We all like solo projects, right? They’re always cool. Someone who’s been doing their thing as a part of a group or a series of collaborations gets to do their own thing. They give themselves the opportunity to open up the throttle and do what they really want to do. Lo and behold, I have such an offering for you! The latest release on Ubiktune, ‘The Frequency Modulators Orchestra Vol. 1’ by Amplitude Problem, is the newest project from demoscene veteran Juan Irming.
When Ubiktune dropped ‘Soundshock 3’ and brought that series to a close, I was really worried we’d be deprived of further FM jams. There aren’t a whole lot of communities that really push FM music anymore – Telefuture does on occasion, and some of the retrowave or synthwave stuff is FM, but Ubiktune’s releases had been at the top of the internet charts. It turns out that my worries were entirely unfounded: Amplitude Problem is an FM project from Juan Irming, renowned composer from the demoscene and beyond, and believe me when I say that this album is a one stop shop for all sorts of tasty treats. It can be tough to find musicians who are willing to go out and do their own thing – too often in chiptune (and beyond) we find that certain trends crop up in a genre and persist because it lets the producer hit a “sound good” button to make their music likable. A chill, funky, jazzy FM album is what we need right now – but don’t take my word for it!
While definitely the calmest song on the album, I find ‘This Mutant Mid of Mine’ the most interesting. Juan mentioned in the interview on the release page over at the Ubiktune blog that his goal with this album was to have each FM instrument be like a real individual member of a band and be allowed to solo and do its own thing, and this song really explores that. It has a simple background loop, but on top of that there’s simulated horn and guitar passing a theme back and forth. It’s honestly one of the coolest things I’ve heard this year.
The opening song for the album leads with a strong bass solo which, honestly already meant that my money was on the table even before hearing anything else. While the meaty bassline persists, the rest of the song is variations on the head with really fun bits interspersed within it including a few false finishes. It’s not a “banger,” but you’re going to be grooving in your seat.
The final track is, at it says, ‘Everything’. The best thing about this song (and in reality, much of the album) is how improvised so much of this feels despite the fact that we all know just how much work goes into computer-based music to make sure each instrument sounds just right.
Okay, look, it’s a short album, you get a short review, I’m sorry – but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up one of the most interesting points about this album: its post-production. The album was mastered by the legendary Don Grossinger: a man who has mastered more albums than some people have teeth; from more disparate genres than the research notes of an English major who has a week to write their senior thesis paper, because they spent the rest of the semester high in a basement with a stack of books. Don has worked with some of the best people ever to grace the jazz scene, so getting someone with his experience on an album like this is just icing on the cake, assuming the cake was made of chocolate and dreams and the icing was made of sugar and cocaine. I’d talk more about him, but honestly I’d just recommend following the link to his website above and just skimming through his work for a while – you won’t be mad you did.
If you’re looking for MORE of Amplitude Problem, his Bandcamp is a great place to start. If you’d like to check out Juan’s other work through the years, you could check out the SYNC demos he worked on or the cyberpunk hip-hop album he worked on with YTCracker!