Hey wassup ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column in which I break down the highs and lows of new releases, then give you a numerical TL;DR to help you decide which new releases give you the most bang for your buck! This week, I’ve got two albums that are very much skirting the fringes of what can be considered chiptune. But, they’re both incredibly bodacious records from two rad artists that you guys should be paying attention to. So if you’re in the mood for something new, straps yourselves in and take a ride with a black guy as we check out new music from Hyperultra and Slothfella!
‘Titan’ by Hyperultra
Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina is Hyperultra: a seasoned veteran of the chiptune scene who crafts soul stirring alt rock and new wave melodies that are interwoven with haunting, at times even depressing, vocals. These features that help make Hyperultra so unique among the scene – amidst the wave of steady dance and pop albums – are available in abundance in this newest EP, ‘Titan’, which acts as an amuse-bouche to his soon-to-be-released LP, ‘Facesquare’.
Starting with with ‘Life on Titan’, Hyperultra hits you right away with new wave goodness, as tr-8 drum samples, bassy triangle waves, and spacey saw waves precede Hyperultra’s chilling vocals as he sings of hope, fear of the unknown, and the possibilities of colonizing other worlds in the wake of our mistakes on Earth. The whole song stirs up imagery of classic 80s space anime and chills one to their very core, tugging on heartstrings as the album proceeds into darker territory with ‘Brickbat’. ‘Brickbat’ is a song that seems to pull inspiration from slower math rock ballads from bands like maybeshewill and Buenos Aires. Combining a slow tempo, atmospheric melody and bitter lyrics, Hyperultra bemoans the actions of a suicidal teenage girl who can’t see that her decisions are selfish and are causing people to hate her, creating a sense of admonishment meant to invoke remorse over a song that’s otherwise quite a charming lullaby.
Continuing to croon morosely about the troubles life brings, Hyperultra follows up ‘Brickbat’ with ‘Kummerspeck’: a song that reflects on the harsh realities of an introverted lifestyle compounded by depression marked by emotional overeating. Its organ samples, slow kick drums and Hyperultra’s shift to a singing style that’s reminiscent of late 90s rock by Oasis and Fastball makes for a languishing experience that mimics the plight of the depressed and socially anxious with disturbing accuracy, as he describes everything that leads to the cycle of self loathing and comfort eating to a T.
The EP wraps up with a higher tempo, live version of ‘Life on Titan’ that wasn’t quite to my liking at first, but really began to grow on me thanks to the kick ass drums and twangy guitar that kicks in about halfway through the song. It also makes for a nice note to end the album on, as it breaks up the morose nature of the earlier tracks and leaves the listener with a feeling of hope that perhaps, unintentionally, is meant to help push them out of the depression that brought their ‘Kummerspeck’ on in the first place.
Ultimately, this EP is a solid listen. I’ll admit that, even as someone who is a fan of Duncan Sheik, this album can be a bit of a downer if you pay attention to the lyrics. However, if you’re looking for a break from the happy, pop and EDM inspired music that makes up most of recent chiptune offerings and prefer your music have a bit more grit to it, Hyperultra is the artist for you. This album is an excellent place to start if you’re new to his music. Furthermore, if you’re in need of something that’s more inspired by alt rock or new wave than dubstep or trance, then I can’t recommend any new releases more fervently than this one.
Fave Song: Life on Titan (Faster Live Version)
Price: Name your Price (Free)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.6/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
‘Savage Mountain’ by Slothfella
An old face in a new mask that takes heavy inspiration from vaporwave, synthwave, and all the cool 80s things that invoke images of Kung Fury beating up Nazis, Logfella makes a powerful debut under his new moniker–Slothfella–with ‘Savage Mountain’. Starting with the slow build up of ‘Come Down’, Slothfella lulls you into his world peacefully, making for a nice piece meant to lure a crowd closer to the stage and put a smile on their faces before you’re hit with the low, resonating, chest vibrating bass and heavy kick drums of the album’s eponymous track. ‘Savage Mountain’ gets things bumping soon afterwards, as sine waves take the melodies of the song to another level and invoke a style of music that’s one part Sabrepulse, one part DjjD, and two parts Grum for good measure and serves them like shots at a party that everyone is invited to. And, if by some chance ‘Savage Mountain’ somehow hasn’t gotten you dancing, don’t you fret, because Slothfella has another ten tracks to get you out onto the dancefloor or your living room so you can shake those hips like no one is watching!
