chip tunes composer EDM electro electronica game music glitch IDM music review VGM

Pixeljams Volume 2 “Review”

IDM goes into chip space!
Pixeljams Volume 2
Pixeljams Volume 2

Pixeljam Games set up a collective of game music composers that would contribute rare or new pieces to their Pixeljam series. The first volume was released back in 2011 so volume 2 has been a long time coming. Seeing many artists return, it’s a wonderful chill out chip based electronic suite of music that showcases VGM artists doing what they love without the confinements of the game they are scoring for.

Datassette (FEZ) kicks off the album with the amazing “People Without Mouths”. There is a certain bleepy and sleepy soundscape fuzzy feeling with most of Datassette’s works and this is no exception. A mini space odyssey, it’s as dreamy as it is intriguing. Ochre usually remixes others tracks and so hearing a full on chiptune (at the start at least) in the form of “Jump Vector” is great. I love the twists in production in the track because it’s like the song goes to the kitchen for a coffee and you’re hearing it from the next room. The track itself though is like a mini soundtrack inside five minutes as its tone shifts to something spacious and very 80’s sci-fi. Fat synths, buzzing basses. I was awaiting a boss to appear!

“Spirex” from Miles Tilmann gets to show his musical chops when he isn’t running Pixeljam Games and his IDM skills are on point. It’s a dynamic track that shimmers and slaps your ears with thrusts of engine, arpeggios of yesteryear and showers of light. Plus anything that chord bends in unusual places usually makes me a fan! Tilmann stays on for a short jam with his companies composer Mark DeNardo for “Neighborhoods” which is a tonal montage of car horns being squeezed through a computer processor! He then also jams with Datassette with the more straight forward “Things We Found in the Forest” where IDM and instrumental rock cross paths. It reminds me of a really happy overworld map or if you’re setting off for an adventure in a platforming game. It’s quite minimalist in its delivery but its mood and energy are excellent and I think it’s because the three minutes see it shift focus from one composers ideas to the others as Datassette’s style slyly builds over time.

Keepalive is not associated with gaming specifically but his track “Remember Kissing Me?” fits perfectly as a broken subdued mess of neon future sadness. I wish the track was longer though because I love the style and vibe but it’s the bridge to the second half of the album instead of being the central opera it could have exploded into. The drama is saved for “A Doomed Vessel” which comes from Datassette again. It’s a fine piece of IDM as it pulses and grooves its way around simple but effective chord structures. It has a sense of sparse space to it throughout and a little bit of emptiness too. Green Mars see’s Miles Tilmann team up with Donkey Koch aka David Kanaga (Proteus, Panoramical) and you can hear Kanaga’s influence throughout. It’s entirely abstract and freeform in its structure and delivery and yet it tells a weird and wonderful story. Kanaga always makes music out of the most unmelodic of loops but makes it work and this is a test of that.

“Mark DeNardo” then switches gears entirely with ten minute folk raja. Its one chord is ever-present and whilst other guitars and tape noise join the action, the track plays like a morning raja you would find in India. It doesn’t even remotely match anything else on the album and it’s production makes it a difficult listen. Alex Mauer (Starr Mazer) rounds off the album with a gorgeous laid back track called “The Wheel Bug”. It’s so warm and cuddly with its synth choice and reminds me a bit of a continue theme for a game.

I appreciate that this collection of music is more like a random creative outlet for many of the artists and as a result it’s a bit of a mish mash of styles and textures. Aside from the ten minute guitar chord track, it does flow very well though and is a very intriguing experiment that’s made me very curious to discover more about the artists I knew nothing of and makes me want to see more collaborations for future volumes as that’s where the magic happens here.

Recommended Track : “Things We Found in the Forest”

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