YMCK – Family Swing

Chiptune crossover has a long history. In fact, when speaking of a genre which often imitates old 8-bit video game music, one could argue there’s quite a lot of crossover already in the original material on which it is based. After all, video game music itself was/is often based on other types of music. Still, entire albums of chiptune with an explicit second theme and/or genre is pretty awesome (Moaning Shadows is one example we’ve covered before with both a review and an interview). So what is this, then? YMCK is a Japanese band that aren’t afraid to try odd things, and on Family Swing the group offers the peoples of the world something they probably don’t know they need. Until they hear it, that is, for this is nothing less than chiptune swing!

After the “National Anthem of Retrojuego” (don’t ask, we don’t know) – a 33 second long chippy and bitty anthem sounding melody, the journey begins. Relaxing, groovy little songs takes you into a world of pixelated people drinking long drinks, smoking with long cigarette extenders and chatting about the sorry state of the Empire. The sound of the music is very much 8-bit, perhaps there is one or two simultaneous tracks more than would be possible on a NES or Gameboy, but we don’t know and don’t really care.

There are, however, vocals. It is sometimes a problem when vocals are introduced over 8-bit sounding chiptune. It is difficult to make vocals mesh well with a strictly digital sound, especially since our expectations, derived from playing old Sega and NES games for hours on end, usually preclude any type of human voice. Except possibly some atrocious voice synthesis. Nevertheless, YMCK pulls it off very well. A reasonable guess is that it’s all in the production, but whatever it is, the vocals work wonderfully. This is especially clear in the sexy hit song “Great mission Yeah-Yeah”, as well as in the touching “Melancholic swingers”, which sounds like a mix of an early Nintendo Game Over-screen and sad, Japanese Marilyn Monroe. Also, “A world waits for me” and hilarious “Slapstick car chase” are just marvelous tracks, and in fact this whole album is something everybody should hear at least once before they die and go to chiptune heaven.

Just kidding. Whatever your views on the actual afterlife, chiptune heaven is here on earth, and it’s a swing album by YMCK.

A download can be purchased at the band’s Bandcamp site, and if you’re adventurous you can try to get the physical version through the links on their official website somehow. And, oh, if you’re in Japan there’s a release party tomorrow (Sunday, 5th of February 2017).

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