Soundshock 2: FM Funk Terrror!!
Soundshock 2: FM Funk Terrror!!
April 5, 2012
Download at Bandcamp
Following upon the success of the free chiptune compilation album Soundshock: FM Funk Maddness, a sequel followed suit in 2012. The release featured returning artists such as Jake Kaufman, Keishi Yonao, and album director zinger alongside new ones such as Joshua Morse, Shnabubula, and Ubiktune label founder C-jeff. With a killer team of chiptune artists, FM Funk Terrror delivers a similar, yet fresher experience that proves to be even more enjoyable than the original.
One thing that’s immediately apparent with Soundshock 2 is the extended length of the tracks. Unlike the previous album which had average runtimes, most of the tracks here have expansive durations of about 5-6 minutes. As such, much more development and creativity is added, and the artists have to do even more to make the most out of the limited chiptune sound capabilities. An excellent example is Bomb Boy’s “Back Alley Clash.” Creeping synth sets up the scene as a gangster-filled urban neighborhood filled with crime and other illegal activities. Distant police sirens can be heard in the background as the main melody of techno synth begins to show itself. At the two minute mark, the style changes into pulsing electronic synth. The scene has also changed, and now we’re in a nightclub with colorful lights, dancing, and conversation. The infectious music continues on for the rest of the night as people go about their own activities.
The opener “A Journey in Modulating Time” is also a “cinematic chiptune”. It begins off mysteriously with a metallic/clicking melodic theme and ambient synth in the background. Gradually, more synth and instruments are added on, the piece gets groovier, and gradually intensifies the pace. It feels as if the time machine is beginning its course, with the input of all the instruments, and a sense of wonder and excitement is evoked. By 2:10, we can hear a slight rock influence in the melody and this rock influence emanates until the track shifts into a more techno style. The rest of the track feels more improvised, using the various styles it has established in turn. By the end, the piece goes back into its mysterious nature by slowing down subtly. The journey through time has come to its close. As with “Back Alley Clash,” this track really shows that, even with limited technology, composers can still craft wondrous and magnificent themes that paint scenic pictures.
In addition to the more cinematic, progressive tracks, there are plenty of other exciting highlights. Joshua Morse’s “FLAVA Bomb” announces its jazz/techno flavorings right from the get-go. This fun and groovy track is a real treat to listen to with its great use of 16-bit-esque brassy synth and deep bass beats. It never outstays its five minute runtime, and the piece is constantly changing things to make the overall experience interesting. Penned by chiptune veterans Jake Kaufman and Shnabubula, “Where’s My Z Pack?” and “Bubble Bath Aftermath” are both funky pieces with deep techno synth. “There is No Answer” is a great fusion of 8 and 16-bit synth along with the main rock melody, while “Space Gaucho” is the exact opposite by being a more laid-back and airy piece. Courtesy of Preschtale extraordinaire C-jeff, “FMriller” returns to the hard rock approach, and the 8-bit chiptune synth gives this piece a funky and melodic feel at the same time.
The highlights continue with “Machine Wave”, which is notable for utilizing haunting Japanese vocals with its acoustic synth. The performances really work well with the piece’s electronic style, making it a really memorable track. “Yamaha Action” is appropriately named as it sounds like a talented composer pulled every trick possible from a Yamaha keyboard and concocted a creative piece that’s full of excellent melodies and composition. “Funk Destruction / Bitcrush Lullaby” is comprised of two portions. The former is a techno/rock inspired riff, while the latter is mellower and calm. Both complement each other rather nicely with their opposite styles working off of one another.
Even shorter tracks like “Hypergirl Battlesquad” and “Megabits per Second” bring enough to the table to stand out with approaches that are jazzy and eccentric at the same time. “Chomp” is also reminiscent of this style, however with more emphasis on the jazz in addition to acoustic synth. “And This is UltraSound” briefly utilizes a rather clear-sounding male announcer’s voice before going into its rock/organ main portion. To me, it sounds like a combination of an underground radio station with an 8-bit final boss theme. Needless to say, the fusion is successful. We finish the album off with “Fluvial Beat Deposits” by Simon Stålenhag. Whether intentional or not, it puts all previous styles from the other tracks together into one effective closure piece. There’s not too much else to say, other than it simply works amazingly.
Whew! What a ride that was! While the original was inspired, I can say with utmost certainty that this sequel album is a huge step up from its predecessor. First off, there are no weak tracks to speak of, which is already a plus. The artists and their compositions sound even stronger than before. While the previous release was rather standard chiptune fare, Soundshock 2 gives off vibes and emotions that the original did not have. Hats off to all the artists who contributed to this album. I’m even surprised that this is given away as a free download, as it would easily be worth paying for. As I stated in my last review, don’t bother listening if you don’t like chiptunes and funk. However, to all else, check it out. If you’ve ever had any doubts over if chiptune music can be a substantial listening experience, look no further than Soundshock 2.
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Posted on April 17, 2014 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on April 17, 2014.