I’ve had a long and storied (neither of which are really true) history with examining music as it pertains to games. There is only so many times I can talk about Secret of Mana+, so I thought I’d take a crack at writing a few words about the chiptune album that has been the soundtrack of my weekend.

Plain and simple, Surrender is one of the most expertly mastered and sequenced chiptune albums I have heard in years. Surrender has the sound and feel of a proper album – not a soundtrack like the majority of its chiptune contemporaries. Breaking away from strictly capitalizing on nostalgia seems paramount to the growth of the genre, and not once during the multiple listens of Surrender did I try and place the music within a gaming context. Which isn’t to say that something important is lost because of the shift, as 4mat is able to stay true to the raw crunch and spastic sound that make chiptune what it is.

Surrender creeps through its first song entitled “La pluie tombe dans mon coeur” which translates as “Rain falls in my heart,” and is a notion that is built upon across the duration of Surrender. La Pluie’s chattering chords echo a Kid-A era Radiohead sound which slowly gives way to the club siren and dance inducing beat of Montreux. The build across the first few tracks reaches its promised conclusion in Lovers with a bassline that makes a strong case for more funk-infused chiptune beats.

The downpour (see what I did there with the rain metaphor, pretty clever right?) of catchy hooks and melodies continues at a blistering pace making Surrender an album that isn’t easy to pause. It is hard to tell exactly what tracker or hardware 4mat is using to create his sounds [Edit: A question posted to 4mat on twitter confirmed that he used fasttracker2 and dosbox for Surrender], but whatever the case, Surrender has a more natural tone than the increasingly tense and agitated sound of most chiptune efforts. More intimate moments like those found in Pretty Prairie and Starfields act to accentuate that peaks and valleys of the album, allowing Surrender to settle into a comfort zone that doesn’t feel the need to keep the bpm at a blistering pace.

The chiptune genre always seems like it is mere inches away from breaking into the mainstream, but is more then likely doomed to never produce the one hit that could provide the exposure needed to get the cultural center of America abuzz. Devoid of any ties to nostalgia, Surrender (and most of 4mat’s library) provides a great entry point into the genre, and someday might be looked upon as one of the forerunners of chip-pop or pop n’ chip or some other dumb name the mainstream will adopt for the sound.

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