Heavy chiptune beats and buzzsaw synths.
Being completely honest, there is little soft at all about ‘Soft Power’, the new album from Balloonbear. Each track is an assault on the body. Heavy, thick, crunchy beats, dazzling chipsets of sparkling melodies, tight arps and huge basslines. The idea behind the album is that each track wants to evoke a bit of love and passion from the listener’s heart. It does that by giving you anthem after anthem for chiptune lovers to enjoy.
How these anthems come about is different but Balloonbear does it effortlessly each time. It could be driving road trip warning sirens of ‘Luscious’, it could be the dancefloor cascades of ‘Unrequited Love’ or the detuned speccy-ness of ‘Ultimate Gold’ – they all work. Each of the five original tracks that kick off the first section of the album knows how to rock out. They all give off an uprising and empowering theme to them too. ‘Nostalgic Vibes’ also taps into that indie game theme song overworld map style too that I love. Tight, connected, pulsating and ready to jam.
Then the album moves into ten different remixes. A large amount of them offer up a distinctly different slant on the original. ‘Ultimate Gold Final Sketch Remix’ slices between happy hardcore and DDR styles whilst the Psybolord Remix of the same track has a wiry CRT tinny chipset rendition of it. Others like the S_TN and L-qcy remixes choose to extend or play around with the actual melody and hooks rather than creating new sounds. It is a great reminder that chiptune remixes can be vastly different. A personal favourite is the Luscious Kola Kid Remix which evokes Shirobon feels with vocoder effects and skipping beats. It’s just a riot.
Balloonbear simply wants you to soar into the sky and fly and these tracks evoke those feelings. Epic, nostalgic, empowering and with a hint of heroes return to it – ‘Soft Power’ hits home hard. This was made to rave to.
Recommended track: Nostalgic Vibes
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