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Friday, Sept. 26, 2008

LISTENING POST

CD REVIEW

YMCK — "YMCK Songbook" (Avex); YMCK & De De Mouse — "Down Town" (Avex)


As its subtitle suggests, "Songbook -Songs Before 8bit-" sees "chiptune" flag-bearers YMCK spread their Nintendoesque love all over a clutch of songs from 1971 to 1982, a time when "Mario Bros." was still a glimmer in Shigeru Miyamoto's eye — and many of them are as memorable as the heroic Italian plumber's own theme tune.

The idea to cover classics in a chiptune style, which uses synth plug-in software to approximate the sounds of Nintendo's 1983 Famicom games console, pays off in several ways: It shows the versatility of originals such as Yosui Inoue's anthemic "Yume no Nakae" and Takuro Yoshida's folksy "Ningen Nante"; it highlights the depth of musicality and emotion YMCK are able to wring from their homemade MIDI plug-in, which allows for layered and listenable music made for more than simply running, jumping and necking magic mushrooms; and it gives the band the chance to explore melancholy vibes they might usually avoid, such as on "Kasa ga Nai" (also by Inoue).

Split minialbum "Down Town" sees YMCK return with three more covers pitted alternately against three by studio boffin De De Mouse (you might call it 1UP-manship). DDM coughs up a more organic studio sound than our pixelated chums, turning in a perfectly sweet rendition of Yumi Arai's doo-wop-esque J-pop hit "Rouge no Dengon," which features heavily treated Bollywood-sounding vocal breaks that win it a high score and a few extra lives. Meanwhile, YMCK give Happy End's "Kaze wo Atsumete" a dub bass line that transforms it even further from the original than the 8-bit sound already would have — not better or worse, just wonderfully different.


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