Nerdcore Now Volume 1
Nerdcore Now Volume 1
February 7, 2011
Download at Official Site
Few genres in video game music are as polarizing as nerdcore, the mythical union of hip-hop and geek culture. Since the term was first coined in early 2000, nerdcore artists have begun surfacing from every corner of the world and have done an admirable job of recording, and promoting, their work by themselves. Unfortunately, with little to no quality control to separate the true talent from the… aspiring talent… the genre has taken a bit of a beating from both the hip-hop and gaming community over the past few years. Nerdcore Now Volume 1 is more than a reaction to this period of instability — it is the first attempt by some of nerdcore’s biggest names to establish an identity, and sound, that will stand as a testament to what the genre has to offer.
To clarify: Nerdcore Now Volume 1 is as much hip-hop as it is game music. Not every track has a clear gaming corollary and the truly hardcore fan of game music might find themselves grasping for source material to relate to. Whether this oeuvre is for you is a decision for you to make, but considering that the album is available as a free download you don’t stand to lose much on giving it a listen.
Nerdcore Now Volume 1 opens with Keith A. Moore (Beefy)’s musical history lesson “Nerdcore Now”. Few artists can match Beefy’s ability to string syllables together on the microphone, and the high-energy track is a strong opening for the album despite its somewhat lackluster hook. It is also an incredibly difficult act to follow, but thankfully Supercommuter’s “Robot Party” is up to the task as they deliver one of my favorite tracks on the album. Maybe I’m just a sucker for peppy rap songs about the robot annihilating the human race, but I found this song immensely enjoyable due to its chiptune background track, strong (distorted) vocals and tremendously upbeat energy which is equal parts Outkast and Nintendo Entertainment System.
“Warp Zone (1-2)” is a rather short track by nerdcore newcomers The ThoughtCriminals and is a strong, hip-hop heavy track to segue away from the more dancey “Robot Party”. Unfortunately, it feels far more like a segue than a song and is rather quickly forgotten as the album progresses due to its inability to distinguish itself. The Future’s “Teleport”, by contrast, is a chiptune driven hip-hop track infused with an eminently singable chorus which makes it one of the most likely tracks to be stuck in your head after listening to the album.
Soup or Villainz provides “Live in the Arcade” which feels slightly out of place on Nerdcore Now. It is a strong piece and certainly has strong has hip-hop elements, but it feels a bit too stadium rock to truly belong. That said, it’s an easy song to wave your arms in the air to regardless of whether you’re at a nerdcore concert or are listening to it at your desk at work (both are appropriate.) “I can be your Supervillain” is a funk hip-hop masterpiece by the transatlantic Milk-Plus (f. Lady DKX) which mixes social commentary and videogame references together over some gritty and loose guitar work. Lady DKX’s silky smooth vocals tie the track together perfectly, and show how wonderful nerdcore music can be when it branches out a bit.
The next two tracks are sure to be favorites with the hardcore gamer community. Adam WarRock’s “Nightcrawlin'” is an infectiously catchy biography of Marvel’s blue-skinned teleporting superhero, and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. WarRock’s vocals could use a bit of variation in terms of pitch and intensity, but they work perfectly in delivering a strong, steady flow over the background guitar hook and backbeat. Death*Star’s hip-hop homage to item selling NPCs everywhere, “Social Apothecary”, has an even, meandering vocal flow layered over a terrific Castlevania-feeling chiptune track. The mixing and production are quite excellent as well, making this one of the most polished tracks on Nerdcore Now.
“Sweeter” is a rather low-key and chill collaboration between Dale Chase and Random that brings an R&B feel to the album. The track relies almost exclusively on Random and Chase’s vocals to carry it, which is a smart move as they are two of the best rappers present on the album. They both play with each rhyme and present each verse in a slightly different style which never feels flat or boring despite the laidback feeling of the track itself. “Sweeter” may not have a lot of flash to it, but it is a strong offering because of (not in spite of) its simplicity.
No matter what its subgenre, hip-hop wouldn’t be hip-hop without a little braggadocio and Nerdcore Now Volume 1 delivers it up with a playful sense of irony. “Rap Cliché” is by far the lightest of the brag tracks mixing in a hefty dose of metahumor with PoveryMan’s half-croon, half-rap delivery. Emergency Pizza Party’s “Never going back”, by contrast, is a bit of an “off” track, as in you will want to turn it off about 30 seconds in.
The last two tracks that really grabbed my attention are, fittingly, the last two tracks on the album. MC 117’s Pokémon anthem “Bulbasaur” is perhaps my favorite track on the album, and I have yet to play a single Pokémon title. The track builds steadily from a slow, steady beginning to a headbanging, guitar-driven climax with the vocals rising to match. It is a terrific and catchy track that can stand easily on its own. “Little Crow” is slightly more confusing. If it is possible to create a chiptune surfer rap track, Untested Methods managed to do it and they did it well. The acoustic guitar work and chiptune background work perfectly with the alternative rock vocals that seem glaringly out of place with the rest of the album. The rapping element is great, and the song is quite catchy, but hardcore nerdcore it is not.
It is difficult to anticipate what the individual listener’s reaction to Nerdcore Now Volume 1 will be. With so many styles represented on the album, certain tracks will likely fail to impress some listeners while others will embrace them without reservation. This creative range is what makes the nerdcore movement so popular, but when compiled on a single album it feels slightly erratic. With ambient tracks bumping up against tongue-in-cheek braggadocio, straight up hip-hop, acid funk, and chiptune dance tracks it’s impossible to find a single sound to define the nerdcore movement.
However, with so many diverse tracks to choose from I think Nerdcore Now Volume 1‘s true purpose is to provide representations of all of the various musical styles present in nerdcore and allow the listener to decide what the “real” sound is. Give the album a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find one or two tracks that you won’t be able to stop singing along to.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Matt Diener. Last modified on August 1, 2012.