What does bocuma sound like?
Like someone from 1984 making what they think the music in 2054 may sound like.
The review of bocuma – Ascending
Before I even begin talking about bocuma’s excellent chiptune/synthwave crossover music, I need to express my love for bocuma’s album artwork. As a child of the ZX Spectrum, bocuma (Martin Miller) makes each album a ZX Spectrum cassette cover. They are inspired and tug at a nostalgic heartstring of mine. It also aligns perfectly with bocuma’s musical aesthetic. I can hear the fuzzy spits of his many synths evoking the 80’s sinewave and bassy guzzles of the Spectrums 48k sounds. The beauty of his recent work ‘Ascending’ is that it is beautifully integrated into a wider, modern synthwave sound too.
After the opening almost PS1 boot up sounding ’24k Ranch’, we dive into the meat of the release with ‘Atom Creeping’. Here we have an isolated, dystopian and brooding piece driven by its Spectrum sounding bassline melody. The beats and everything around it pulls from modern-day synthwave ideas but it has a distinct sound of the past too. This moves more into chaotic effects with ‘Moment of More’. Here reverse cymbals and sci-fi synths warble with a subtle tape filter on them to sound analogue and compressed. When combined with the title track that follows, it sounds pensive and malevolent at times. ‘Ascending’ in particular has a brassy section that sounds primed for a stealth movie. Then it totally swaps out its mood from a frequency-filtered military outro. It’s a really unusual piece but it solidifies the vibe of the album for me. Bocuma is creating music as if he is living in 1984 and imagining what the future would sound like.
This plays out in the release’s second half. After the plinky and pleasant unfurling of ’20 GOTO 10′ and its cuteness, we move into electro-acoustic territory with ‘Endless Machine’. Here real guitars and bass are integrated into a percussive and industrial piece. It reminds me a little of the Shatter OST from Module but more synth and drum driven than guitar-based. The piece goes perfectly into the album’s climactic ‘Lands Of Lines’, where curious rubbery arpeggios rise and fall around you. Big drums, large sways in momentum – it’s the cinematic finale to the album that bocuma feels like he was leading you towards. ‘Ascending’ has one more track though. ‘Comb Spear’ is almost a hidden track that’s recorded at a much lower volume than anything else and verges on ambient as a genre. Pulsating synths cross over with white noise and radio frequency signals as bocuma takes us out of the stratosphere and beyond the music itself. It’s a clever ending to a great album and takes the musical narrative to its natural conclusion.
Telling an epic sci-fi story in just under 25 minutes, bocuma has a deft hand at mixing chiptune, synthwave and live instruments together naturally. It creates a retro-future vibe that feels equal parts sinister and dreamy, depending on what the listener leans into. There’s a creepy sci-fi movie score in bocuma yet and this is the trial run for it. A curious but rewarding release fans of game music and synthwave will enjoy.
Recommended track: Endless Machine
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.