Hey, what’s up everyone?! It’s your boy BronxKuma — Kuma for short — coming at you again with another round of Quick Shots! For those of you who don’t know, Quick Shots is my sporadic album review column in which I take aim at a handful of EPs and LPs that have come out fairly recently, quick fire my impressions about them and discuss whether they’re a solid purchase for those who charge money for their work. This time around, I’ve loaded up four albums I’ve seen come out over the past month or so that are worth talking about, so let’s stack these targets up, lock em in our sights and pull the hammer back, cause its time go time!
Dream*Eater’s “Eating of Dreams”
First up is a artist who is returning to Quick Shots: Dream*Eater. Now for those of you who don’t know or may be saying “Hey, you never reviewed anything by this artist before!” allow me to explain.
…No, not the band from Canada. Another one. From the UK.
Anyway, in that album review I explained that I felt MissingNO had potential but didn’t utilize it fully. In their enthusiasm to share their work, they released an album prematurely. A little more time in the incubator, and it could’ve been great.
Since then, the most active member of MissingNO, Bailley, has parted ways with the band, and in doing so, it seems he’s taken some of the advice I imparted upon him and his old crew, because this album is considerably better.
Showing off the signature energy that caused me to review “Fallen DMG” in the first place, “Eating of Dreams” starts off strong with “Love Hates Relationships”: a melody that reminds me of 80s pop rock that’s been sped up a bit. The 5 track EP then takes a bit of a dip, as the following two songs, “Clouds” and “Space” seem somewhat out of place compared to the rest of the album. I’m willing to forgive “Space” because it’s an interlude (and not a bad one at that), but compared to the rest of the album, “Clouds” seems to be a strange holdover from the MissingNO days. It’s certainly not a terrible song, but it feels underwhelming, as if it wants to be something more but hasn’t been made into what it could be.
Fortunately, the latter half of the album is solid, as both “Verdant Fields” and “Old Times” feel very complete, showing off Bailley’s compositional skills nicely. “Verdant Fields” has become a particular fave because of it’s clever little break down around the halfway mark, it’s consistent Sunsoft style drums and happy atmosphere.
If you’ve yet to listen to Bailley’s work, this is the album to jump in on the action with, because if “Eating of Dreams” is any indication, Bailley can only go up from here.
Fave Song: “Verdant Fields”
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4.4/5
Get Over It’s “Mom’s Spaghetti”
Up next we have “Mom’s Spaghetti” by Get Over It, an album I admittedly reviewed because I mistakenly thought this was Shyabeetus being a playful lil git, as he’s apt to do.
No, GOI is an artist based out of Purchase, NY whom I was pleasantly surprised by. At first, it was was the noticeable lack of jokes, but as the album went on, I realized “Mom’s Spaghetti” despite the playful cover art, was less about memes and Eminem and more about a sense of nostalgia classic comfort food could induce.
The album is clean sounding and nicely polished due to mastering in Reaper, and inspite of that luster, it remains unabashedly simple. At first, I was kind of turned off by that fact, but then as I continued to listen, I realized that each of these songs was not only surprisingly approachable, but I couldn’t help but like it.
Maybe it’s because songs like “Rad Boyz” ends on a surprisingly somber note. Or it might be that “Paper Clips” or “The Sidewalk Ends” feel quintessentially Gameboy. Or maybe…just maybe… its that this album not only reminds of simpler times in high school, but it sounds like something I would have made if I had gotten into chiptune when I was 15 or 16. It sounds like something I would have naively shared with everyone and wouldn’t have cared what they thought because it was just at the very heart of who I was. Yeah, I think that’s definitely it.
Keep doing what you do, GOI. You were able to bring back some fond memories of my time in high school and for that, you have my vote of confidence.
Fave Song: Quality Friends
Bang for Buck: 4.8/5
Replay Value: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4.2/5
Mail Order Monsters’ “Mail Order Monsters”
So before I set out writing this article, Angela Nielsen of Mail Order Monsters reached out to me and asked me about shows and venues MOM could play to help promote their new album. After speaking briefly with her I was like “Wait a minute? A new MOM album? FUCK YEAH!”.
