Get ready…fight! Okay, so that might’ve been pulled straight from Dead Or Alive, but Punch Out!! isn’t a million miles away. 1983 was the year, and now, in 2015, it looks like it’s returned to the ring for one more challenge. The classic Nintendo game may have spawned the beat ’em ups that we see today. Now, generations and decades later, the world has moved on (and not necessarily leveled up), but the original still holds influence: it’s the inspiration for Roped Off Is Waiting For Your Challenge!! Are you ready? Insert your coin to play.
“This Is A Story Of True Victory” has a laser-like synth that snakes around infinity. A loading screen that takes forever and a day makes way for the first level and the first encounter; pulsating synths that interlock with other subtle rhythms and lines of sleek code to create never-ending cycles and spirals, hovering over the music with its computerized crop circles of synth.
Mike Haley and Dave Doyen, co-hosts of the tape podcast Tabs Out, have a clear affinity for classic video gaming, contemporary art and old school synth-work, and this is something you’d easily hear either during a pitch-black game of laser tag or in the arcades of late July. 8-bit sounds and video game samples are crushed together with thick, red-blooded synths that course through the music. Some sounds writhe around like slimy tentacles slithering out of a Lovecraft tale as they pulse and sway to mystical rhythms. In a way, video games transport us to another, alternate dimension. The beautiful arc of a Halo, or the dusty, red dunes of Mars in Destiny – they drop us off in a world that can be just as alien as the slippery synth.
These live sessions stretch past 25 minutes each. A high pitched frequency and a stuttering beep slowly move through the sewers of the mushroom kingdom, and the treble-thin air inside the tunnel masks and suffocates the bass. This is a darker track that should probably ship with an 18 certificate. The dull 8-bit rumbles glint dimly like diamonds in the earth. Their chirpy sounds are a relief against the low thud of the sinister synth. There’s some kind of progressive malevolence, as if the music were leading up to a dangerous boss fight. The deeper notes disappear, and the music is left to stretch over the yawning gulfs of sparse synth. Once we’re safely across, we’re treated to a pixelated trophy that sparkles with its 8-bit gold, and a level complete interlude rings out. At this stage, it’s most definitely game over, despite the blood, sweat and tears. You can game in front of your television, but it will still drag you out of reality, and that’s just what the music does. This is a knockout blow, and Roped Off is the winner. As Sega used to say, to be this good takes ages. (James Catchpole)