Review Summary: An 8-bit exorcism.
Knife City, the side project of Anamanaguchi drummer Luke Silas, is slowly carving a niche for himself. While most chiptune has focused on re-creating the straightforward nature of old Nintendo video game tunes, Knife City is setting the bar higher and creating 8-bit tracks in the vein of contemporary dance music. His first EP Precious Jewel
is a follow up to 2012’s self-titled debut, and while his toolbox is the same, the sounds and compositions he has accomplished here have led to some new heights in the genre.
Chiptune and other 8-bit music have always been very simplistic by nature, but Knife City has taken some steps to start eliminating those boundaries and showing off what kind of fleshed-out detail can be accomplished with old, restrictive technology. Due to the old video game system processors, the result is a very clean, crisp textures combined with robotic, cold, unsettling sounds. “Precious Jewel” kicks off the EP, and right away we get the common progression of a club tune: thudding bass building up with a simple, catchy melody before exploding into the song’s first climax. But instead of heavy synths and pounding drums, the listener is barraged with an onslaught of 8-bit gurgles, screeches and blips, woven into thudding, fuzzy bass notes, creating a familiar yet distant musical concept all mashed together with perfect enthusiasm. The track settles back down to simple, catchy melodies once more before exploding into more shaky rhythmic ground, featuring a flurry of burps, belches, flutters, and other sounds that pushes the Gameboy to its very limits.
“Goodbye! Goodbye! Goodbye!” is the EP’s second track, and carries more of a pop feel with some trance influences to start before slowly morphing into more a of a dubstep track, complete with erratic off-beat thumps and soaring melodies. To finish, the track keeps the chaotic progression while adding the song’s earlier melodies, tying it all together into a stratifying finish. Lastly, the EP ends with “Poison Flower”, and is truly a disgusting, disorienting listen; starting with unstable off-beats, the song wastes no time before swirling into hell, sounding a lot like the soundtrack to an 8-bit exorcism: a bizarre, volatile bombardment of old technologic noises pounds away in an unstable dubstep structure. “Poison Flower” proves, if not anything else, that Knife City certainly has the unique creative approach that very few of his peers can achieve.
With several remixes rounding out the EP, Knife City has truly taken a positive step forward in terms of advancing the chiptune community, creating sounds and structures rarely heard before. Breaking limitations and far exceeding expectations, Precious Jewel
is just that, and is certainly a must-listen for those who are looking for something new in the stale world of dance and chiptune music.