I just can’t quit you, 2015. You’ve lavished us with so much incredible music that even with our thrice-a-week coverage, true gems will inevitably fall through the cracks. I’d like to fix one such oversight by highlighting one of my favorite albums of last year, ‘Lumine’ by bansheebeat (Dylan Browne). This Tucson, AZ based musician has poured his heart and soul into writing, producing and mixing every aspect of ‘Lumine’ for over a 2 year period, and it clearly shows within the finished product. During my dayjob as a mail carrier, repeatedly listening to ‘Lumine’ played an integral role in carrying me through the long, busy holiday season. Read on to see why I will never tire of this phenomenal album.
While his first LP ‘Spiral Power’ can be generally categorized as spacey ambient chillwave, ‘Lumine’ represents a leveling-up of the scope and reach of bansheebeat’s sonic repertoire in many respects, so much so that trying to slap a label on it would be a disservice to the overall experience. It’s chiptune-adjacent to be sure, insofar that the chiptune aesthetic is a strong, but by no means the only element of the intricate textures that are woven within. Add to the mix sublime sample work, gorgeous vocals, infectious pop anthems, and a final act that somehow manages to be both heartbreakingly tragic as well as stunningly inspirational, and you have all the makings of an essential listening experience. Put plainly, ‘Lumine’ has it all.
In the opening minutes of the first track ‘Shinsekai’, bansheebeat takes his time to envelop the listener within his otherworldly atmosphere. It’s a fitting title, since the English translation of ‘Shinsekai’ is “New World”. Starting with the serene sound of waves gently rolling in, we then hear the main musical theme that will recur and reveal itself in different forms throughout the rest of the album. Once established, the track then ratchets up the tempo and bursts forth in all directions into a boisterous climax. It’s an exhilarating experience that keeps the listener engaged, never letting on to just where the track is going to head next. And then, with a gust of wind, we are gently brought back to a more relaxing soundscape that feels like a chiptune lullaby with echoing vocal samples and reverberating percussion. ‘Shinsekai’ is an 8 minute mini-odyssey that is representative of the journey on which the album as a whole is about to take you.
Midway through the journey, ‘Zeal 1994’ softly evokes the feeling of an underwater dream. The percussion is akin to hypnotically falling water droplets, as the high-pitched soulful voice sample echoes and reverberates within the listener’s headspace. At 2:30, the aquatic percussion has seamlessly become a more traditional bass/snare combo which is accompanied by warm and warbling descending chords. Then the melodic hook kicks in, acting as a ray of sunshine that pierces the depths below. It’s an incredibly catchy melody that is gleefully optimistic as well as nostalgic. The sound of children playing in the background further solidifies the sensations and memories of a simpler, carefree time in life. If we’re thinking 1994 as the title suggests, it also reminds me of a time when the idea of the album as a full, beginning-to-end experience was a more common occurrence, but we’ll touch on that more a bit later.
Waking from the dream, ‘Cultural Festival Arc’ activates party mode with a deliciously poppy track that is sure to get the crowd jumping at live performances. Quick, staccato synth stabs form the backbone of the infectious groove, and the short percussion break emulates the cadence of a human beatboxer. After this engaging interlude, ‘Cultural Festival Arc’ kicks it into high gear with hard-hitting synth and a festive bassline as Yukka Sufu’s vocals soar above the incredibly clean mix. The song has an incredibly uplifting and potent soaring quality to it, and you can’t help but to get carried away by its momentum.
I’ve touched on a few standout tracks, but as I alluded to earlier, bansheebeat has crafted ‘Lumine’ to be a full album experience. It’s an incredibly refreshing approach, because the more time that goes by, the more I feel that this has become a lost art in the increasingly single-focused iTunes landscape. I’d imagine that many people will come away from listening to ‘Lumine’ with varied opinions on what their favorite moment of the journey was, based on their own personality and interpretation, and that’s a beautiful thing. bansheebeat has accomplished the daunting task of creating a thoroughly engaging album from start to finish, and I encourage you to take the trip. ‘Lumine’ is filled with heartfelt emotion and an uncompromising attention to detail. There’s even some subtle nods to Chrono Cross and Steven Universe, but I’ll leave you to discover those for yourself.
Back in March of 2015, I reviewed astroskeleton’s EP ‘Into Stardust’, which was published by the then-recently launched netlabel and collective, Galaxy Swim Team. ‘Lumine’ is in fact the first full-length album to have been published by Galaxy Swim Team, and over the course of the last year, they have blasted to the top of the list of my most revered netlabels. Every artist within their collective, while each unique in their own way, does an incredible job at evoking that intangible feeling of nostalgia for a time and place that may or may not have existed in real life, as well as musically conveying Galaxy Swim Team’s comforting motto that it’s OK to cry. At this point, anything that they put out there is something that I’m immediately drawn to, whether I’m familiar with the artist or not. I encourage you all to support bansheebeat and all of the artists within the Galaxy Swim Team collective, as they are a true gift to the chiptune community and music as a whole.
Keep your hands and heart held high!