We all love our chipmusic here on the blog. Many of us are familiar with the various kinds of hardware, software, and their unique sounds, be they the NES, the Genesis, the Game Boy, or some other kind of emulator with the express purpose of creating the tones we all know and love. But did you know that the future bass subgenre of electronic dance music is actually in a similar vein to chipmusic by extension? Future bass music is often loosely tied to VGM and chipmusic, and is defined predominantly by its use of synthesizers that are commonplace in all three of these scenes. Today, we’ll be looking at the latest Snail’s House release, ‘Snö’; something that’s particularly notable about this release is the difference in tone between this EP and the majority of Snail’s House’s previous works. Most of this artist’s pieces are high-energy, utilizing a multitude of voices and aggressive percussion to create wild, jazzy tunes, ‘Snö’, on the other hand, is more subdued and calm in nature, sounding something like a soundtrack from a futuristic RPG, but with emotional overtones. Without further ado, let’s see what ‘Snö’ has in store for us.
First and foremost, I’m going to get this off of my chest – the eighth track of ‘Snö’ is my favorite song on the album for several reasons. First, the song title itself translates to something along the lines of ‘In the city where snow falls, I am waiting for you’, a sentiment that I’m almost positive everyone has experienced in some form or another. The song transitions through a variety of emotions – first, guitar and piano evoke the initial aural environment, and the listener can quite easily imagine a calm, snow-covered city. Drums enter, and the song’s 3/4 time signature is more clearly defined for the listener. The improvisational nature of the percussion in this song gives it a very strong sense of flow – one can visualize the artist’s excitement mounting as he approaches his destination with each new pattern. Just prior to the final bridge, most instruments cut out to highlight a vocalized sound and the bassline; this particular rendition of the chorus evokes a scene of someone running to their destination, slipping, picking themselves up, and pressing forward. The final bridge in the song, which occurs at the 2:35 mark, utilizes train chimes incredibly, with bells ringing every beat and the song returning to its introductory guitar chords. The subject of the piece has arrived at the train platform just in time to witness their friend – or, as I like to imagine, the love of their life – arrive to meet them. ‘雪の降る街で、あなたを待っている。’ is an extremely emotional, beautifully crafted song, and does a fantastic job of evoking romantic imagery in the listener’s mind.
Next, we’ll check out the second track on the EP, ‘[covered in white]’. Again, Snail’s House does a phenomenal job at expressing the subtleties of wintry imagery through his instrumentation and technique. The introductory synth riff utilizes a quick attack – or a stab – to accent the beginning of each sixteenth note, and a rapid decay also adds depth to the note’s tone. More subdued sixteenth notes follow the first, and this calls to mind a visual of one looking out into the falling snow from the warmth of the indoors. As the rhythmic tone becomes lighter and chimes and percussion enter, the song’s simple, frigid melody is reinforced, while a metallic sliding in the background allows the listener to imagine a heavily amplified ice skate scraping against a frozen pond. With each new instrument that enters the simply composed ‘[covered in white]’, it’s as if one can feel the snowflakes against their skin, each tone melting into the ear and layering over each other until the crackling of boots against snowy terrain signifies the end of this piece. This same effect is used at the beginning of the song to denote the beginning of the piece, and it’s truly a creative way to establish the theme of the EP so early on.
The last song we’ll be looking at in-depth today is ‘[fluttering]’, a song which is particularly reminiscent of lo-fi hip-hop music. It’s worth noting that this track is something of a happy medium regarding its overall level of energy when compared to many of the other songs, and it comes hot off the heels of the second half of a preceding high-energy romp, ‘[snowdrift]’. Greatly muted, fleeting synths can be heard very early on in the aural background of ‘[fluttering]’, and the melodic voice slowly swells in volume and blooms at the 3:00 mark, transitioning into a tone similar to the aforementioned. Light bells and chimes comprise the majority of the song’s melodic tones during its first phrase, and the mixture of wind chimes, bells, and kick-snare patterns feels warm and familiar. One particularly interesting moment occurs at the 1:44 mark; the listener may note that the ringing of chimes is ever so slightly offbeat. This is a frequently utilized audio trope in hip-hop music in general, but it’s generally hi-hat riding, kicks, and punchy snares that utilize the technique rather than the more melodic elements of the genre. The influence that ‘[fluttering]’ takes from lo-fi hip-hop is unmistakable, especially after this specific phrase, and Snail’s House’s switch of instrument use here is remarkable, respectable, and creative in one of the most simple, subtle ways possible.
‘Snö’ is available on Snail’s House’s Bandcamp for just over $11 on Bandcamp, a reasonable price for 30 minutes of music that’s sure to appeal to an extremely broad audience. As with all of Ujico*/Snail’s House’s previous works, this album is of very high quality, production and technique-wise. Snail’s House has been exploring an extremely diverse range of sounds and genres as of late, with EPs and albums being released at an incredible rate. It’s clear that this artist is a master of his craft, and there’s no telling what his next album will hold.