The soundtrack to an unreleased 90’s Shoot Em Up!
Shirobon continually finds new ways to tap into the chiptune, electronica and game music scene and with ‘Warp’, he is travelling back to the mid ’90s. In his notes for ‘Warp’, he says this album is inspired by the 90’s 3D shoot em up genre. ‘Warp’ is like a soundtrack to a game that never existed and it is pulsating with drama and action from beginning to end.
Kicking off with the aggressive and guttural ‘Phoenix’, we have a driving theme song that could grace any menu or character transformation sequence in a game and suit it. The thick retrowave synths remind me a little of Metroidvania games as well these arcade classics and the melody and instrumentation are sublime. Cyberpunk montages have their backing music made. From there, Shirobon adds Vocaloid into his music for the first time. ‘Liar to the Wire’ is a heavy trance track that packs a punch. From Gumi’s disembodied frozen vocals to the huge drums and basslines, this will be one to return back to for gritty moments. It also heavily reminded me of the Darius series with its sound effects and synths. That mood is carried into the sublime ‘Forests of Aphelion’ which is 80% a chilled out tuned percussion and drums piece. Then it explodes into an absolute euphoric rise of chunky synths and effects like a boss battle has smashed into the screen. It comes from nowhere and carries you all the way to the closing section of the track like a rollercoaster. I think it is my favourite piece on the album.
‘Meditation’ takes cues from Zuntata – Taito’s in house band – and their love of a hardcore beat over something more calming and serene. When the house pianos and Gumi’s vocals come in, the track hits its stride and doesn’t let up. ‘Pure’ plays with similar vibes but switches between drum n bass alongside chiptune sections, building up to a huge climax. It also showcases Shirobon’s ability to create musical shrouds with his pad work, which is highlighted best in the first half of ‘Umbra’ which is highly ambient focused before the techrock hits. That techrock hits its high with ‘Impact of TY-77’ that uses evocative synth leads like electric guitars to create that perfect synthwave anthem most good shooters have. Hiding behind it are arpeggios aplenty and a strong beat. Closing out the album is ‘Virus’ – the most aggressive and distorted track to date. Verging on a happy hardcore vibe but in a trance setting, the way the music switches from varying layers of grit helps it build up and cool down before attacking you again. The end boss defeated, the album closes out in a sci-fi petering out of metallic synths that make the album feel so of its time and genre.
Beautifully stylised, expertly crafted and a shining example of how to do a love letter to a musical genre, ‘Warp’ is an instant classic for game music lovers… and there isn’t even a game to place it to. Fans of Zuntata, trance music, arcade game music and synthwave will all find plenty to adore here. Shirobon’s done it again.
Recommended track: Forests of Aphelion
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