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.