Well, this is a first for Arcade Attack, an album review! Now, I’m clearly not qualified to critique music so you’ll have to take this review with a pinch of salt. Bearing that in mind though, I know what I like, and I like this! It’s been a good while since we featured 8 Bit Weapon (two years next month to be precise) – Seth & Michelle are back with a self-titled album which I think improves on the Ambient stylings of “Disassembly Language: Ambient Music for Deprogramming Vol. 1” which had me smitten back in 2016.
This album, in their own words, is about “exploring the outer reaches of the Game Boy’s 8-bit CPU/4-bit sound chip, especially it’s dynamic wave channel sound manipulation capacity”. So, it’s a homage to the humble 4-bit, mixing in the 8-bit bass and beats from the Commodore 64 and you’ve got an album any retro gamer would love to have on their shelves. I say shelves, you can download it here.
From the outset it’s obvious that this isn’t ambient. It’s upbeat, in-your-face and would grace any indie retro game. Dungeon Crawler Brawler’s catchy riff will stay in your head for weeks to come whilst its stompy bass and beat will have your downstairs neighbours pulling their hair out as you do your best Robotnik impression across the room. The song is so catchy I played it several times before listening to the rest of the album. The pace doesn’t let up, Electronic Blips is a rather apt name for the second track, echoey blips laid over a bouncy beat that makes you wanna strut (those poor neighbours), the Game Boy and C64 dovetailing to epic proportions. This album took two years and the level of detail becomes more and more obvious the further you get into it.
XP DMG TKNO’s title is a lovely nod in the direction of our beloved hobby retro gaming. Expecting a slow-down in the action? No chance. Icy 4-bit organs rain down onto a sheet of C64 ice and it’s haunting. I’m chillier than Scrooge McDuck in the Himalayan levels of Duck Tales. the waaah (too many A’s there?) of the C64 synth bass is just too great but is this track a bit too short? Perhaps. Perhaps I’m a glutton who will loop the track three times for my own enjoyment. Nintechnoid is in my opinion the weakest track on the album, its parts not quite meshing together. But it’s still a jaunty dance tune reminiscent of the mid-90s scene nonetheless.
Ends Well That All’s Well (no, that’s not a typo) is a Final Fantasy-esque drift-off that brings the main part of the album to a close. I almost fell asleep to it, but that’s most certainly a compliment. An extended version of Nintechnoid and a remix of Dungeon Crawler Baller bring the package to a close. The SID Synthwave Remix of DCB is a welcome addition – it’s like owning a Mega (SEGA) CD version of the original, but the original still trumps it (bonus racing level and all). The extended version of Nintechnoid could probably have replaced the original but the more music we get the better, right?
And I guess that’s the final point I want to make. Whilst this offering is more inviting, alluring to retro gamers of the early 90s than the previous ambient offering, the album is so short it makes you yearn for more. I really don’t think the masses would mind five-minute-long DCB, Electronic Blips or XP DMG TKNOs. The skill required to make the equipment sing is vast, way beyond our capabilities and 8 Bit Weapon must be applauded for that. Just give us more.
8 Bit Weapon by 8 Bit Weapon is available to download from Bandcamp at a snip of a price ($5)