Hey ChipWINners! I’m excited to kick off the year here on the blog with an article about an artist whose work I’ve reviewed a few times in the past – Imaginary! Released under the fledgling Catskull Records label while I was in Italy on my honeymoon, ‘Lonely Idiot’ initially flew under my radar, but an email from the artist alerted me to its presence. I’ve listened through the album a few times, and am excited to share a few choice tracks with all of you! Let’s get started!
We’ll start off by tackling the album’s introductory track, ‘Transfer Student’. Imaginary is notable as a chipmusician for his focus on melody.
, His utilization of a solitary LSDj cart throughout this album means that there are significant constraints to the sounds he can achieve. While the sound of ‘Transfer Student’ isn’t as explosive as some other artists, his ability to compose memorably tantalizing melodies hasn’t lost any of its luster. The song is consistently bouncy and bubbly, with a clearly defined square melody and a deep WAV kick being prevalent through the majority of the piece. Noise percussion in ‘Transfer Student’ is a mixture between staccato hi-hats, snares, and crashes; while relatively intense in nature, the melodic phrases of the song are never obscured in explosions of cymbals. Imaginary achieves a balance between relaxed segments and more energetic chorus-type passages, and the song is quite pleasant to listen to…particularly when focusing on writing!
Next up, we’ll check out the halfway point of this album, ‘Incriminating Sunburn/Saltwater Shuffle’. As you’ve probably discerned from the track’s title, there are two distinct sections to the song; the first two-thirds of the track is ‘Incriminating Sunburn’, and the final leg of the track is ‘Saltwater Shuffle’. In the brief liner notes displayed with the album on Bandcamp, Imaginary notes that young love is a central theme to the album. The first two thirds of the track are slightly ominous in nature, as though something is being hidden – maybe the incriminating sunburn noted in the song’s title? The listener follows the music through its slight changes in melody and percussion, and we can hear throughout the song that the WAV channel is used both for organic percussion samples, kicks, and a deep sawtooth bass. The second section of the track begins at the 3:40 mark, and it sounds as though either the listener is transported directly to the shoreline, or is recalling memories of the experience that caused the sunburn. The song picks up in speed relatively quickly, and nearly doubles in tempo as square channels solo and claps, snares, cowbells, and everything in between assails the listener’s senses. The song ends as suddenly as the passage’s accelerando occurs, adding to the overall tension that ‘Incriminating Sunburn/Saltwater Shuffle’ instills.
‘Tweenage Misanthrope’ begins aggressively, with fast, hushed percussion and a punchy chord progression seemingly setting the tone for the rest of the song. A pseudo-punk rhythmic vibe is meshed with an occasionally cheery melody, potentially symbolic of the emotional throes of one’s teenage years. Alternating between joyous and angst-driven, the song slows to a calmer, more honest-sounding passage at the 1:47 mark, as though Imaginary is letting you in on some kind of a secret. The song recedes just a little bit more, then suddenly regains some of the energy it had just expended. After assailing the listener with numerous other ideas, percussion and bass abruptly fade, and we’re left with a final simple, sweet progression to close out ‘Tweenage Misanthrope’.
The last track I’ll be showcasing in this review is ‘Insufficient Memories’. Via LSDj’s WAV channel, this track utilizes sampling of the famous ‘Amen Break’, a drum sample commonly heard in IDM, breakcore, and hip-hop
,. A square progression is layered in the aural background, but what really fascinates me about the opening of this track is Imaginary’s use of the noise channel’s ability to complement the iconic sample. The entire track feels frantic and excited, and doesn’t give us much room to breathe; there’s so much going on and ‘Insufficient Memories’ can feel like it’s on the border of being too cluttered, but Imaginary lets off on the gas just before the track becomes too much to handle without fail, each and every time. Also of particular note in ‘Insufficient Memories’ is the tension-building passage starting at the 1:27 mark; for about 15 seconds, instrumentation is minimal, but the muted instruments arrive again in sudden bursts of aggression starting at the 1:46 mark prior to dying down again, and returning more vigorously just before the 2:00 mark of the track.
‘Lonely Idiot’ is available as a pay-what-you-want release on the Catskull Records Bandcamp page. In my opinion, Imaginary’s work has always felt like chipmusic at one of its purest levels, and the level of work that the artist has put into the album is plain to see. I found this album to be quite a pleasant way to start the new year, even if I did miss its release by a few months (sorry, Frank!), and I’m stoked to hear what else Imaginary and Catskull Records put out in 2019!