After a long hiatus I’m back with ChipWIN writing about some chiptune music, and what better way than beginning with the fantastic album, ‘Illegal Street Racing’ by MisfitChris? This was initially released towards the end of January as solely a digital album. However, it wasn’t until June 24th, when ‘Data Airlines’ produced the cassette release of ‘Illegal Street Racing’, did it come under my radar.
The whole concept of ‘Illegal Street Racing’ was for MisfitChris to capture the essence of the ‘Initial D’ anime, manga and Japanese street racing. Produced in Tokyo during the 90s-00s, ‘Initial D’ was a series created around the culture of ‘Japanese Street Racing’. Its primary focus was on the cars with the visuals of each vehicle popping beautifully, from the Subaru Impreza and Toyota Sprinter. It’s little wonder how ‘Initial D’ has been going on for 48 volumes; that’s almost 20 years!
So now that you know a bit of context, here are some of my highlight tracks from the album.
Let’s hit this off by having a listen to the introduction of ‘Illegal Street Racing’. The intro begins very spiritual and is quite relaxing, with a lot of distorted and voiced samples. At the same time we have some of the best sounding keys and chords I’ve heard in awhile filling the track full of vibrancy and colour. However that is then cut short where have an astounding breakdown, with traplike percussion and horns to boot. This flips the entire introduction on its head, becoming something else entirely. Whilst not as meaty as the majority of other tracks, the introduction serves as a nice taster to what MisfitChris will be serving up here.
‘Illegal Street Racing’ then swiftly moves into the 2nd track, ‘Meet Up To Heat Up’. Whilst sounding quite similar to the former opener, this can’t be further from the truth, as we’re immediately treated to a superbly crafted lead. Short, bassy and sweet, its sound is quite similar to the 303, where the filter is quickly brought down whilst distorted at the same time. This ultimately serves as the crux of ‘Meet Up To Heat Up’ and is recalled repeatedly during the song.
Something else that can be also found throughout the release is how goddamn amazing the drums are. Controlled and tempered yet loud enough to make an impact, each sound is a treat. In particular, a highlight for me in this tune was the kick. MisfitChris creates this by bringing it to forefront with its short but loud strike, almost reminiscent of a snare. This ultimately gives the kick more to do and is a wonderful highlight of the track.
As we move onto the third track, ‘Slightly Modified Engine’, MisfitChris turns it down a notch and instead opts for a more relaxing vibe. It begins with a smooth intro and is mixed in the style of a vinyl record, complete with scratches and pops. As I learned from speaking to MisfitChris himself, this is a technique that he’s used often. He would mix the sound down to the wave then re-sample them to make as though he’d actually recorded samples. That’s just one of the few neat little tricks that you’ll find in his arsenal.
Another cool part of ‘Slightly Modified Engine’ can be found at ‘0:52’ with an astounding melody. For me what’s incredible about this is every little amount of effects layered on top of each note. For example, the envelope opens up slowly allowing the melody to have a soft tone. At the same time each note has been detuned, giving way to weird, wonderful and shimmering oscillations. ‘Slightly Modified Engine’ is another fantastic tune that keeps up the aspect of dream-like sequences whilst driving.
Last but not least of my pick of songs off ‘Illegal Street Racing’, is the 5th track, ‘Racing Emotion’, This is probably one of my favourite tracks off the album, namely because of how the addictive beat rocks up with the chords. As soon as the drop kicks off at ‘0:45’, I instantly have the urge to nod along. There is so much colour and rhythm with each chord that every time it is played, it shimmers and oscillates quite beautifully. Every note is on point and harmonises amazingly against each other, with only the slightest amount of detuning added on for that human factor. Out of all the tracks off the album, ‘Racing Emotion’ has the most meat to it, mainly because of the drums, as they contain the common groove and are repetitious throughout. Another highlight is how useful the sidechain is on the chords as they provide the extra bump to kicks and snare. A good example of this can be heard during the ‘2:00’ mark; the drums (primarily the kick) have been filtered out, however you can still hear the imprint of the side chain. This handles the beat perfectly before giving it back to the percussion.
I must say MisfitChris’s ‘Illegal Street Racing’ has been one of the highlights of the year for me, as it’s constantly on my listening rotation. Each time I listen to it through, I can instantly get the picture what Chris was trying to create. Slick cars gliding through the wet road in slow motion, whilst they whizz past glowing lights, rain, and the hustle and bustle of people. ‘Illegal Street Racing’ is one of the few concept albums I’ve heard that managed to truly capture what the artist set out to create, and in spades.
This has been a blog post from Chip Bit Sid, a UK based Chiptune Blogger. Along with monthly features here on The ChipWIN Blog, I post once a week on my own blog. To get in touch, please message via the social media links below! I also do my own music under the banner as ‘Kojin’.