Soundshock: FM Funk Maddness!!
Soundshock: FM Funk Maddness!!
February 11, 2011
Download at Bandcamp
Chiptune music has seen a recent resurgence in popularity as shown in the last few years. Whether it’s because of sheer nostalgia or just the creative uses of low-fidelity technology, there’s no doubt that it has become a whole genre of its own. As a tribute to this underground genre of music, eighteen artists came together and did a collaborative album. The result was Ubiktune’s Soundshock: FM Maddness!! Said to be a funky collaboration of jazzy and idm-like styles, does Soundshock deliver or fall flat?
Throughout the album, the various chiptune artists use frequency modulation synthesizers to imitate the sounds of classic consoles. A great example of this is Jake Kaufman’s “Five Nine Seven Eight”, which is extremely reminiscent of Yuzo Koshiro’s Genesis tunes with its punchy bassline and awesome synth licks. Despite the individual components being created with simple waveforms, they come together to create a composition that is far from simple. I especially enjoyed the track’s polyphonic mid-section with its full-blown synth textures and funky rhythms. Keishi Yonao’s “Crush Roll” and Dong’s “Mirror Maze” both feel as if they were ripped directly from an old-school Famicom Disk System game, with extremely authentic use of 8-bit sounds. Fulor’s “Fashion Queen” sounds like a cross between 8-bit and 16-bit synth, while “FunkOsaka” is similar in style and might as well have come from a retro beat em’ up or platformer.
“V.S.O.P.M.” gets things started with an excellent beat and light jazz-influenced synth. Not limited by any of the technology, artist Shogun goes all-out with the track’s composition and the results are great. “Ignition, Set, GO!” is one of my favorites. From the jamming melody, to the clever mixing, to the creative composition; this track is a real treat. “Ripple Boogie” is just as funky as the title suggests. The groovy synth is loud and in your face, but it isn’t a bad thing at least to my ears. This impressive track is full of various styles and I must praise the mixing yet again. Definitely a must listen on this album. zinger and bacter’s “Sky Stroll” is similar in its funky style, but the track’s addictive beat and oscillating 8-bit sounds make it stand out nicely.
Not everything on this album is a winner though. Despite being written by Japanese legend hally, “utabism – a synthesizer boy” didn’t really go anywhere musically for me. It felt kind of repetitive and I didn’t like the manipulation of Seiko Kobuchi’s vocals. “Stop and Go (Ubiktune edit)” is also a disappointment given it’s way too repetitive despite Utabi Hirokawa trying to add more composition onto the basic melody to spice things up. “Pendulum II” is no doubt an experimental piece that’s trying to give off vibes of ambience, but the results aren’t too effective either. Significantly better is “Cascades”, which starts off rather basic, but becomes more enjoyable as it progresses as more layers and phrases are introduced.
zabutom’s “Endorphemeral” and hex125’s “pf (NRTDRV funk edit)” both pay off despite being experimental. The weird static-like synth combined with the more traditional melodic chiptune makes both of these worthwhile listening experiences. “The Enemy of My Enemy’s My Enemy / No Speed Trap” is more difficult to explain. The piece successfully avoids the pitfalls of repetition by adding dramatic tension in its musical flow. It feels like a combination of “cinematic” music with some ethnic flair. All an all, another interesting listen. Among other highlights, Blitz Lunar’s “Cascade Masquerade” is a more mysterious piece with acoustic sound in addition to heavier synth, while the jazz-influenced “Oskari the Heimfanker” utilizes bold and brassy blips in addition to heavy percussion beats.
For the most part, I enjoyed this album and its homage to retro chiptune classics. With the exception of a few duds, I can say that there’s plenty of good stuff to be found here. I’m utterly impressed by the authentic production of this album, as well as the varied and inspired musical styles. Obviously, anyone who can’t stand chiptune and funk should steer clear of this album, but everyone else should find some enjoyment. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or just looking for something different, Soundshock: FM Maddness should fill your needs. It’s available as a free download, so really it’s not like you’re taking any risks by giving this one a listen. Check it out.
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Posted on April 7, 2014 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on April 7, 2014.