A mid 90’s Namco arcade game classic soundtrack.
Whitely has been a wonderful guilty pleasure in the world of chiptune music for years. He pulls together everything you want from upbeat chip music and then gives it a summery feel. It is the equivalent of a beach party in a Mario game. With the late summer heat the UK has been having recently, SeaPunk2020 is well-timed to let you enjoy all these breezy vibes and even a few surprises too.
For those already familiar with Whitely’s style, openers ‘Hello’ and ‘Washed Ashore’ are perfectly placed to invite you back in. Full of bright chords, stomping beats, cheesy riffs and a mixture of 8-bit synths and 90’s house music. What is interesting is the latter track introduces Whitely singing for the first time. His voice is better suited to moany alt-rock but it still works as it slopes off the infectious party with a little sad haze. Outside of Dolphin samples and white noise waves, the big addition here is the introduction of tuned percussion. The wooden kalimba styled synths begin a twist of direction for Whitely that takes hold across the rest of the album.
‘Oceanic’ is a riot drum n bass throwback with hard synths and chirpy arpeggiators. Its the kind of song mid-90’s Namco would be proud of. ‘Currents’ slows things down for what I now call ‘chill chip’ – a slower but still rhythmic form of chiptune. Then in comes the steel drums for ‘Floating Under’ which works as a lush introduction to the Caribbean synth banger ‘Kalapa’. The steel drums slowly phase into a more synth tone here but return to their anthemic natural tone for ‘Oasis’. I didn’t really ever think of how steel drums and SNES/NES styled synths would interact together but the result is one of pure joy. It is dynamic, bouncy, breezy and straddles the gap between natural and synth beautifully. Whitely’s choice was inspired.
From here SeaPunk2020 moves into a heavy dance mode with Ibiza smash in waiting ‘Shimmer’ before the album calms down with the sunset of ‘Deserted’ and ‘Moon & Stars’. The closing track is especially beautiful because mixed into all the synths is a warm handpan. It plays a support role to the synths but effortlessly rolls that calming night time vibe with aplomb. Three additional remixes are added to close out the album properly. The best of the trio is ‘Shimmer (2xAA’s Nanoclub Mix)’. It takes all the tuned percussion and smashes the melodies down into Nanobit noise bursts like a Commodore 64.
Higher Plain Music always appreciates a niche and Whitely has found a uniquely happy one by mixing up chiptune music and naturally produced tuned percussion. The result is that ‘SeaPunk2020’ is probably the most summery album I’ve bought for years and it is unabashedly proud to be so. Long live genre mashups! Now excuse me, I need to play some Ridge Racer to get my full 90’s vibe on.