Hit and Run
Hit and Run
Cheese en Beer
January 18, 2011
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One would think that the hardware of the original, green-and-black Game Boy would be a limiting medium to compose new music in. While certainly, almost all of us can sing the Tetris theme song in its chiptune incarnation, few of us would consider this bleep and bloop filled world to be ripe ground for the composition of new music. But apparently, it is incredibly easy to compose good music on a Game Boy.
…or at least you’d think so after listening to the effortless way that Chipocrite is able to do so on his debut album Hit and Run. Armed with an original circa 1989 Game Boy Classic, a rock and roll attitude, and specialty software (Little Sound DJ), Chipocrite aims to bring underground chiptune music to the ears of a broader audience. But is Hit and Run the album that will finally convince casual videogame music fans that indy chiptune can do more than just rehash the Tetris theme?
At eight tracks in length, but close to 40 minutes in overall playtime, Hit and Run is a solid and complex album that never feels padded or drawn out. In fact, in many cases I found myself wishing that each track went on for a little longer. “Positron” is a terrific example of this, as a main theme is not presented until close to a minute and a half in. Shades of Chipocrite’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” can almost be heard once it hits its stride at the two minute mark, but perhaps that was only because I was listening for it.
“I Quit” is the fastest track on the album, and maintains its high-energy feel throughout. While other tracks rely on a slower, funk-based feel (“Mr. Knight is in the Building”), “I Quit” blazes through its 3:15 run time ending with a triumphantly upbeat reprisal of its main theme. “Love Department” stands in sharp contrast to “I Quit” and more than doubles its run time. Playing with various tempos and themes, “Love Department” builds momentum from a progressive bassline intro, which is not entirely unexpected considering Chipocrite’s past as a bassist in a rock band. While the bassline is more Adam Clayton (U2) than Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), it clips along smartly and serves as a nice counterpoint to the higher-pitched melodies which come into the track later.
If a single were to be released from this album, I would expect it to be either “Divemaster” or “Lemonade Stand Tycoon”. In “Divemaster”, Chipocrite establishes the most lyrical feel of any track on the album. Although still pleasingly heavy in the bass department, one could- with a bit of imagination- add their own lyrics to the main melody and create a techno-crossover rock anthem. “Lemonade Stand Tycoon”, on the other hand, is the most traditionally chiptune track on the album (at least in the beginning) and would appeal to many fans of the genre because of this. The slow, pseudo-vocal builds at the midpoint of the song are upbeat and silly enough to make near anyone smile, but they stop short of detracting from the overall bright pace of the track.
When purchased from Bandcamp, Hit and Run also comes with two previously unreleased bonus tracks “Buck Fu” and “Free High Fives to the Face”. “Buck Fu” provides the most driving and diverse low register work on the album, and must be incredible to hear performed live with Chipocrite accompanying the mix with his bass. Unfortunately, it’s a bit underwhelming on the album version but is a good way to assess your subwoofer’s output all the same.
“Free High Fives to the Face” is particularly interesting, because it is the first piece of music composed by Chipocrite on Little Sound DJ. As such, the track is perhaps not as complex as some of the others on the album, but is almost pure in a raw sort of way. Whether “Free High Fives” fits with the rest of the album is, of course, up to the listener, but it is refreshing that Chipocrite didn’t omit this track as it allows a listener to appreciate how far he has progressed as a chiptune composer.
While the underground chiptune music scene has a long way to go before it is embraced by more video game music fans, Hit and Run provides a clear and enjoyable example of what a talented composition can do with a 22-year-old piece of hardware. Ultimately, the album may not be to every videogame music fan’s individual taste, but it’s certainly worth a listen if you are in the mood for some 8-bit nostalgia and fresh, modern composition. At times, it might sound like nothing more than a rollicking game of Tetris being played at a Girl Talk concert — but I don’t think Chipocrite, or his fans, would have it any other way.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Matt Diener. Last modified on August 1, 2012.