Xyce makes some of the catchiest chiptune music I’ve come across in a while that doesn’t deviate from a certain cleaned up Spectrum vibe and nowhere is it better shown that with the album “Papillions”.
Beginning with the breezy and glorious “Cloture de Jardin” you get catchy riffs and a mix of chirpy melodies that feel very Commodore in origin and a slightly crisper percussion set. The crispness fades out for “Coureur Part Deux” which is a fast paced main battle styled theme with fuzzy bass and lots of fun rising chips rustling through the noise. “Avonture au Japon” then returns to the opening chipset with the same gusto and fun. It never ceases to amaze me how you can get so much bounce and joy out of relatively little. There’s little use of stereo during this album but what is here shows in this track. “Feuilles” gives a noir swing feel and a more complex melody. There are slides, skips and echoing synths a plenty in this short track. “Grecque” is a fun play on the traditional Greek dances that start slow and speed up to a frenzy. It’s fast paced, crisp and fun.
Radix joins Xyce for “Rainbow Dash!” which is slightly more dramatic than most of the album with its darker verses and then symphonic synth leads powering out the main voice. There’s also a great synth solo in the middle and a key change for the final chorus too which makes it one of the most complete tracks on the album. “Savage I” returns briefly to the more gruff and grizzly chip set for a track which really reminds me of side scrolling shooters with its build ups and ever-present phasing bass line. “Samedi” then reprises the main theme that you’ll hear a few times in the album but in a very direct fashion before the arpeggio happy “Ombres” reprises the other main theme in a more ZX Spectrum fashion. “Fouilles” is a short crossing over of various previous themes but with slight twists on them. It also has extra chirp because it’ll do a double kick drum at the end of certain lines that you can’t help but nod your head to!
“Tempete d’Eppes” introduces a completely new theme in a more dance orientated vibe. It’s upbeat, a has a fuller feel than a lot of the previous tracks because it’s got several rolling arpeggios in the background buzzing away. “Subsonique Deux” is bass heavy and fun whilst “Savage II” sounds so familiar to some previous themes of Spectrum and Amiga games, it feels retro and amazing in an entirely different light – like the opening of an Olympic games of the 80s. “Bequille” has a clumsy roll to it that gives it an endearing whimsy feel before “Mysterieux Deux” then gives us a great slinky minor chord driven chip-synth rock out. It’s full of tons of chords and key changes and never sits still. The album rounds of with the title track where Xyce is joined by Malmen for a beautiful finale which encompasses all that came before it.
Xyce has made a very balanced album. It’s traditional in its chipset usage and that’s why its difficult to dive too deep into each song. Themes are replayed with variations, twists and nuances. Riffs and melodies spill over the speakers with ease. If chiptune is your friend, Xyce’s Papillion
is your ally.