Last March I wrote that “…we should be so lucky to get a follow-up album in the future” from Marissa Hapeman after reviewing her chiptune debut ‘Pretty in Pixels’. Forget luck. Marissa Hapeman returns with explosive fervour with her second major chip-release ‘Solstice’.
Tease your musical palette with ‘Waiting For Good News’–
–then dive into the full ‘Solstice’ review continued below!
‘Solstice’ has a much deeper tone than its predecessor ‘Pretty In Pixels’, exploring much darker themes with extended drones and tinkering with flowing, uninterrupted synth notes to create a sense of tumultuous exploration through uncharted territory. Confidence is clear throughout ‘Solstice’, exemplified through choice of melodies that routinely act as torch-lit guides through Hapeman’s more haunting bass-laden foundations.
Hapeman’s style is upbeat, effervescent and cascading. A forceful display of technique through simplicity rules here; Hapeman accomplishes a lot without overwhelming or unnecessarily tacking on needless extra elements. Every track on ‘Solstice’ feels lean and polished to its bare essentials, culminating in a fervent follow-up album to be whole-heartedly embraced.
‘Big Bad Crush’ bursts immediately into its mainstay bending melody over a hi-hat and drum kit in a real experiment in minimalistic execution. Droning and extended tones serve to fill ‘Big Bad Crush’ to the brim, then pitch those same unending drones into melodies and harmonies, executing with wistful ease.
‘Under A Neon Sign’ takes its cues from ‘Big Bad Crush’, but digs a little deeper and delves a little darker. There are hints of 80s blade-running influences and use of repetition creates a competition between breaking new ground and the safety of the familiar. The same can be said for the overall theme of ‘Solstice’ with few exceptions: creation is a struggle between the unfamiliar and the safe. Is what could come more important than what has come? Risks reap rewards, a theme not lost on Hapeman.
‘Run and Find Yourself A Way’ veers into much more positive fare than the previous two tracks and separates itself from the pack with an alluring flute-like melody flitting over a no-frills electronic drum kit foundation. Exploration really begins within ‘Solstice’ during ‘Run and Find Yourself A Way’, toying with muted harmonies alongside cascading alternate borderline-improvisational melodies, and conveying a sense of Icarus’ complex: how close is too close to fly to the sun? Too low and you won’t see anything new, too high and risk melting your wings and falling from grace. Hapeman finds a niche-middle ground that creates comfort alongside experimentation with surprising success.
‘Waiting For Good News’ is by far and away the track with the most to say throughout ‘Solstice’. A palpable sense of triumph through adversity resonates throughout ‘Waiting for Good News’ (aptly named by the way) with an enveloping melodic tone, twinkling chirps, and much more purposefully positive harmonies to offer a sense of hope around the corner while fretting over the possibility of bad news. Hapeman’s deceptive minimalistic choices throughout ‘Solstice’ pack hidden emotional punches on repeat listens that reward and delight.
‘Spiked Punch’ takes a dip into grit with a pitch-down melody over a droning continuous bass that sets a foreboding tone despite an upbeat drum kit and tempo. Grungy harmonies play with the theme of foreboding and toeing the line for instigating some questionable high school prom liquor-dumping shenanigans.
‘Oh $#^%’ veers left immediately into grunge-town boss-battle territory, separating itself from the pack with a clever affront of deep bass tones and high-energy fruitful melodies that demand attention; rising from above the clockwork kits with spearheaded purpose. Easily the heaviest track on the album, ‘Oh $#^%’ lets it all hang out with wild abandon; embracing departure as Hapeman delivers a final knockout blow capping ‘Solstice’ off with a bang.
Marissa Hapeman’s climb up the sheer rock face of chiptune finds footing with purposeful stride, a focus on impactful simplicity, and strength in foundation. ‘Solstice’ delivers on Hapeman’s promise for more to come and raises her bar even higher. If this is Marissa’s trajectory, round 3 is going to explode.
‘Solstice’ by Marissa Hapeman is available now on bandcamp for $5USD (or more). Grab a copy and continue to support this burgeoning chip-talent.
PixelRecall ~ (R. Morgan Slade) ~ Support the artists you love