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With 80s nostalgia running rampant in popular culture, the masses have deemed wrestling shoes again a respectable (and fashionable) choice of footwear, those hideous Astros jerseys are being worn in public, and VH1 made a show that tries to convince Flock of Seagulls and Berlin, among others, that it’s a good idea to reform and perform. It’s no surprise, then, that VGM Mix Tape #8 makes its appearance now, though that’s not to say that the twenty-seven artists featured on the disc are merely riding a wave of atavism or cashing in on what’s hip; instead, these are artists whose love of video game music goes beyond the simple enjoyment that arises as you hum the theme of a level of Contra as you play. With so many contributors, it’s no surprise that the results are fairly various. Seemingly, the only real limit put on this music is that it must be created with or inspired by video game systems no more recent than Nintendo’s Gameboy, a system already well-known as a music-making instrument to electronic musicians.
On VGM Mix Tape #8, some artists take their dedication to the limit, recreating realistic background music for video games that never really existed. Others use samples to create IDM or more conventional techno tracks, while others utilize their video game sounds in much more experimental ways. Handheld’s “Rawk Funeral” is a triumphant score to be played over the end credits of a game victoriously beaten, Aonami’s “8 Bit Fever” is a techno track with video game ornamentation, and Panicsville’s “Briade of Yars Revenge” is a more abstract collage. For the most part, the music is completely rhythmic, if not explicitly beat-based, which will please most fans of electronic music or video game music, but leaves some fairly interesting avenues unexplored. Some of the more bass-heavy, club-ready anthems grow old quickly, but tracks like Eight Bt’s “We Were All” and Hi-Score’s “Cx2600” do quite well mixing their samples into very beat-based pieces, and it’s hard to listen to Produkt’s “Dungeon Warrirors” or Tom 7 Entertainment System’s “Theme from Devin” without getting goosebumps and missing the feel of a boxy controller. Really, there’s something here for everyone, at least everyone who’s interested in such a project. Arizona’s Minibosses, who have made a name for themselves playing rock versions of famous video game themes even make an appearance, closing the album with a seven-minute medley of Metroid music. The CD has already gotten press in numerous gaming sites, and seems to have struck a pretty heavy chord in the hearts of those who grew up begging their parents for one more attempt to beat that difficult boss, try to make that seemingly impossible jump, or shave one second off of their best time.