‘Super IV’ and ‘Super V’ keep that party going strong at a somewhat slower pace with intermittent piano chords, strong synth melodies, and drums that are very reminiscent at times of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Under Control’, although ‘Super V’ is considerably more synthwave sounding than the former. ‘A Very Long Time Ago’ acts as beautiful lullaby of an interlude, invoking dream like wonder and summoning the very essence of vaporwave, which gets utilized in full force in ‘Kid Bitmap’: a downtempo melody one could just as easily slowdance and grind to with a lover as they lounge with a tequila sunrise in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It makes for a very nice wind down and is definitely recommended listening if you’re looking to accentuate a moment of well deserved relaxation.
After a moment of letting people catch their breath, Slothfella whips out ‘Player Four’. This track ended up being one of my faves on the album, as it surprisingly manages to encapsulate the punchy, montage inducing sounds of Vince DiCola’s ‘Legacy‘ and the upbeat, inspiring melodies of Big Giant Circle’s ‘Go For Distance‘ simultaneously, making for a song that’s incredibly motivating! Unfortunately, things take a bit of a dip with ‘Brute’. the song seems a little out of place as a follow up track to ‘Player Four’ with its dark, somewhat creepy, Tron inspired atmospherics, but sounds good as a stand alone track. It does help, however, that its placement is made up for with the proceeding song, ‘Cloudbang’. The track brings a sense of joy and wonder to the album with a sound that makes it the most chiptune sounding track on the album. Definitely something meant to go in a playlist alongside work by Sabrepulse, DJ PIE, and Shakaboyd to get you up and going on a beautiful day.
The last three tracks create an interesting combo of sound I can only like to a S’mores, as each one compliments each other nicely but is very different from one another. Slothfella kicks things off with ‘Near’, which acts like the firm graham cracker in this trio. It kicks things off with heavy bass, foreboding synth sounds and a general sense of impending danger that’s both ominous and kind of sexy, as one could just as easily headbang to this as they could work their hips seductively to it. ‘Reach’ is like the marshmallow in this trip, as it creates a sense of nostalgia and longing that’s actually somewhat touching that also encourages a sense of introspection before the final act. ‘Reach’ comforts and tastes good on its own and allows a moment to take everything in as a steady 4/4 beat that’s reminiscent of music you’d hear off of Adult Swim’s ‘Ghostly Swim’, particularly work by Daedulus or Mux Mool. Finally, the album wraps up with the sweet chocolate goodness that is ‘Total Regret’, a song that combines the best aspects of the album along with some new elements. It creates a sound that has aspects of chiptune, hip hop and synthwave all blended together, making an experience akin to a happy ending of a good movie. The result is a song that’s reminiscent of 4mat’s music, particularly of ‘Tetra’, which was the first song that made me fall in love with Chiptunes = WIN in the first place.
All in all, this album is a solid offering from a talented vet in new clothing, one that stands out both among chiptune and vaporwave as a prime example of what one should strive to create in these scenes. If you’re looking for something that’s just plain good, or looking for an artist to fill in the gap until 4mat drops his next album, Slothfella is def the guy for you.
Fave Song(s): Total Regret, Player Four
Price: Name Your Price (Free)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.8/4
Overall Grade: 4.9/5
Well folks, that wraps it up for this edition of Quick Shots! Don’t forget to follow the artists you like on your prefered social media platform(s) of choice and keep checking back here on the blog for all the latest and greatest chiptune shenanigans the world has to offer. Lastly, if you’re an artist new to the scene or otherwise unknown, keep doing what you do, cause you never know when Kuma Senpai might notice you!
Love and Peace to you all!
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