems to be balance, as every moment of euphoria is almost instantaneously marred by bad composition or instrument choices. The build in opener ‘The Ballad of the Electric Tigers’ is tense and thick, but the peak is half-hearted and limp. ‘Hakai’ has some wonderful orient-tinged melodies, but they feel underdeveloped, and when the track does find its feet it’s abruptly ruined by a horrid bridge.  Also, both ‘One World, Two Different Axels’ and ‘Semopnume Kashiwazki’ have great melodies but suffer from over-repetition, and ‘Our Final Moments’ is just an exercise in blandness.

It’s an honest shame, as the guy clearly has a shed full of talent. Moments in ‘It’s Happening’ are brilliant, the staccato semi-quaver sections especially, and after the track speeds up it’s highway cyberpunk at its very best. ‘Akarin Is Love’ and the title track are both rife with great melodies and the track featuring Auxcide, ‘Threat Level Midnight’, takes the best of both artists and blends them into an emotive whirlwind of melodic nuance and killer beats. That being said, for a release titled ‘When Hearts And Minds Collide’ there isn’t much heart or apparent thought gone in to detail. There is so much potential here, it’s just unfortunate it hasn’t been fully realised yet.

ZX Spectrum powerhouse Yerzmyey is returning after 6 years to 8bitpeoples to deliver a collection of Spectrum tracks. His 2nd release this year, and another chance for Yerzmyey to prove again to the newer generation who were enlightened by the success of last October’s ‘Strange Light Under My Bed’, that there is a reason he’s still around.

Opening with the epic ‘Dark Galactica’, a string of brilliant melodies and slow-shifting atmospheres, made only more effective after being considered in retrospect. Album closer ‘Alone’ also delivers fury with borderline metal melodies, staccato and kicks the size of houses. The opening of ‘IM35’ swiftly moves from Tubular Bells homage to crunchy, thick bass thuds, sounding like a sledgehammer being dragged along concrete.

Elsewhere however, the mood is starkly different. ‘Get Mad’ tastes oddly like Europop (cheesy trance influences and all), and ‘STandard Crap’ is an 80s dance number heaving under the weight of its own percussion and melodic interplay. There are some duller moments; past the two minute mark ‘IM35’ gets nigh-on unbearable due to jarring instrument choices, and ‘Get Mad’ and ‘Haunted Mansion’ constitute a dip in quality over other tracks, but overall? Another Yerzmyey release, another slice of chiptune gold and another example of how he is one of the few from the ‘2006-8’ generation that has managed to stay relevant, interesting, and dazzlingly exciting.

Favourite track: Alone