Hey guys! Welcome back to Quick Shots! I hope this New Year is treating you well and that you guys are pumped and prepped for the upcoming slew of events starting next week! Whether it’s MAGFest or PAXSouth, Frequency or Rockage, the next few weeks are looking fantastic! But if by some chance you aren’t feeling the power of upcoming events surging through your veins, perhaps these two albums up for review will help turn that around! Let’s get started!
Reset by Bit Trash Riot
First up on the chopping block is ‘Reset’ by Bit Trash Riot. If you don’t know who he is, I’m going to give you the b.o.t.d. and assume you’re fresh to the scene as BTR is a certifiable icon. Making music predominantly with the Amiga, BTR was a long standing member of 8BitCollective who migrated to uCollective after the former’s collapse. To help fill in the void between new releases, Bit Trash Riot likes to put out re-releases of older albums and this is one of those re-releases that was put up very recently.
Originally published in limited runs on a collection of 6 floppy disks, ‘Reset’ is an eclectic collection of aria that hits hard and fast and crunches in a way that’s satisfying as hell. Clocking in at about 18 minutes, the EP opens up with the album’s eponymous track, which sports snappy drums, deep, humming bass that you can feel resonating in your chest and a melody that sets a high standard for the rest of the album. One that, fortunately, is maintained throughout the entirety of the record.
Follow up tracks such as ‘Fire in the Circuit’ and ‘Defender’ not only uphold the flow with a compositional style that feel very “80s future”, but also use some very unique vocal samples, as well. These add an extra layer of vintage icing to the cake, creating a sense of nostalgia that further flavors the listening experience and makes them quintessentially demoscene.
‘Microparty’ acts as something of a pallet cleanser, slowing things up a bit and adding a happy, playful tone to an otherwise more “serious” listening experience, which works really well not because of the songs that preceded it, but because of the one that proceeds it.
‘Slay the Pumpkin’, my absolute favorite track on the album, is a chipmetal masterpiece begging to be covered by Travis Morgan or Viking Guitar! Replete with powerful, grumbling riffs, impressive drum syncopation, and a headbanging lead, the song feels like a fist fight with a T-800 on an 18 wheeler that’s about to explode! To say I love this song would be an understatement, as this song is not only a fine example of BTR’s skill as a producer but it’s also chiprock without a guitar done right!
Closing out the album in high fashion is ‘Computer Division’, a dance track that oozes with copious amounts of 90s house music, but is honestly too short for my liking. Part of what made late 80s and early 90s house and dance music so phenomenal were their lengthy club mixes. This song falls way too short of that at less than three minutes of playtime.
All in all, ‘Reset’ is a fine EP to add to your collection. If you’re a fan of Yerzmyey or C-Jeff, weren’t able to snag this album on it’s initial release or are new to BTR’s music in general, you should def download this baby. It’s a perfect pre-festival album to get hype to.
Fave Song: ‘Slay the Pumpkin’
Bang for Buck: 4.8/5
Replay Value: 4.7/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Realms of Darkness by Syndicate
Syndicate was a duo composed of brothers Warren and Gavin Burke. These guys–along with other artists such as Nasenbluten– used a combination of Amiga tracker music, samples and lofi synths to create intense noise that embodies the very D.I.Y. philosophies of chiptune and demoscene. All this while giving the people that condescended to them a massive middle finger. They committed these blasphemous acts through a now defunct record label called Bloody Fist Records, which has recently resurfaced via Bandcamp because members of this small, pioneering record label have begun preserving their ten year history through the digital music service. This is quite a fortunate turn of events for the scene as a whole as some of the EPs put out by Bloody Fist Records were so rare that album counts for them number in the 20s.
So, what is that makes Realms of Darkness and BFR so historic? Breakbeat. In the early 90s when people were pumping out house, techno, and lofi lounge jams, Bloody Fist Records put out hardhitting, fast paced gabber, breakbeat, breakcore and noise that predates most of what people would consider iconic music in those genres. I first got turned on to BFR music by my friend and fellow artist Fumu while chilling at Tony Ness‘s place over the summer and fell in love. So when I saw that these albums were now available on Bandcamp after being only available on CD, Cassette and Vinyl, I freaked out! Not only was it a chance to dig deeper into the depths of this small, rough-edged record label, but it was a chance to explore music I hadn’t heard before, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with what I found.
Boasting an impressive 22 tracks, ‘Realms of Darkness’ is a brutal assault on the senses. If I were to liken the kind of energy the album gives off to another medium, I’d say it reminds me of the same sort of magic anime filled me with as a kid. And no, I’m not talking about the stuff that aired on T.V. through Toonami. I mean the gritty, violent, oversexed adult stuff I shouldn’t have watched as a five year old kid but did anyway. Titles like MD Geist, Fist of the North Star and Bio-Booster Armor Guyver. That’s the kind of anime this album reminds me of.
Tracks like ‘Depths of Hell’, ‘Rough-N-Rugged’ and ‘Ace of Spies’ hit the gut hard, and pound away on it, making for an experience as visceral as my aforementioned anime analogy. Each emotion conjured by these tracks is deeply colored, carnal, and primal. They not only don’t fuck around, but reek of the kind of anti-establishment rage that comes with growing up in a Wonderbread suburbia surrounded by mediocrity and sameness at every corner.
‘Strong As Fuck’, ‘Entombed’, and ‘Nowhere to Run’ maintain the heaviness, but feel more like a dancefloor than a moshpit, as each has a groove, even a slight funk to them that are reminiscent of sweaty rave parties in a warehouse. The kind of parties that reek of cheap weed, cheaper beer and broken dreams. You know, the good stuff.
This album whether its groovy or full on rage, is awesome, but it suffers a fatal flaw: a sense of repetition. While not every song sounds the same, if left playing in the background while you’re working, this album will feel very samey. This is especially true if you are focused on something you’re doing and are listening to the album on a small speaker as opposed to with headphones or studio monitors. As such, if breakbeats, high energy noise or homogeneity of sound aren’t your things, this may not be for you.
If, however, this kinda stuff is up your alley, or you’re simply looking to dig deeper into the history of electronic music, then definitely give this album and the rest of the catalog from Bloody Fist Records a shot. The sound quality on some of the earlier albums may be a bit gnarly because they were ripped from master tapes made during BFR’s amateur days, but it’s a strong testament to their D.I.Y. philosophy and dedication to the craft that the album’s were preserved and uploaded in such a fashion.
Fave Song: ‘City of Gold (Overcast Remix)’
Price: $10 (Australian)
Bang for Buck: 4.5/5
Replay Value: 4.7/5
Overall Grade: 4.6/5
Well folks, that’s it for this month’s Quick Shots! Tune in next time as I review a few more albums worthy of your ingestion! Don’t forget to like/subscribe/follow these guys on your fave social media outlets to keep up with their latest exploits, and stay tuned to our blog for the newest and best in chiptune goodness! Also, for those of you headed to any of the festivals over the next couple weeks, I wish you an awesome time, safe travels, and can’t wait to meet you if you’re attending MAGFest! Best wishes to you all, and don’t forget, Kuma loves you!