If Daft Punk decided to create music to late 80's Japanese shmups, this is their Gradius soundtrack.
I'm a sucker for story based albums, especially with stories set in space. Luckily I get quite my fill of such albums from the chiptune genre, but no matter how many chiptune space opera's I hear, it will never be enough. JKLOL is the latest album is this proud niche of a niche OF A NICHE of a genre. (Chiptune space opera, a genre I am dubbing right now. Dubbed.)
The album kicks off raucously enough with Plug Me in Baby. Considering this is part 3 of some galactic adventure I am suddenly thrust into, I can't help but consider this the opening flashback sequence that gets me all caught up, or maybe the kind of music that would play during the Star Wars-esque intro scene to the "8-Bit Crusades." Honestly though, I can't imagine just watching a boring wall of text during this bouncy intro.
Sirens kicking off the second track, System Error, making me think of 'Aerodynamic' the second track of Discovery by Daft Punk with those warning bells. Not comparing the two, but an interesting coincidence. This track also feature's Glenntai, and you can feel his imposing style on this track, making this one of the more intense pieces on the album. That also set's it up perfectly for my favorite track on the album
Winter Chill absolutely kills the album for me (in the good way). I'm writing this at 2AM and it's still breaking 80 degrees outside. I'm dying. The meandering beat on this track creates a calm, cool feeling that I want to keep deep in my bones forever, especially since I can't afford air conditioning. The digital waves splashing on a rocky shore, the time-wasting notes. They all create one of the few relaxing moments on the album. This is the track I would hit repeat on before heading into cryogenic sleep for a long trek across intergalactic space.
Power is basically if shmups had soundtracks with lyrics, especially if the ship you pilot is sentient (or haunted). I heartily endorse such a world. The Oracle has a winding feeling that leads right into the meat of the album, the (tied for) longest track on the album, Quest (Feat. Rade Dobison), Unfortunately, I'm not as familiar with the likes of Lucy Black and Rade Dobison as I am with Glenntai, so it's difficult to separate them from JKLOL's style on these tracks. What I can say, is JKLOL's pace is crisp when he's collaborating, so I would love to see more of this (even though, how do chiptune collabs even work?).
Don't think I didn't catch that elongated Pac-Man death to kick off Survive. This is another track featuring Glenntai, and the frenetic beats will assure you it's true. I can feel JKLOL's high's pasting melodic beats, trying to reign in Glenntai's rapidfire attack, like a wild horse, and it makes for a track as intense as the title suggests. I assume this is the 'trying to escape the gravity of an alien planet in a ship you just repaired with old gum and native plants' theme.
JKLOL has to go it alone to finish off the album. It kicks off with an almost nod to the Moon theme of Ducktales. You can't unhear it. Initially, I said this album the lyrical shmup soundtrack of my dreams, well JKLOL absolutely makes sure that's the case on the album's epic closer, Back to Earth. I want this to be the credits to every space thing ever. One thing no one thinks about in a galaxy spanning video game like Gradius or R-type... I hope you have enough gas to get home. and this is the track that will be bumping on the long trip home.
If you grab the album for $5, you'll get another album's worth of bonus tracks that you can't stream anywhere. I'm not going to review them today, but I will say that I can't say no to a chiptuned dance party of a Persona remix. Not to mention a couple Katamari Damacy covers and some Shovel Knight as well. Constant shout outs to Virt. The initial album is worth the entry fee, so the extra collection of covers and remixes are just the delicious smothering of whip cream on top.
For an artist that doesn't even use every tag he can add into bandcamp, there is an amazing array of styles on this album. I absolutely adore albums that span a vareity of genre's but without the requisite knowledge in each genre, the album could come off sounding phony. JKLOL avoids this trap by teaming up with artists of other chiptune styles, and getting a crash course through the way they build music. Not to mention that JKLOL makes it onto a very small list of chiptune artists that actually include lyrics along with their wacky vocoder crap (also in a good way).