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Toriena – ‘Space Fugitives’ Review

Japan's finest Gameboy synth girl is back with a bang

Toriena is a Japanese chiptune composer whom I stumbled upon earlier this year and her second full album ‘Space Fugitives’ really homes in on her gameboy styled melodies.

The waltzing stop/start  “Fetal Movement” is a joyful kickstart to the album as it shimmies and shuffles around its simple melody that has several complex riffs hidden below. It however pales into playful fun when the hardcore and agressive “Micrograhpia” glitches and freeforms onto the speakers. It’s complex stereo phasing, it’s love for dropping beats and the way it pushes the searing bass melody to the fore of the chorus sections makes this an assault of your senses. It just doesn’t let up and is a superb showcase of Toriena’s skills. “Reloading…” reminds me so much of a classic Sonic the Hedgehog styled track, it could fit right in with Sonic 3 and no one would have noticed. It’s squeaky and pitch bending main synth voice leads the dance floor on an ever climbing chord pattern before the ZX Spectrum styled “Palpitation Gemstone” turns the main melodies and basses into sawing harsh chipsets. However the blips and clicks of the late 80’s make for soothing dreamy tunes over the top and the two sides balance each other out beautifully.

“Marvellous Umbra” is chip dub-step swinging from fast to slow motion as the track grows and envelops you at different tempos for each instrument. It’s really quite impressive that it all moulds together so well. It also features Toriena’s big love for attacking you in stereo. A lot of the album features blasts of audio coming out you from different parts of the speaker and here is where it adds the most. “Neckline of Summer” continues with the same formula as bendy synths and circling chord patterns allow for things to really burst into a dance anthem. “Meteor Shower” starts off more hip hop with its tiny bursts of beats and crunches. It’s middle section is an intricate interplay of slides, glitches, blips and gargles as Toriena shows off her prowess. “Bella-Donna” is a fun track whilst “Call Me Again!” reminds me of the OutRun games and has a great use of the Mario jump sound effect as part of the melody riff. It’s usually simple and direct for the album and stands out as a real bass thumping tune. “Update My Mind” has an infectious bass line too but is more geared at the shoot em up chiptune style. “Acceleration Spica” is more gentile in its approach initially as the high notes glaze over one another and shimmers of arpeggios rain down on the grizzly chipset that’s been used for most of the album. The album closes with a remix of “Reloading…” by NNNNNNNNNNN. It’s a bit more hyper and twisted than the original but is still chip based and packs a punch.

Toriena has a very specific style of chiptune that I personally love. It’s full on, full of stereo flips and it merges tons of different sounds together to make a simple chord structure seem overwhelmingly complex. It’s a very distinct art and I hope others enjoy it as much as I do – it’s certainly a labour of love and skill to make it that crazy and complex yet tuneful.

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