Brain Wave Productions burst into life late last year with the amazing World 1-2 and World 1-2 Encore collaboration albums (review incoming) and they have bounced straight back with the twelve track beauty that is “In Flux”.
What the brand does is pitch chip tune and VGM styled music into a unique setting and banner. Opener “Iridescence” (Marius Masalar) takes a very well-known theme that is best associated with the Olympics and sprinkles a little chip tune over the top. It’s sweeping strings and heartfelt piano takes the lead, but there’s a shower of electronic bleeps behind it and it’s a nice introduction to a more meatier album. “Diamond” (Monomirror) instead goes 100% chip set with a crunchy beat and plenty of mid tempo arpeggios making the undercurrent for a heavy dance synth to shine over the top. It feels spacious and free. “Blue Star feat Tim McCord” (Manami Matsumae) sits somewhere between the two with a traditional late 90’s styled RPG track slowly unfolding whilst fun chip sets make up some of the percussion. However the track utterly evolves for the second half where stadium rock guitar blasts in to make it a real crowd pleasing finale to the track.
“Wish I Were You feat Akira Yamaoka” (Jim Guthrie) brings Jim’s lost and lazy vocal delivery out from the usual folksy surroundings into something darker and more gritty. The original version of this track from his album is fantastic and this adds a new element to it that let’s Akira showcase his amazing guitar skills – superb! “Slime Crust feat Eirik Suhrke” (Keiji Yamagishi) is a joyfully bouncy track that reminds me of a final battle crossed with an airship theme that takes place in a toy factory. I love its enthusiasm for each note it hits and it’s a hit with me. “Putting the Beacons to Bed feat Manami Matsumae” (Stemage) is a beautiful track of acoustic and electric guitars and a slight vintage feel to the production as there is a vinyl hiss in the quieter moments. It’s a beautiful build up from gentle strumming to complex guitar solos and glittering chords. “Manta Ray” (PolarBirds) is a beautifully warm chip track. It does feel like you are swimming underwater with the thick and cuddly rubber synths that are used for vocals. I love these type of fat chip tune sounds that instantly fill up your ears. “Bounty Hunter feat Keiji Yamagishi” (Eirik Suhrke) has a much thinner chip set that reminds me more of the late 80’s but he switches up tempo, melody, bass, chords – the lot. It’s a fantastic technical display and it’s as catchy as hell.
“Shattered Moon” (Saori Kobayashi) is a beautiful track that has an organic feel to its instrumentation and feels new age too with its clever use of percussion and sweeping synths. It also has an interesting chord structure that means the melody is beautiful but has a certain unsettling twist occasionally that makes you think not all is well. “Chloroplast Skin” (Lifeformed) is an amazingly ethereal and angelic track that is also somewhat eerie too. It relies heavily on reverb and glitch production (without the glitch though) as things echo, repeat, flip and drip over your ears. It was a favourite from the Soundodger+ game when I first discovered but this longer and more evolved version is amazing. “Menacing Wonders feat Manami Matsumae” (Chipzel) see’s chip tunes being plunged into war with each other. There’s epic cymbal smashes and heavy beats over a glitch-tastic melody that simply does not let up. It’s epic. It’s huge. It will keep your head banging long after it’s gone on repeat for the fifth time and cements Chipzel at the forefront of chip music. “Blue Star” from Manami Matsumae closes the collection in a gentle love theme manner.
In Flux would be an amazing introduction to people looking at getting their feet wet with this genre of music. It showcases some of the best artists in the business. The melodies are amazing, the production top-notch and despite its style bending ways, it amazingly fits together well as a whole package. As someone whom knew several of these artists and some of the tracks prior to this release, I was delighted at the reworkings of the tracks and so I’d recommend it for fans too. An amazing compilation and collaboration. Who ever put this together had a great brain wave…