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Ben Landis – “Adventures in Pixels” Review

Ben Landis has gone one slightly beyond a lot of MP3 album releases. Where others place a picture of their album in the mp3 player screen, he has used each of his tracks to place a readable comic in them! As a result each track corresponds to one of the pages of the comic. It’s a fabulous idea and really adds to the wonderful chiptune album he’s created.

Things are definitely chirpy on the album. After the fanfare title opener and the cute “Chickens” we have “Mayhem in the Village” which is fully fleshed out with some catchy chords and multi layering of chip sets. The result is a fun, enjoyable and full sounding shuffle track. “Matt’s Theme” is suitably upbeat and has some regal qualities about during the slower sections before the drums return for the four chord refrain. “Defeat Dinosaurs” seems to change the drums for something more 16 bit/MIDI esque for the big rousing theme. It doesn’t quite fit the rest of the sound but the actual melody is catchy and fantastic. “Mountain” sounds really familiar as the song progresses from its main bass riff before the short but sweet “Frontier” which offers a quiet but actually complex break from the rousing themes so far.

“Castle” gets things back to chugging themes with something akin to a side scrolling platformer. It builds into a great chorus as many of the tracks do here. “The Scripted Battle” takes credit for not breaking out the percussion and getting dramatic and fierce without it. It makes it such a more interesting track and your really into the synth stabs when they and forming the spine of the song. “Awakening” suddenly brings out a proper piano synth from nowhere before out lovely chip sets return for a technical wizardry track where different sound banks are fading in and out. The sudden upgrade of technology continues with “Voices of Experience” where MIDI strings back the baseline of the track while the chips form the main voice melody. The two mesh very well and you almost forget up until just a minute ago it was chiptune all the way.

“Through the Forest” is a playful track with a really bouncy beat and melody. Its got a real shuffle in its step and a bit of jazzy hands blues to it too. Beautiful. “Terrible Tarantuloid” ups the ante with a throbbing beat and immediacy in the tune itself which is well constructed. “Power Up” sounds more like a continue screen whilst “High Stakes” brings in MIDI piano and guitar for a really different sound altogether. “Final Words” is a joyful track with a crude guitar strum sample that makes you smile as the main theme bashes out at high-speed in euphoria. “Breakthrough” is like a warm refrain. It’s cute and sounds like a score screen after you’ve completed a level. “Credits Music for an 8-bit RPG” is ultra cute with its four chord salute to all things end credits as the story comes to satisfying end. The album has two bonus tracks though and that’s “Matts Theme” and “Frontier” given a modern-day live feel. The former is utterly beautiful in an orchestral reawakening while the latter sounds much more well suited to this arrangement than the chiptune version.

Ben Landis has made an outstanding album. Brimming with smiles, personality, catchy riffs and hooks and a cute little comic for you to look at with each track. It’s a fantastic entry point for chiptune newbies and a firm flagship product for anyone wishing to promote the genre. I feel like I want to cartwheel until morning!

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