Mexico is a land of contrasts and, of course, chipmusic is no exception to that. Maybe mostly known because of its raw sound and its so-called ‘iconoclastic nature’, the Mexican chipscene has overcome quite a few setbacks to become what it is now, and it’s given us a couple names to put it on the map. While chipmusic production – at a national level – has been slow in recent years, 2019 left us with an interesting work by one of the most prominent names around here. You may have listened to something by him before – I’m talking about 4 For Fake. Responsible for a vast amount of DMG mods and with a notable musical background, this technological laudator brings to us his first album made entirely in HoustonTracker 2. So let’s take a look at ‘Insect_Byte’ by 4 For Fake.
Before we start, I’d like to point out the context in which these tracks take place so we can have the tools to understand this work. Below is the album’s description as written by 4 For Fake himself:
“It is the year 4004, the humans are all gone. Since their extinction, Zilog Microprocessors have become super intelligent and using raw perceptual data, they control insects to carry out maintenance and optimization for their new artificial society. This is the beat and rhythm of the insects.”
At the pure core of the style that HoustonTracker music alone can offer, ‘Insect_Byte’ explores the limitations of the calculator’s chip in an unexpected way. The minimalist approach that it takes focuses primarily, as the author states, on the rhythm – and ‘Mud_Dauber’ is a perfect example of this. While the inflexible nature of the waves could be an important restraint in terms of stylistic development, 4 For Fake manages to cap this condition and print his particular signature on each bit. The crunchy bass and the noise percussion merge, taking the track beyond the cliché of the analogy of the insect’s flight to a thoroughly structured scenario in which the listeners are just mere spectators at the mercy of their imagination. The constant reiteration of a simple motif enhances the immersion adding an element to snare the listener’s attention causing a deep impact, being the perfect complement to the aforesaid musical metaphor.
‘Hive_Mind’ is the juncture point of the album in which the melody and the rhythm converge to take the album to the next level. The tasty arp at the beginning is enough to know where the track is going; meanwhile, the persistent buzz in the background reinforces the somewhat harsh nature of the melody in a brilliant demonstration of what subtractive synthesis can do. On top of that, slightly erratic parts of the melody panning empower the illusion of a crowd in the moment where the dark tone of the song slowly consumes everything. Thinking of this track (as well as the whole work) as a mere complement to the description or the title would be an enormous mistake. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it has to be overanalyzed or that we need to take a frivolous take on it. As ironic as the result may be, the spirit of this track as an individual entity is strong enough to stand on its own.
What people can make using just four channels always amazes me, and this track is no exception. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this song in particular is the number of instruments used. The interlocking parts move as a complex structure formed by all kinds of aural textures, and even silences over the almost static bassline make this track one of the most solid grooves I’ve listened to. The perfect synchrony in which each part takes the place of the previous one is mechanical, but also organic. This duality is present over the whole work, but the strong emphasis on it found on this track is too heavy to ignore; the perfect illustration of this is the first minute of the track. The primitive spirit of this piece of music is fresh and vigorous, but also a meaningful experience that reminds us how important is to master the basics to create multifaceted and rich compositions from them.
As the album evolves it’s inevitable that the listener find the symbiotic relationship between the musical statements exposed on the tracks and the way they interact with each other. The resemblance to the insects’ behavior, sometimes quite obvious, provides an engaging feature that blurs the line between the stiffness of the cold machine controlling them and the living creature doing its job. In this way, it serves as a somewhat natural reference to a functional system. ‘Insect_Byte’ gives us just a little glimpse of the creative capability of 4 For Fake not just in the technical way, which is impressive on its own, but also in concept. The cohesive narrative of the album brings to light the study and in-depth understanding of the matters he tries to portray in his music. That’s the kind of experience you can’t put a price on…except, in this case, you can! So if you can afford it, please support 4 For Fake.
Before I go, I want to share something else with you; a little bonus if you’re interested. As you may know, I’m Mexican, and, as I said at the beginning, the national scene (if such a thing exists) is having a rough time. As much as I’d like, and even when we are just a few, I can’t put all their names one by one, but what I can do is to ask you to support the supporter: Nagareboshi (流れ星 o Naga.*). He’s probably the only one that keeps track of almost every single release within our country and supports us no matter the style, the composition method or the expertise of the artist – plus he has a particular style of making music. His singular approach to chipcore is, in several ways and to say the least, thought-provoking. Check out his stuff and, if you can, support him!
Thank you so much for reading. See you next time!