Classic C64 music made to make you bounce.
It takes an awful lot to make C64 styled music flow effortlessly but having being in the business for coming up thirty years, Mark TDK Knight has more experience than most. ‘Retrospect’ feels like a rosy cheeked raise of a glass to SID music. Enjoying the toungue in cheek way the C64 and Speccy games and soundtracks were often put together, ‘Retrospect’ has a b-movie comedic charm running throughout to bring you the best of vampiric chip dance.
The album kicks off with the anthemic ‘SID Monkey’ which evokes everything you’d want from an uptempo action theme song. The bleeps have a little fuzz to them which allows for the complex melodies to glide without becoming muddy. It is the little riffs and expressions that showcase how adept Mark TDK Knight is with the C64 era of chip music. Gentle repeaters, Theremin styled synth leads that bend and twist with intent and a kaleidoscope of twinkles in the background – it works perfectly. ‘Sunrise’ backs that up with huge 80’s drums full of crunch and impact.
A lot of the music on ‘Retrospect’ are vault finds from Mark’s past and the beauty of that is that he has given multiple versions of three of the tracks. ‘Cracked By Crystal – Maintheme 2’ has an Original Amiga Mix and a bleepier SID version. The simple switch up of chipsets and arrangements makes the former gritty and the latter a chirpy boogie. ‘The Comedy of Horror’ has a superb 8bit Mix that evokes Zombies Ate My Neighbours with its a crazed Theremin whilst the Original 1996 Synth Mix is quintessential PS1 era platform melody gold. ‘Space Durengungle’ has a very new age Original 1996 Synth Mix that dabbles with a space reggae beat and lots of fun sound panning. The 8bit Mix decides to keep it more hardcore and adds a different edge to the track with its rolling beats and sci-fi wanings of the lead synths. It is always great to hear such vastly different variations of the same track.
Elsewhere Mark TDK Knight excavates some really distinctive classics in waiting. ‘Sanity Twister’ evokes a mysterious feel as if it was a lost track from ‘Shadow of the Beast’. ‘KeeJen’ would make Shirobon fans jump for joy with its abundantly sharp and anthemic glee. It is here where the subtle production really shines as the sound of all the synths and percussion are razor sharp and fuzzless. It makes the track far more aggressive and brutal to the beat. My favourite track name of the year award is also found on this album – ‘Hoovering with a Hangover’. After an ambient warble opening, the hoover is clearly turned on with this catchy as hell track. You know its good when the verses are catchier than most other artists’ choruses. There is also the midtempo road trip of ‘Journey’ too which would appease any synthwave fan too.
Put simply, this is easily in my top chiptune releases of 2020. Mark TDK Knight has the ability to make you feel nostalgic, anthemic, uplifted and down for the battle in just a few bars of music. It really is quite impressive at how someone can compose chiptune music in such a classic style without it ever feeling like a retread. I hope there are a lot more tracks hiding in his vaults to surface and plenty of new music to come in the future too. Until then, this will keep you well entertained.
Recommended track: The Comedy of Horror (8bit Mix)
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