Sladerfluous Reviews: ‘Pixel Tsunami’ by Jesse W. D. James

- Posted February 25th, 2015 by

‘Pixel Tsunami’ is the sleeper hit of early 2015.

This three track EP by Jesse W. D. James is an unrelenting wave of innovative chiptune music, artistic expression, and experimental composition.

Jesse W. D. James is a producer/composer with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Greenville, South Carolina’s Furman University. He has composed video game soundtracks for studios such as Zero Gardens and Plutono, as well as produced music with his dance/progressive band The Fire Tonight. Jesse also has an extensive video archive that features his work on YouTube, including ‘Pixel Tsunami’.

The first track, ‘Anarres’, has an atmospheric “space odyssey” feel, with droning bass tones under an echoing synth melody as it erupts from silence to deliver an improvisational flourish before fading away and leaving a deafening, deliberate silence once more. ‘Anarres’s transitions into a more traditional chiptune melody with a heavy drum kit and a more consistent melody, ramping up in intensity with alarm-like compliments to a crisp climax.

‘Anarres’ evokes a sense of wonder and exploration, which follows throughout the EP as Jesse explores new corners of the chiptune genre with his skillful transitional style, keeping listeners engaged and staying well out of the trap of uninspired looping chips that is a constant danger with chiptune music, because traditional chiptune rests on a foundation of unobtrusive yet iconic, replayable loops. Jesse employs a constant evolution throughout all three tracks within ‘Pixel Tsunami’ that is beyond refreshing, it’s inspiring.

‘Square out of Place’ is smooth and ethereal, with a graceful piano-like undercurrent and an explorative melody that ducks and dives over a light chip drum kit. Light and warm, ‘Square out of Place’ introduces a sense of wonder and expanse through use of echoes and occasional minimalism between the music’s more rousing moments, and the ebb and flow between the two makes for an enchanting sound.

‘Square Out of Place’ sits in a chill groove where familiarity and the unexpected meet, creating a musical space so comfortable, you’d second-guess whether you’ve heard this track before. Tonal choices made here are just so complimentary that everything fits together with such intricacy, even with the improvisational nature of the melody. ‘Square out of Place’ is a beautiful piece of music that enchants.

‘Shevek’s Canvas’ breaks it down as ‘Pixel Tsunami’s grungy finale. A frantic melody erupts, flitting and floating over constant heavy percussion, conveying a sense of imminent crisis. The melody ramps into a hard hitting and frenetic pace, scurrying with delight, as the percussion marches on.

Being ‘Pixel Tsunami’s final track, ‘Shevek’s Canvas’ closes out the EP with a bang, accelerating away from ‘Square out of Place’s’ ethereal sound into a darker overall sound, with high pitched sprite-like chirps fighting against a heavier percussion base. The resulting clash is one of minimalism vs. contemporary composition, which to me is a successful spotlighting of the underlying theme to the entire EP.

Jesse W. D. James has created three works here that stand alone as impressive pieces of art. Jesse has a clear strength for composing; ‘Pixel Tsunami’ stands out as an incredible trio of unconventional chiptune music that underscores how much more room there is within the genre to grow and explore. ‘Pixel Tsunami’ was clearly created with love, and Jesse should be incredibly proud of this masterful execution that is ‘Pixel Tsunami’.

‘Pixel Tsunami’ by Jesse W. D. James is a master class, and tuition is just $3US or more on Bandcamp.com. Whether you compose music or not, ‘Pixel Tsunami’ will inspire you, and is highly recommended. Go pick it up and support Jesse’s hard work so he can continue bringing such incredible, artful music to us.

Pixel Recall (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love ~

Relevant Links:

Jesse W. D. James:
Website | Twitter | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | YouTube

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