Chip Bits: The Depreciation Guild – Spirit Youth

I first stumbled across Famicom indie rockers The Depreciation Guild way back in 2006 before the first Blip Festival and was immediately sucked into their absorbing, 8-bit infused shoegazey rock sound. While many artists drawing from the chip music world focus on a purist approach revolving around a favored piece of old school gaming hardware, this group used the retro bleeps and noise hits to drive a very different kind of musical vibe awash in reverb-laden guitars and subdued melodies. Their second full length album, Spirit Youth, showcases an incredible amount of polish and a substantive evolution in the band’s sound.

Listening to Spirit Youth, it’s clear the band has grown and undergone some changes over the years. Where their first album In Her Gentle Jaws showcased more of a raw, edgy sound that was bathed heavily in the pleasant sounds of the Nintendo Famicom, Spirit Youth ventures into musical territory situated on the poppier, safer end of the spectrum. The 8-bit sounds are frequently relegated to the background on most tracks,  leaving the listener wondering if there even there at times. That’s a bit disappointing, considering how prominently they factored into the earlier songs – something I enjoyed immensely about the band’s music. But the familiar 8-bit sounds do shine through the highly polished studio mix, and the songwriting remains as tight as ever.

It took some time to adjust to the melded sound, but Spirit Youth got it’s hooks in me soon enough. While the opener, My Chariot, immediately fired off an introductory barrage of NES synth arpeggios, it was the upbeat and melancholy bounce of Crucify You that first grew on me. Midway through the album, the melodic Sonic Youth-esque guitar licks in Trace blended nicely with the subtle downward synth drone in the chorus, making for another standout track. Through the Snow‘s urgent, driving beat and strong undercurrent of pulse channel noodling was equally appealing. Other songs filled in the gaps pleasantly, showcasing the band’s tight musicianship, meticulous guitar work, and ample vocal prowess. There’s not a dud among the lot, though the stylistic peaks and valleys between tracks doesn’t seem as stark as those found among the group’s prior work. 

Compared to In Her Gentle Jaws, The Depreciation Guild’s latest effort is a very different animal. It’s a big departure that perhaps plays it safe a little too often. Yet this follow-up album is a tightly crafted effort that I can highly recommend nonetheless. You can pick up a copy of Spirit Youth from Kanine Records.

New 8-bit Indie Tunes Free Download

Ok, I’ve been “chipping” away at writing and recording some new 8-bit indie rock tunes using my old school Game Boy DMG, LSDJ, and my trusty old six string. I’ve got three new tunes recorded at the moment for what will be my next full album, and I’m posting this here for regular readers to check out, download, and provide feedback on. These tunes don’t have names yet, they’re not necessarily the final mixes, and they’re simply the first pass at recording and mixing the tunes. I’d love to get some feedback on these few songs, particularly in how they contrast to the six songs on The Beacon e.p. (which you can still download for free, by the way, but I do like $3 donations for the effort). In any event, here are the three new songs for you to check out and critique:

Song 1 (download here)
Song 2 (download here)
Song 3 (download here)

Nintendo Power August 2010 issue Contributions

I’ve been a huge fan of NES cover band the Minibosses for many years now, and it was incredibly fun to be able to sit down and have a long phone interview with guitarist Aaron Burke a little while back to chat about the band’s history, the game music cover scene, and their future. While a portion of our interview was for research for Geek Beat Manifesto, I worked a fair chunk of it into a Community feature for Nintendo Power on the band’s 10 year innversary. That appears in the August issue on page 94. Also, my first Play Back piece remeniscing about the charm of Final Fantasy Adventure on Game Boy appears on page 84.

Off to PAX East!

Heading off to PAX East for the weekend for a serious explosion of geek awesome. Equal parts work trip, book research opportunity,  and chance to totally nerd out, my trek to Boston for the East Coast debut of PAX  should be a wild time. I’ll be covering the convention for various print and online outlets as well as likely posting some other stuff here about my time. Check back next week for links to my coverage and a rundown of how things went.

Chip Bits: Wizwars – Game Boy Rock

I like that Kevin Hagge decided  on an abbreviated chip music moniker that blends imagery of sword-wielding heroes and fireball casting magic users. And the classic NES reference certainly does not escape me. As Wizwars, he busts out some hard to resist Game Boy tunes in the oh-so-lovely 8-bit aesthetic that titillates my cranium. On Game Boy Rock, Hagge’s particular blend of chiptunes falls somewhere between fist pounding chiptune rock and super catchy dance tracks. It’s been on heavy rotation in my iPod for a few weeks now, keeping me company on trips to GameStop and the super market.

Each song on this short e.p. is tightly crafted and chock full of delicious melodies. Game Boy Rock has been out for a while, but that’s no reason to pass it by. You can download the album for free or support Wizwars by spending human money to purchase a hard copy on CD for $8. Either way, check it out.

Chip Bits: The J. Arthur Keenes Band

The J. Arthur Keenes Band is not a band. It is in fact one quiet fellow from Canada who makes one hell of a pretty noise with a  Game Boy, a guitar, and a voice. That’s all you need to rock, apparently. Though bummed that I missed his set at Blip Fest 09 due to being snowed-in, I did download his free album “Pamplemousse.” After burning it into my eardrums on near-constant repeat for weeks, I can safely say it’s possibly one of the best chiptune EPs I’ve heard in some time.  Made of four tracks full of melody, melancholy, and rocking mayhem, this is one download you don’t want to miss. What are you waiting for? Do it! Do it now!