So, this is the spirit of the foliage in Austin, Texas…
I sat down today to give audience to Brother Android’s third release, ‘Pastoral II’, the second in a series of fictional seven inch records released on Bandcamp by this talented, multifaceted composer.
Let me just start this off by saying I have a strong bias, a distinct fondness for esoteric and experimental 2A03 usage. I began my journey into the world of chip through Famitracker, and grew up with a NES not far from reach for many years. I grew up with these sounds through multiple stages of my life. As such Brother Android strikes close to my heart with ‘Pastoral II’. Furthermore, I have always been impressed by the ability to coax dynamic, progressive sounds out of consoles, and this release does not disappoint in this sense.
The EP starts off with ‘Morning Glory’: a rising tide, a wash of singing squares and undulating noise that eventually breaks into what I can only imagine was meant to be sunrise. A guitar joins the chorus, and the distinct triangles of the 2A03 form a squealing, wailing call and response to the stringed instrument.
‘Winter Cactus’, the second track on the EP, summons forth the bouncy, dub-influenced basslines and percussion of ??? and the beautiful organic plantlike melodies of i, cactus. The addition of a simple organ-type synth and guitar is such a profound spice here, adding notes of muted sadness with bright, short-delay surf rock riff sprinkles. It’s such an atypical combination, but it works.
‘Winter Palm’ reminds me of something Jun Ishikawa would have written, which makes sense as the Kirby line of games is referenced in the credits as a source of inspiration for the EP. The tempo increases a bit for this track as it practically bubbles with positive energy. Melodic leads are begun with rapid 32nd note stabs in the signature Ishikawa style, the triangle hammering out dotted quarter and half note rhythm bass everywhere, adding a staccato vibe to the track. The presence of guitar in these tracks also reminds me of a somewhat notorious musician known for covering classic video games, xoc. There are a lot of very desirable parallels in ‘Pastoral II’, many references I’m finding to very, very solid works in our collective musical history.
‘Spanish Dagger’ is a jazzy, swaggering tune complete with Fear Of Dark and Blitz Lunar-esque arpeggios. There’s something lovely about these arps, how Brother, FoD, and Blitz construct them to hit that eleventh half step instead of going to the twelfth, the octave, as many chip musicians would when composing more dance-oriented tracks. Once again, the guitar at the end adds a twist to the song, giving it the momentary feel of a delay and reverb soaked shoegaze track. I find myself stunned at the deftness with which Brother Android stirs together these influences.
Finally, ‘Evening Primrose’ waltzes its way out to join the previous plants, a lovely, simplistic arp-heavy ditty in ¾ time with nice, clean guitar melodies singing alongside.
I feel a wide variety of influence in both chip and traditional genres in each of these tracks, and am again struck by how much of this is done through creative use of the 2A03 chip versus the standard approach. I hear square kicks, I hear odd alterations in noise (much like Zan-Zan-Zawa-Veia might write!) that wouldn’t typically fit into a novice’s repertoire, and I hear freaking Super Mario samples utilized in the best possible way: in tandem with cheeky dub, just like Koji Kondo intended. Jun and Koji influence in the same album. Dear God, yes: Brother Android gets it.