When I first discovered Whitely’s music back in 2015, I was blown away and impressed with his feel-good chiptune vibes. Nothing else conveys a summer arcade breeze quite like his music. At the time I took part in a monthly community event that replicated the Eurovision Song Contest but on a global scale monthly. I didn’t hesitate to pop Whitely’s music in as the UK entrant. I wanted to share the summer vibes then and with his new album ‘A Happy Place’, it’s the perfect time to share those vibes again now. They’ve never sounded so good.
Whitely’s music has always had the ocean as part of its core. From the white noise chipset making lapping wave sounds to the breezy synth work, the open salty air and freedom to dance are what drives the music forward. Whilst Whitely is firmly a chiptune artist, he doesn’t stay in that arena solely. The title opener integrates Caribbean steel drums into the mix for a joyous party feel. ‘Bubbles’ evokes 90’s arcade action themes like Chase HQ, Outrun and the like with its dance beats and sweeping shimmering chipsets. ‘Island Sunrise’ mixes everything together and makes the best case for chiptunes to be played in a beach house club set for some years. The smile leaps out the speakers and shakes your body into action.
Between the drum rolls and pitch-bent synth lines, we also get electronica vocal piece ‘Do You Remember Me At All?’ which reminds me of Freezepop ballads. It balances cute with whimsy and a faded photo uptempo vibe. Even when Whitely is chill, you have beats and hooks burrowing in your head for days. If you prefer something a little more ethereal and Deepak Chopra inspired ‘Midnight’ is an arpeggio crammed wave of synth notes. ‘Serenity’ is a sweet ballad of crystal clean chip music mixed with xylophone. It isn’t Whitely’s bread and butter but he can make lovely slow songs too.
For the finale he delivers a double KO punch with the mighty ‘On the Beach’ and ‘Goodbye’, the latter rocking a near drum n bass speedy drum loop. Both tracks are euphoric and uplifting in a way that feels and sounds so simple to produce but takes a lot of skill to make earnest and earned. You can argue bubblegum pop gives the same flavour of cheesy joy but Whitely’s term ‘seapunk’ for his music just hits better. It feels like happiness distilled into purity form in a way I can only relate to Vocaloid music with. To round off the album both ballads get remixes from Je Mappelle and Popsicle Theory respectively. Whilst the former adds some body and beats to the new age original of ‘Midnight’, ‘Serenity’ gets a strange glitched out time-warped rendition. It works as a piece of music but doesn’t quite match the rest of the album’s vibe,
Waiting for summer to kick-off? ‘A Happy Place’ can help get that started for you. Whitely continues to be my source for unabashedly joyous power chords, pitch bending riffs and steel drum infused chiptunes. No one makes music quite like it. I urge you to have this album on loudly, maybe with a bbq or an ice cream. Maybe crack out the mega drive and get some micro machines 96 on and have an absolute blast. Or simply have it as a beach soundtrack if you can get near the sea. This will be my summer go-to for 2021.
Recommended track: A Happy Place
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