Pentadrangle ~ Voidrun
Voidrun is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable chiptune surprises of the year. It does what its MIDI-inspired kind of electronic does best: mash genres up into unique, new-sounding music. It’s got an old-school metallic edge, which is more evident in the blast-off DOOM riff of “Korbulys”, but it’s also full of jazz fusion harmonies (“Omessah”) and complex tempos often handled via newer electronic styles, like the dubstep in “Zeth Core”. Unified by the basic, subtle distinctions of heavy electronic tones, all those genres are directed by Pentadrangle towards specific roles, so that the funk rock of “Girold Belt”, with its “soloing guitar”, builds a tense atmosphere that is nevertheless encouraging, its boops and beeps imitating, mid-song, a rap sequence that feels like a decisive (commonly electronic) break drop, thus giving the track (and the whole OST) strong momentum. These subtleties end up highlighting the power of each genre’s traditional structures, with the straightforwardly anthemic rock of “Sagoroth” thus becoming an instant head-banger, or the predictable electro break of “Hermes Station” truly coming to create excitement in its expectation. Like the “bullet hell” genre of game it is soundtracking, sophistication is configured around precision and improvisational brutality, which is to say that Voidrun continually leaps forward thanks to fast rhythms and punchy melodies, but without ever sacrificing complexity. Every track is full of little tempo shifts, short non-repeating melodies, and small surprises (like the “orchestral” drones of “Alkeer”) that make repeat listens a must. Made stronger by the digital, crunchy textures unavailable to truly old chiptune OSTs, this is an innovative bomb of an album.
Garoad ~ Yuppie Psycho
So you know those alienating moments of early vaporwave classics like Macintosh Plus’ Floral Shoppe? The ones where the pacifying intent of elevator music becomes druggedly apparent, as if they were suggesting an induced coma was the best outcome in the abject existence under late capitalism? Well, Yuppie Psycho is made up mostly of those moments. Its kitschy ambience reflects the theme of the game, which is, to put it shortly, an office horror story in which soothing banality is the jumping point for something terrible. The OST plays very well with this aesthetic, its quiet, unoffensive tones becoming ever so disturbing as the music progresses. It is narratively built into the album, however, with the traditional piano harshness and electronic atonality of “Something’s Not Right”, which marks the point at which a sense of the uncanny starts to pervade all its sounds. That’s not to say that Garoad never fully push the horror angle, but that they use the same “chill” tones that are meant to pacify, sometimes greatly distorted, sometimes pretty much the same, for the purposes of disrupting that ease. Its disturbing qualities lie in the cracks of banality, but since you never know where or when to expect them, a certain sense of paranoia is built into the music. Tracks like “Sintranet”, extracted from their context, would just sound like a vaporwave standard, but in this particular album, they make you look for cracks where perhaps there are none. The full “horror pieces” are more traditional fare, but their sequencing alongside peaceful, jazzy elevator music makes the latter suspect, a cover for something stranger, something which the office space itself has to hide. Listen to this album and be chillingly disturbed. (David Murrieta Flores)