Retro-Active Pt. 2
Retro-Active Pt. 2
Brave Wave Music
February 5, 2016
Download at Bandcamp
Retro-Active Pt. 2 is Keiji Yamagishi’s second original album, a follow-up to Retro-Active Pt. 1 released last year. This second album continues his vision of crafting new works with the help of chiptune sounds, though not exclusively limited to these instruments. Again, Yamagishi provides six new original tracks, and an extra remix is also included on the album. Where the first album was brighter leaning on party dance numbers, this second album changes things up a bit and has an edgier sound, taking a more industrial inspiration throughout.
The album knocks it out of the part right from the get-go with “Thought Police”, an incredibly catchy track with an aggressive stomping beat that is an absolute delight. Yamagishi shows his mastery of synth sounds though the varied blend of instruments found in the track, coming together quite richly in a busy arrangement. He always knows when to let certain synths slide their pitch and which ones to keep on a stable in a way that helps the natural voicing of the melodies of the song. The variety of musical figures as well as the rhythmic shifts throughout the track keep it interesting over its length, lending also to some wonderful build ups in the track as well, letting loose in the final section. Its a track that I can easily listen to on repeat.
Although the album perhaps never quite reaches again the heights of that first track, it’s all still very solid material from here. The second track is a collaboration with Ryuichi Nitta, another Ninja Gaiden composer. It starts rather unassumingly before building up its elements into another upbeat dance track. Its central melody isn’t as engrossing, but there’s a lot of other things going on as support which help the track, especially when it all builds upon the central melody at the end. Its kindred energetic spirit is “Chaotic Code” a few tracks later, which gets stronger as it progresses, starting with a dance feel before bringing out more of a rock influence with a prominent electric guitar, ending the track with some figures reminiscent of “Thought Police”. It has a great development throughout that leads to a strong conclusion, and overall the track is a lot of fun.
A couple of more laid back tracks are also present. “Nobody Knows Me” is a track with a great wistful, lyrical melody that captures its title well. The synth really seems to sing, and it does a good job of selling its wordless story. His use of counterpoint is noticeable in the choruses here too, though it actually shows up in many of the tracks on the album, which is really great to hear. The sounds here are a bit airier and light, floating around though still pressing forward with its narrative at a moderate tempo. “We, Robots” is considerably funkier with a nice bassline and bit of electric guitar as well. It’s not as strong in the melody department, but its infectious atmosphere makes up for it with a couple of disco-esque riffs and an alternation between the soulful melody with more groovy segments.
The closing track “Eastern Sky” and its remix by Saori Kobayashi are both lighter, pleasant tracks. The original certainly leans on a oriental sound in its composition, and the higher pitched synths make me think of bird songs. I also like the haziness of some of the underlying sounds that adds to the atmosphere. There is a nice reduced section for a bridge, but the busier moments with counterpoint really shine as well. Its remix takes a very similar approach to the track, mainly changing things up in the instrumentation with a bit slower of a tempo. Here Kobayashi mixes instruments like piano and strings with alternative synths, while keeping the pace and structure of the track. The oriental feel of the track is enhanced here, with the use of the pentatonic scale brought out more in the chords, as well as in the choice of instruments. Overall things are a bit more subdued, allowing the album to come to an eased close. A lovely finish.
Retro-Active Pt. 2 is another very fun album from Keiji Yamagishi, with a deft blend of chiptunes alongside more conventional instruments and synths. Continuing the success from the first album, Yamagishi takes this album to a couple of other musical influences so that it doesn’t at all feel like he is simply repeating himself. He really knows how to bring out a lyrical melody and sell it through the medium, and his fleshed out accompaniments and the usages of counterpoint provide an engaging backdrop. It’s a great companion to his original album, and anyone who enjoys chiptune influenced music should check it out. Hopefully Pt. 3 is not too far away!
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Posted on February 6, 2016 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on February 6, 2016.