Sup, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column in which I break down the finer aspects of an album, then give a quick and dirtyTL;DR at the end to help you decide if a new record is worth your time. This month, I’ve got two albums up on the chopping block. One of them is from an artist I’ve reviewed previously whose work has taken a very drastic shift, the other is from a well respected name in the scene who’s decided to do something a little different from their usual fair. Let’s not waste anymore time. Sit back, relax, and turn up the volume as I take the time to review the latest from Slothfella and Ovenrake’s side project: Boys Club!
‘mud kid’ by Slothfella
First up to bat this time around is Slothfella: an artist that’s been involved in the scene for quite a while under this name, as well as under his original moniker of Logfella. Whether you’re familiar with his work as the former or latter, what is important to note is that this ‘fella’s decided to go in a different direction than what his premier LP would have us believe. ‘Savage Mountain’ was remarkable for how diverse it was without detracting from Slothfella’s strengths. Tracks like ‘Super IV’ and ‘Super V’ showed off what was a seemingly strong inclination towards synthwave. ‘Player Four’ managed to be a loving tribute to Vince Dicola’s work and ‘Total Regret’ seemed to be a nod to 4mat, as it was highly reminiscent of ‘Tetra’. Perhaps, most interestintly and pertinent, however, was that ‘Kid Bitmap’ belied a rather unique take on what we all believed was the seapunk of 2015: vaporwave. I bring this song up in particular because while seapunk may have gone into low tide, vaporwave (perhaps because of its strong ties to the ressurgence of synthwave), has persisted, and Slothfella has done his part to keep it that way with ‘mud kid’.
To be fair, calling ‘mud kid’ a strictly vaporwave release would be disingenuous. This album is not another Macintosh Plus or STARDUST Subsidiary. It has enough aspects of other well known chip music to keep it from being such. Despite these differences, however, it is very hard to ignore that Slothfella has take the genre to heart in a way that’s much more intesnse and meaninful than most of his colleagues have. The result is an album that trades the diversity of ‘Savage Mountain’ for an experience that’s considerably more complex, nuanced, and deeper than anything I expected.
‘Aurora’ has sound fonts in the song that sound like they’re straight out of EarthBound, but plays like a song produced by Mux Mool or 1032 for an Adult Swim compilation. ‘Field’ has slight hints of traditional Japanese chord progression that’s redolent of Omodaka and Yellow Magic Orchestra. The inclusion of sparse vocoder work in ‘Field’ also manages to be haunting enough to feel lonely, creating a a rather introspective experience that’s proceeded in meditative fashion by ‘Monitor’. ‘Monitor’ manages to strike an incredibly fine balance betwen traditional synthwave and vaporwave, with its brevity making it work as an interlude into the latter half of the EP. ‘Ceramic Realm’ opens with chords that recall songs from Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, while ‘Harrison’ combines playful Game Boy-esque arpegios with steel drums that makes for joyful moments in an otherwise subdued experience. The EP closes with the eponymous track of the album, and makes for listen that’s perhaps the most positive of the album. This final track is a welcome change to from the preceeding songs because while I wouldn’t call this album gloomy, it’s muted to the point of introspection, which makes the EP to be ideal background musicic for writing or studying.
All in all, Slothfella’s more focused vision has produced a record that’s pleasing to listen to. It’s brevity allows it to get under your skin without overstaying its welcome, and is varied just enough so that you won’t tire of it easily if it’s put on repeat while you are otherwise preoccupied. While I was hoping for something more diverse and energetic, I can’t help but feel a sense of contentment with ‘mud kid’. Maybe that’s good enough.
Favorite Track: ‘mud kid’
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.4/5
Overall Grade: 4.4/5
‘Boys Club II’ by Boys Club
Dakota Clark, aka ovenrake, has continued a side project he started nearly four years ago called Boys Club. Featuring a bevy of rotating artists, Boys Club started out as a chance for ovenrake to let loose and explore avenues of music outside of chiptune, with a strong lean towards post rock and math rock. The result of the first EP is a single track that’s 36 minutes in length: a stunning jam session that floods your being with wonder, hope, and awe. ‘Boys Club II’ continues the trend of conjuring such feelings, but does it in a way that’s quite different than what was previously established by the first Boys Club EP. While ‘Boys Club’ that was filled to brim with traditional instrumentation, and would easily fit in a playlist alongside Buenos Aires, Sleepmakeswaves and Maybeshewill, the shift in focus, along with a shift in guests artists makes for an experience thats much more synth heavy than the premier release. This seems to be largely due to the fact that the other artists associated with Boys Club this time around include Dino Lionetti (Cheap Dinosaurs), Daniel Davis (an0va) and violinst Charles Townsend. It’s also worth noting that this LP is the first release from 8static’s record label in nearly 2 years, meaning the amount of creative input these Philadelphia natives have had on the project, from instrumentation to mastering and post production, is undeniable. The result is an album that’s almost a religious experience, and feels like Cheap Dinosaurs got thrown into a blender with Jay Tholen, but it will leave those yearning for more post rock disappointed.
Dino’s luscious keyboards mesh in goregeously with Dakota’s warm, scrumptious omnichord to create sounds that are atmospheric, mesmerizing, and dreamlike, while an0va’s guitar work and Mr. Townsend’s violin weave in and out of harmonies fluidly. It’s a peaceful, easy listening experience that’s akin to spending an afternoon gazing at the clouds on a warm spring day. If the mood is appropriate, the LP is meditative, rejuvinating, and even inspiring. If, however, you’re not in the mood for such an album, the experience can be monotonous to the point of boredom. If it weren’t for the melodies being pumped out of ovenrake’s Game Boy, the album would arguably be too spacey to be considered chiptune, as it often sounds more reminiscent of something created in Sunvox. Songs such as ‘West Texas’ and ‘Truth Be Told’ have enough Game Boy to create variety in the album, but songs such as ‘Diane’, ‘Migrant’ and ‘Jaded Ignorance/Zakat’ allow almost all the work to be done by Dakota’s Omnichord and Dino’s synths. Perhaps if more songs struck the balance that ‘Flounder’ seemed to strike, with it’s heavier focus on the Game Boy’s surprisingly powerful, almost yearning melody, the album wouldn’t be as situational a listening experience as it is.
Regardless of what you take away from ‘Boys Club II’, its clear that Boys Club has put a lot of effort and heart into what they’ve done. Even if you find that you prefer the post rock sounds of the first Boys Club EP to this one, I would still strongly encourage everyone to listen to this album at least once, as it’s a masterpiece of traditional analog synthwork and definitely deserves more attention than it’s getting thus far.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Migrant’, ‘Flounder’
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.4/5
Overall Grade: 4.6/5
Well folks, that’s it for this edition of Quick Shots! If you like what you heard, feel free to follow any of the artists that intrigue you on your social media poison of choice so you can keep up with their latest shenanigans. Also, don’t forget to check back on the blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for new content, as we’re always looking to share the newest and best with the community. Last but not least, if you’re an artist looking to get recognized, don’t be afraid to reach out to us. You’d be surprised at what you can get by simply asking. Until next time, keep being awesome, and remember that Kuma loves you.
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