See, Mail Order Monsters is a group that holds a special place in my heart as they were among the first groups I ever saw live at 8static! They were stylish, fun, had some crazy visuals even PixelSeed was impressed by, and just made that weekend one I hold dear to my heart.
So when I went to MOM’s homepage and clicked the link to their Bandcamp I was confused and a little disappointed at first. The liner notes said this was this their premier album and that it dropped in late August this year but I saw MOM in Philly in 2012 and even have a CD of theirs and furthermore this premier album has a lot of the songs I already loved on it but is being presented as new? Why? Well a little perusing of my CD collection made me realize that the disk I had was actually a limited run demo.
With that misunderstanding cleared up, I reacquainted myself with the trio out of Michigan and was pleased to know they impressed me as much now as they did when I saw them live. Featuring solid compositions, lush tones and masterful post production, MOM’s debut album is a must have for synth lovers everywhere as it’s not only a beautiful album, but a technical masterpiece.
Using numerous keyboards not as native instruments but as controllers, MOM composes and performs all their music using a bevy of Commodore 64 chips. From the hard hitting, droning “Electric Funeral” to the groovy “Cynthia”, Mail Order Monsters is without a doubt one of the most under sung chiptune/demoscene acts ever. If any of you are looking for new music to listen to or are looking for an artist to book for a festival, I would be remiss not to point you in their direction.
So what are you waiting for: an invitation from a big black guy? Well consider this it, loser. Hop in the car and don’t worry about where we’re going, cause MOM’s driving.
Fave Song: Cynthia
Price: $7-$18 (depending on whether you purchase a digital download, a CD or Vinyl)
Bang for Buck: 4.8/5
Replay Value: 5/5
Overall Grade: 4.9/5
Mark Dormin’s “Relatives”
Rounding out this edition of Quick Shots is Mark Dormin’s album “Relatives”. Now Mark (real name Roger Levy) is no noob to the scene, but he is someone relatively new to me. When I first saw him post this album to the ChipWIN page, I knew he’d be a perfect candidate for the column.
Little did I know just how perfect an album “Relatives” would be. Upon first listening to it, the opening song, “Bre Petrunko”, seemed like a playful mess. One that sounds a bit inspired by the compositional style of the music in Tetris, which was kind of cool. Upon further listening, not only did the quality of the tunes both pick up and become less playful on a surface level, but something struck me as odd about the names of the songs. “Dunavsko Horo”, “Na Megdana”…he’s not just making these up, is he?
Well, by the time “Kopanitsa” came up, I decided to do some Googling and what I found was astounding! See, none of the songs on “Relatives” are original compositions. They’re arrangements of classic Romanian, Bulgarian and Slavic songs done in playful 8bit style.
That’s when it hit me: Mark Dormin is using this album to educate me! Son of a bitch! “Relatives” isn’t just a title: it’s Roger’s way of paying homage to both his familial heritage and his found culture by combining the video game sounds he loves with aria from his family’s homeland! It’s entertaining, mind opening, and truly wonderful to see that, in a time where we as a collective group of peoples are questioning the pace at which technology advances that there are those of us who can use said technology to keep the lifestyle we’ve grown up with alive. It makes culture accessible to not only younger generations but to outsiders looking in, as well.
From the dancetastic cover of Romanian Folk Song “Black Hat Badita” to the surprisingly trip hop take on the historic “Mars na Drinu” Mark Dormin proves himself to not only be a deftly skilled composer but a remarkable human being, as well, as this album is not only delightful, but it’s the auditory equivalent of a stranger welcoming you into their home, and for that eye opening experience, I am forever grateful.
Favorite Song: Mars na Drinu
Bang for Buck: 4.7/5
Replay Value: 5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
And just as quickly as it started, our time here has come to a close. I hope you had fun, and remember, if you like what you hear, be sure to follow the artists you love on their respective social media outlets so you can keep up with their latest releases and performance dates!
Also, if you’re an aspiring chiptuner, young or old, veteran or unsung, keep doing what you do. You never know when you’ll be noticed by senpai. So keep making music, keep being awesome, and remember: Kuma Loves you.
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