Yo, wassup ChipWINners, and welcome back to Quick Shots: the album review column where I break down the highs and lows of an album, then give you a numerical tl;dr to help you determine if it’s right for you! This month, I have music from two acts out of Europe who have been featured on the blog before, but are vastly different in their musical offerings. One of these artists is someone who is incredibly popular in the scene and has been featured on ChipWIN compilations before. The other is a band who blurs the line between chiptune and more traditional synth and noise music, even going so far as to refer to their music as Dadaist. If that doesn’t have you raising your eyebrow in intrigue, I don’t know what will! So without further delay, I’d like you guys to join me as I review music by Corkscrew No. 4453556 and DJ-PIE!
‘Dolmen ?!’ by Corkscrew No. 4453556
Kicking things off this time around is Corkscrew No. 4453556 with ‘Dolmen ?!’ : an album that continues the band’s proud tradition of avant-garde electronic music that ranges from tongue-in-cheek to typically noisy. Now, before I continue, I must say that as a presence in the scene, Corkscrew holds a very unique space in my mind for two reasons. The first is that they sit on the very fringe of what would be defined as chiptune. The band does use Nintendo-based noise and synth from time to time, but even when it is used, its presence is deeply blended in with more traditional synthesis, and thus, isn’t easily noticed. The second is that, in spite of this fringe relationship with chiptune, Corkscrew No 4453556 has become an act that I admire because they have produced some of the more intense music I’ve heard in a while. The result is something I would describe as a cross between the industrial stylings of Void Vision, the lofi experimentalism of Kidaudra, and the combination of self-aware humor and harsh noise that can only be found among those heavily involved with Datathrash. The band, and the noise scene, refers to this kind of music as Littlesmithcore.
As such, when Zabuba Nevresky–the founder and frontman of Corkscrew–pm’d me out of the blue in October requesting I review ‘Dolmen ?!’, I jumped at the chance to do so! In undertaking this endeavor, I’ve walked away with an appreciation for what the band does, but a slight sense of ambivalence, as well. This vagueness stems from the fact that many of the songs, while certainly enjoyable, have a sense of sameness to them when compared to ‘Welcome to Scandicci Valley‘, the first album of theirs that I reviewed for the blog. This isn’t to say they don’t bring anything new to the table, but perhaps Corkscrew hasn’t brought enough freshness to the table for this offering. This may be due to the fact that I’ve always found it intriguing that Corkscrew No. 4453556 tags their music and describes themselves as being Dadaist, but their music never seems to skew too far from conventions they’ve set for themselves in their music, let alone from any compositional conventions in the first place.
‘Mastodontic Opalescent Balanitis’, for example, is one of my favorite songs on the album, but it’s because the song uses the formula of a seemingly out of place soundbyte followed up by a hot beat, and not because of how unusual it is compared to what I normally hear. Likewise, the opening track of ‘The Florist is Dead’ makes marvelous fun of vaporwave, but while it does so to great effect, it does so in a way that I expect from Corkscrew No. 4453556. This isn’t a bad thing, and I would never tell anyone not to play or compose like themselves. However, if you have the impression or hope that you will get something truly groundbreaking out of ‘Dolmen ?!’, you may be left somewhat disappointed. Littlesmithcore is a subgenre of music that does a little bit of everything, but in doing so, sometimes doesn’t do enough of one thing to make it truly outstanding.
Ultimately ‘Dolmen ?!’ is an offering I’d be more likely to suggest to a person who’s testing the waters of experimental music to see if it’s their cup of tea, as opposed to one I would suggest to someone looking to swim further into the deep end of the pool. You can definitely find harsher, more dissonant, and more unusual music out there, but even with that said, I’d be lying if I said that Corkscrew No. 4453556 didn’t entertain me with this album.
Favorite Track: ‘Mastodontic Opalescent Balanitis’
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.3/5
Overall Grade: 4.4/5
‘Chiptune.Airforce’ by DJ-PIE
The second album up for review this month on Quick Shots is the latest from the Parisian paladin of P E N I S, DJ-PIE! Now if the name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve not only written about him once before, but because he’s been featured on a Chiptunes = WIN compilation as well as DJ Cutman’s weekly radio show, This Week In Chiptune! This time around, DJ-PIE has done something special and has presented it in a way that’s both adorable and incredibly satisfying. Having combined his love of video games and music, DJ-PIE’s ‘Chiptune.Airforce’ is a project that is both a video game and an album! Furthermore, not only has DJ-PIE made a combination album and game, but he’s done so while jumping platforms, leaving behind his normal standby of LSDJ in favor of Deflemask, allowing him to harbor the sweet, bassy sounds of the Sega Genesis, and to great effect!
Right off the bat, DJ-PIE gets the party started with ‘Coconut Shell Access’, a song that’s incredibly reminiscent of Yuzo Koshiro’s work on Streets of Rage 2, making great use of Deflemask’s FM capabilities to pump out a song that oozes of 90s house music goodness! From there, the proceeding tracks play out as a collective homage to Sega’s history musically while also using the classic Yamaha sound to add a new spin to more modern styles of music. From the playful, thumping ‘Tope Gunz’ to the bassy, groovy ‘Fu-Gee-Yama’ (which is also highly reminiscent of The Flight Away’s ‘Mama Said…‘) DJ-PIE brings that classic sound to the forefront in a satisfyingly nostalgic manner, while songs like ‘CSWR’ and ‘Les Trompettes de la Mort’ incorporate aspects of trap, reggeaton and footwork, making for a surprisingly diverse listening experience. The whole album is one definitely worth listening to, and wraps up nicely with ‘EXYXZ’, a song that invokes the same sense of euphoria that listening to Bit Shifter’s ‘Strange Comfort’ live induces, but does it in a way that’s a bit more somber and allows it to stand out all on its own.
All in all, ‘Chiptune.Airforce’ is a delight to listen to, and at 3 Euros for a digital download (5 Euros if you’d also like a spiffy button featuring the album cover art) it’s definitely worth the money to purchase it. But, if by some chance you can’t afford that amount at this moment, well…remember how I said ‘Chiptune.Airforce’ was a project that included a game of the same name? If you are in such a situation in which money isn’t something youc an spare at the moment (or are just bored/curious as to what DJ-PIE whipped up in his spare time), you can click here to play Chiptune.Airforce for yourself and fight against an armada of DJ-PIEs in a charming little side-scrolling shooter! Should you happen to beat the game, you’ll be rewarded with a free download link to the album! How cool is that? It’s definitely the first alternative payment method of its kind that I’ve ever encountered, and I encourage you all to play it, regardless of whether you can pay the asking price of the album or not, as it not only is a fun game, but it ties the whole experience of ‘Chiptune.Airforce’ together in a way only someone like DJ-PIE can make happen.
Favorite Track: Fu-Gee-Yama
Price: 5 Euros (free if you beat the game)
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4.6/5
Well, that’s it for this month’s edition of Quick Shots! Tune in next month as I review another handful of albums from the scene! Please follow any of the artists you like from this article on your favorite form of social media to keep up with their latest shenanigans! Also, don’t forget to tune into the blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as we constantly put out new content for your entertainment! Last but not least, if you’re an artist, producer, group, or musician looking to get your work reviewed, keep doing what you do. You never know when Kuma-senpai will notice you.
Love and Peace to you all!
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