Two and a half years ago, I had the honor of reviewing an album that heavily altered my perception of chipmusic. That album was ‘GLITCH’ by LukHash, and its smooth fusion of genres blew me away; so much so that it became a permanent addition to my playlists. While I missed reviewing the musical artisan’s October 2018 release, ‘GHOSTS’, he’s quickly come out with yet another mindblowing, genre-defying release with ‘BETTER THAN REALITY’. Plug in your headphones and prepare yourself…this is one hell of a ride.
‘NEON THRILLS’, the album’s second track, exudes atmosphere. LukHash is known for recurring themes and instrumentation intended to evoke the futuristic, cyberpunk aesthetics of the 80s. Bringing together occasionally ethereal synths, growling bass, iconic percussion hits, backing 8-bit chords, bridge segment percussion, and a sweet guitar solo that pops up early in the track, ‘NEON THRILLS’ is a perfect fusion of elements to conjure that aesthetic. LukHash elicits a scene of radiant lights and the intoxicating allure of nightlife in ‘NEON THRILLS’, demonstrating his incredible ability to call to mind vibrant imagery through sound alone.
Next, we’ll check out an equally evocative track in ‘HOLOGRAMS’. This takes on a slightly darker tone from its very introduction. We’re immediately assailed by a tension-building bassline, and it’s as if some kind of villainous presence is skulking after the listener. In doing so, the track prepares you for the intensity to come; minimalist beginnings allow the artist a sort of creative freedom to introduce the remaining instruments as they so desire in a coherent way. Kicks, snares, choppy square rhythms, and an eerie synth all enter in the same brief segment following the intro. It isn’t until this atmosphere is created that the main melody is introduced, with all of the previous elements of ‘HOLOGRAMS’ being used in the same way, yet each contributing something completely different once the main melody enters. LukHash’s now-signature guitar riffs also appear both in the midsection of ‘HOLOGRAMS’, and the guitar also closes the piece by way of a sustained, fading note.
The last track I’d like to share with you from this album is my personal favorite, ‘WE ARE FOREVER’. I’ve been on a big CHVRCHES kick recently, being a fan of airy vocals and heavy backing instrumentation. When ‘WE ARE FOREVER’ came onto my radar while reviewing this album, I was immediately hooked. The track opens in a unique way, featuring wispy, delicate vocals over acoustic chords, and quickly morphs into the gritty, cyberpunk aesthetic that we’ve come to know and love. Chip elements are less prominent in this piece, being featured in the ending segment of the track alone, but making for a climatic ending that had me on the edge of my seat before its relaxed, single-voice fade-out.
‘BETTER THAN REALITY’ is available on Bandcamp as a pay-what-you-want release, unlike some of LukHash’s previous albums; there isn’t much of an excuse not to pick up this album, as a result. LukHash’s releases in the last year – ‘GHOSTS’ and now this – have been atmospheric, well-written, and evocative. Given that this is the second LP he’s released in the last eight months, I wouldn’t expect him to drop another album this year, so hop on this one now – because ‘BETTER THAN REALITY’ is nothing shy of brilliant.
Let your mind wander.