Monday, 2 September 2013

Review Round-Up #1| Crying, Yerzmyey & Chrono Triggers

There is a lot of quality chiptune being pushed out these days, and due to responsibilities elsewhere I've had to cut down review and blog pieces down to once a week. So, to alleviate the problem of 'so much quality not being covered', here is the first in what is likely to be a long line of review round-ups! This week I'll be covering: New York chip rock band Crying, ZX legend Yerzmyey and French duo Chrono Triggers' newest. Enjoy!

Crying, a New York chip rock band (as ‘rare’ as they are) with a female vocalist, recently released their debut, ‘Get Olde’. Often in the world of DIY bands vocals tend to be badly mixed, like they’re taking place in a different room from the music. The production on ‘Get Olde’ is so bad the vocals sound as if they are being sung in a different dimension. Singing in a style reminiscent of Lydia from Bright Primate, you’ll either tolerate or despise the vocals. I’m not saying they are uniformly awful; the CSS style female chants in ‘Bloom’ work fantastically, and the understated croons in album closer ‘ES’ are particularly gorgeous, but overall, the song quality suffers in their presence.

Bad instrument choices also plague ‘Bodega Run’, with a horrendous sliding chip instrument and guitars that can only be described as superfluous. It’s not all bad, as on the whole the actual music is superb. The chip elements really stand out; they skitter across tracks lending them an up-tempo ‘Guchi-esque summery grin. The guitar and chip duopoly work wonders on ‘Rat Baby’, and the title track’s chorus is glorious, moving from a euphoric wall of sound to staccato grooves and pop punk guitar play, and the frantic end to ‘ES’ spits bubble-gum flavoured post-rock nuance and intensity. 

Whilst on a technical front the album is terrible, the music itself is brimming with life, energy and an addictively charming character, one so vibrant all the problems with production, mixing and predictable song structures wash away into unimportant quibbles. With some tightening on the vocal front, this band could be huge, and not just in the chiptune scene.

Favourite track: ES

ZX-Spectrum deity Yerzmyey is back, and remarkably soon after June’s ‘Brutal And Aggressive’. So, cutting out the introduction for the man you already know:

Microsongs is an album of repetition. This isn’t negative, as tracks lodge their hooks in quickly before moving on to the next catch with clinical precision. However, some tracks, namely ‘Egao’ (a track far too similar to opener ‘Chouyaku’) and the placid ‘Enro’, don’t lodge those hooks in fast enough to be anything other than passing curiosities. Also, due to the near-rigid ‘Alex Mauer’ track structuring (Binary or Ternary structure > repeat > repeat and fade) tracks ‘Ai’ and ‘Senshi’ outstay their welcome; whilst ‘Senshi’s beats and ‘Ai’s scales are fantastic their undynamic instrumentation and structures leave the formula wearing thin.

Not everyone can hit gold all the time (even ‘Unconditional Acceleration’ had ‘Galaxy Tonite’), but on the most part Yerzmyey does. The bittersweet beauty of ‘Doko Ka Ni’ and ‘Naguru’ are astonishing, 
‘Choyaku’ is a perfect sugary sweet opener; simple but full of character, and ‘Kure-Ji’ is a high speed, high energy anthem with motifs that roll off the tongue, ready to be bellowed. ‘Beltable’ describes it perfectly.

The best track here is also the most misplaced, album closer ‘Yuki’. Whilst it stands out from the pack, its stunning, scenic bittersweet melodies and sexily slow, dragging grooves surpass anything I’ve heard from Yerzmyey since, well, ever.  Whilst four tracks may be lacking, this release still has six great ones and a closer that is pure platinum. If you haven’t yet checked out Yerzmyey, I’d highly recommend you begin here.  

Favourite Song: Yuki

‘Margarita Distortion EP’, a collaboration between Spanish singer Silnaye and French chip-electro duo Chrono Triggers, is due out September 15th on CouCou Netlabel. With the addition of Silnaye, who sounds remarkably like Karin Dreijer from The Knife, Chrono Triggers have elevated their sound beyond previous exports.  

This paring’s mixture of club-ready vocals and chip/EDM works brilliantly. Title track ‘Margarita Distortion’ sends the vox into a glitched frenzy, moments of ‘Dazzling In Parties’ sound strongly like Alice Glass visiting a David Sugar track, and ‘The Shape Of Nothing’ could easily be a cut from The Knife’s ‘Deep Cuts’, a wealth of slow pop grooves  and electro hooks. Whilst all the tracks are remarkably dance-floor friendly, the best moments of this release come in when genre boundaries are being flaunted. ‘Hot Blue Neon’ starts somewhere between 80s synth-pop and dance-punk, before shifting into glitchy acid. ‘Beluga’s Attack’ runs from experimental, dissonant electro in jungle-heavy breaks, before jumping straight into some acidic trip-hop beats, and it all works surprisingly well, with every jostle in focus handled with expert precision and incredible panache.

However, for an album so rigidly reliant on ‘club moments’, the beats are lacking, some sounding so weak it leaves tracks limp when they should be injecting adrenaline. Nowhere is this truer than in the releases’ dud, the bland and uninspiring ‘Amplify’, a replaceable slab of repetitive drippings which highlight why so many despise the EDM genre with almost deliberately ironic accuracy.

Whilst this is unlikely to stay interesting after repeat listens, those looking for cheap dance thrills and some expertly crafted chip/vocal dance should enjoy this. EDM chip with heaps of intelligent design, bountiful genre distortion and some truly fantastic vocals; EDM can be much, much worse.

Favourite track: Hot Neon Blue