The name uraboroshi should be relatively fresh in the minds of us ChipWINners; their ChipWIN debut was on Volume 5, with the explosive and frenetic ‘Greed Palace’. The track essentially defies genres and embodies chiptune music. A little longer than a year later, esctrax, a chipmusic label based in Japan, has released uraboroshi’s ‘Four Elements’. This EP consists of four compositions depicting earth, air, fire, and water in addition to a piece symbolizing the unity of the four. Today, we’ll be looking at several aspects of this brief aural venture. Let’s check out what this up-and-coming artist’s work has to offer!
Starting off the EP is ‘Ancient Glasses’, the theme of the earth element. Introducing itself with a simple bassline and square bells and chimes, the song ramps up quickly, with heavy WAV kicks and rapid noise hi-hats accentuating specific beats and off-beats. The song frequently switches between lead voices and combined with the point/counterpoint-type of composition, each phrase feels linked to the previous while maintaining its own completely unique sound. The album was entirely composed in LSDj, but a few moments make this more apparent than others through utilizing LSDj’s unique tones, highlighted through the use of the iconic Game Boy growl at 0:58. 1:42, and in the last moments of the track to build to its climactic ending.
Next, we’ll take a look at ‘I.C.E. -Internal Combustion Engine-‘, the track inspired by… you guessed it, fire. While the melody leaves a little more complexity to be desired, the intent of the track is that of a rhythmic nature – this sounds similar to trance music in its 4/4 time signature, moderately paced tempo, and focus on chords rather than melody. ‘I.C.E.’ has some really interesting touches for the focused listener to appreciate. For example, during some of the quieter moments of the song, a voice enters, extirpating any fears that this song could potentially NOT be themed around fire, stating ‘I…C…E…burning’; this is a cool touch that emphasizes the mechanical air of this song. Additionally, well-structured arpeggiated chords can be heard during the penultimate phrase; the base note of the chord remains the same until just before the second half, where it shifts and takes on tones that freshen up the robotic soundscape.
The last song we’ll be listening to in this review is ‘Elemental Ensemble!!’, the final track of the ‘Four Elements’ EP. This song is definitely fitting as a closing track; the album has a positive energy to it, and this final fanfare is the most optimistic of them all. Immediately, the opening climb and subsequent melody evokes a grand feeling of royal magnificence, as if welcoming the listener to this orchestrally composed piece. The piece slows briefly, and transitions into an explosive, proud melodic segment, using voices that the listener will recall from many of the other tracks on the album. ‘Elemental Ensemble!!’ is built around a single central melody, with numerous permutations of this theme comprising the majority of the song. Improvisational, solo-esque segments featuring familiar instruments between reprises of the chorus round out a very well-composed finale.
‘Four Elements’ is available on the esctrax netlabel’s Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want release and it’s worth a listen even if you’re unsure you’ll like old-school, ‘pure’ sounding chiptune. We’ve been spoiled recently with an influx of extremely high sound quality chiptune releases, so this well written lo-fi work is quite the nostalgia trip for me. I’m certain that many chipmusic fans will find something to enjoy on this album, and long-time fans of chipmusic will recognize many intricate touches and classic-sounding tones that uraboroshi has so cleverly woven into the fabric of ‘Four Elements’.