Loss; it’s not just a meme based off someone’s webcomic. It’s a legitimate experience for all of us (no matter whether you feel it or not). It can cause all sorts of reactions, most of them being rather typical from what we have seen and heard in many forms of media. With Zanate’s ‘Stray Dogs’, however, we experience it through the eyes of the artist experiencing it first-hand with the loss of their dog named Bruno. Using 2A03+VRC6 via Famitracker and their experience with rock instrumentation, we can walk through the goodbye and tribute to a good boy. Get ready to have a mix of feelings when you throw on this seven-track album.
‘Stray Dogs’ is an album that brings out the concept of tribute and positive reminiscence than sorrow. While you can feel the solemnness within, the composition really focuses on powerful and driving chords and melodies between interludes of softer and focused repeatable melodies and rhythms. Moreso, when you put this album together on a full playthrough and not through a web player, you get to properly experience the seamless transition between the first two songs. It feels natural despite the immediate media change from one song to another.
While each song has its own set of feelings it conveys, each of them has an appropriate somber attitude. When it comes to the way the album shapes this emotion, it feels a bit disjointed and takes you in a few directions with the level of stimulation it provides. Each song builds up until a specific point that takes you closer and closer to sensory overload. Just as you’re riding with the energy level it’s providing, it drops. It brings you back into a state of balance before building itself up once more; eventually fading away in a bittersweet fashion. Perhaps this is just morbid coincidence, but this could also be considered like the way a creature panics or struggles and gets a burst of adrenaline when it senses it’s weakened and realizes it’s near the end to its lifespan. Whether this was intentional or not, this was a clever and appropriately subtle presentation for the topic at hand.
To me, the variety of emotion you get from the songs is a great way to celebrate the times you’ve experienced. This seems apparent as the intention of a song like ‘Stargazers’. You can tell from the melodic exposition and variation brought into each section in the form that this was a passionate adventure through positive, albeit fleeting, memories. From the way the song seems to bring on guitar solos, each section could be portrayed as trying to hold onto happy thoughts as they are the things holding onto and letting linger; trying to let yourself get lost inside the escapism of another stage of grieving. The level of consistency for the thematic emotion of this album is not only strong, but arguably impressive for many chiptune albums.
If you’re looking for an album that has a variety of feelings attached to a somber vibe, ‘Stray Dogs’ has you covered. From start to finish this is a ride in itself; give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. If there was anything I could have commented on, it would probably have been that I wish the mix of the guitars was a bit cleaner, as sometimes it’s a bit muddled in the mid-ranges when the chords and solo kick in on top of the 2A03+VRC6. Nonetheless, it’s a great piece of work that gives a wonderful tribute to a lost friend. You can give it a listen over at Zanate’s bandcamp, where you can also pick it up for $4 USD.