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Apparently the 8th in a collection of remixed old-school video game tunes, this enigmatic mix has a multitude of intriguing music packed into its single CD. With twenty-six tracks, each of which require some careful speculation of the disc jacket to decipher what you are actually listening to, this collection functions as an effective “trip” down memory lane. The production is tight, the songs are all vintage, and yet the mix is eclectic and features a diverse number of styles.
Any experienced gamer is sure to recognize a few of the tunes (some in their original form, sampled, and set amidst a slightly different background) from a number of legendary game systems. Just seeing the inside jacket of the album is worth having this CD: picture an open floor with nearly every gaming console ever made! And believe me, a few of those are so obscure, it takes quite a game historian to name them all. Personally, I spent some time petting the tiny picture of the extra-rare Nintendo 3 (an 8-bit NES stylishly imitating is 16-bit follow-up), sighing gently.
With each system came several great new timbres, distinguishable only to the trained 8-bit, Atari, etc. generation ears. This disc does a great job offering the best of each generation’s game sounds and maintaining a raw purity – and ironically these older tones seem a bit more edgy. Granted some of these songs are not for casual listening – a number of them, like Future Eater and Panicsville border on abstraction and noise-art. The opening track, 2600 is a short but stunning example of the sounds one could attain in a properly tweaked system. Fans of early electronic and avant-garde artists like Karlheinz Stockhausen or Morton Subotnick will probably find this mix a playful romp, all others, just be ready for something unique.
Aside from intensive listening there is a song or two on the mix that some people might find objectionable, I must say. While I found it laugh-out-loud funny, the tunes may inspire some odd looks from others or embarrassing questions from a young child who does not quite understand the delicate humor behind asexual robots, hamsters, and rear-ends (“you can’t use a porcupine”). But seriously, check out track 8. I prefer to roll down Main Street with it turned up rather loud. I’ve yet to determine whether its novelty will wear thin, but for now I am living large with 4096.
Some of these songs will come off sounding very danceable, and at times you just wish a drum and bass track would enter, thumping away. Icon/Prix has some great qualities that are just begging to be thrown into an all-out techno mix, but it genuinely holds its own for the most part. As the CD progresses, a few of the tracks are more modernized and feature more standard electronic samples, steady beats and some finely processed voiceovers (as implied by 4096). At all times the old-school, sometimes grating, timbres are never drowned out and always play a prominent part in the songs.
In a slight departure, a few tracks at the end feature the renowned game-music cover band The Minibosses add quite a treat. Their version of the Metroid music is well-done and will bring chills to a fan of the series.
Whether you are adventurous, avante-garde, a fan of the rich and often under-appreciated game music genre, or someone looking to dive in to a piece of history, the music contained in VGM Mix Tape #8 is a necessary part of everyone’s game audio library.