Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pixel Passions Get You Arcade High

Arcade High has always had a individualised sound; a mixture of 80s synth and ChipTune sounds that  compliment each other in perfect balance. This signature is, surprisingly, very uncommon, but in being so individual it makes the Arcade High experience instantly recognisable. Making this balance capture the listener's imagination is an art that this producer has made work spectacularly well with his new album Pixel Passion.

Last year's Beauty Queen from Arcade High (reviewed on Synthetix.FM here) was one of 2012's highlights. Its beautifully crafted synth romance was much more strictly 80s influence and eschewed much of the ChipTune soundscapes that his previous release, Art Of Youth was driven by. Pixel Passions takes the tones of both and finds a meeting point where emotion and passion meet digital evolution and the results are warm, uplifting and full of inspiration.

I can't stress enough just how well the balance between ChipTune elements and classic 80s synth work together on this record. Every track contains both styles but they're never in competition with each other and instead form a harmonious atmosphere. The opening introductory and title track personifies this. I'm sometimes reminded of Japanese bands like Capsule through this piece with its sweetly joyous melodies and looped vocals. This is a great part of the magic of this album in general in that the ChipTune pieces are never harsh or abrasive, as often ChipTune music can be. Instead a warmth and lightness has been refined through the 8 and 16bit sounds that allow them to feel more organic and in symbiosis with the more robust synth sounds.

Of course the melodies Arcade High composes are what makes these instruments sing with such a candy coated gloss. 'One Year Ago' takes a decidedly 8bit lead melody and weaves lustrous 80s tones through the music with the gentleness of a pink cumulus adrift in lavender skies. This lushly coloured and dreamy texture is continued into 'High Score Summer' as the glows become brighter and the melodies as full of inspiration, taking the sounds ever onward to victory.

Pixel Passion takes an interesting turn with  track four, 'Without You' featuring the vocals of Hannah Edwards. The off kilter nature of this piece with it's fragile arrangements and heartfelt lyrics take the Arcade High sound into much more modern atmospheres. The music feels very close and intimates to the listener directly, but retains a supremely poppy quality that turns hearts neon and tears to stars.

Shattering the intimations of the'Without You' is 'Outrun This!' which finds Arcade High opening up the throttle on and blasting full force into high energy OutRun with a devil may care attitude and a thirst for velocity. The ChipTune elements are used spectacularly well, with the synth powered engine being directly injected by 8bit samples for pure sounds of speed.

Introspective and intimate sounds return in the aptly titled 'A Moment Of Clarity' which strips things back to a similar thematic to the opening title track be devoid of vocals. Melodies are bubbling and bright, coloured with pastel palette and deliver a whimsical softness that is very engaging. The next song, 'Running To You' brings the romance back to Pixel Passions with it's yearning robotic refrains baring their digital soul through the hazy synthscapes.

I think the most Capsule-esque track on the album is the dangerously catchy 'Up Down Left Right'. An experience which takes most of the Konami code and turns it into a chopped up synth pop extravaganza. It takes a strong will to resist this track's infectious nature, and even the most stalwart will hear the echoes of those directional commands long after the music has ended.

This leads the album into the darker parts of the Arcade High manifesto in the piece 'Night Of The Genesis'. I wouldn't call this dark synth, but it's colours are definitely casting pronounced shadows. Rhythms are rife with danger and adventure while the lead synths are restrained and introspective, providing delightful contrast to the other tracks on the album. I think this piece may have had more contextual impact if placed more towards the middle of the album, but that's just my own feelings.

Finishing off the album is another text book Arcade High synth romance track entitled 'Look Into My Eyes'. The glowing positivity of this track would warm even the coldest heart and rekindle many a romantic flame. Once again Arcade High manages to make ChipTune melodies intimately delightful, without a trace of coarseness. The final seconds of this track dissipate into the ether like the sun just dipping below the horizon, the light fading but the warmth still felt within.

This new outing from Arcade High does a great deal to solidify this producer's individuality and relevance; his sounds feel matured and contain a genuine honesty in each track. It does feel on occasion that some pieces feel older, or newer, than others due to diverse nature but whether this is true or not is moot as the overall experience takes the listener through so much variety while staying true to the Arcade High sound.

Arcade High's Pixel Passion is presented by Telefuture Records on their Bandcamp page here, and I must mention the incredibly rockin limited edition NES Cartridge packaging currently available, but this may have sold out by the time you're reading this. It's this amount of care and love that goes not only into the presentation but into every track on Pixel Passion. I think Arcade High really put a lot himself into this release and I hope he continues to make such a personal investment in his music. Synthetix.FM very highly recommends this album as its genuinely an experience unlike anything else in the scene and that alone should be supported and encouraged by all devotees of 80s inspired synth music.

1 comment: