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Chicago-based indie label No Sides presents another eclectic release in the form of VGM Mix Tape #8, a various artists comp of video game-derived music. Gathering acts from Japan to Romania to the States, VGM Mix Tape #8 is just what it sounds like: an assortment of songs created with video game music samples (or faithfully re-created to sound like VG soundtracks). This is the music of the 1980s and ’90s, the highly-compressed, digitized plink-plank of Tetris, the hurried melodies of the original Super Mario Bros., the ominous static of Colecovision’s Zaxxon.
Tracks vary from straight-up homages to early electronics (“2600”) to House-inspired beatdowns that start off slow and build to epic climaxes (“Komputergurl”), tossing in breaks and live samples at just the right moments. A knowing sense of irony and humor unites these offerings, especially when Speak-and-Spell voices can be discerned in the ether, talking about shoving hamsters up each other’s asses, saying things like, “I bet you didn’t know most robots are gay.” It sounds juvenile, but it works, thanks in part to the intricate compisitions and consistent attention to complex melodic detail. It’s doubtful even Richard D. James, sedated on Prozac and locked in a bomb shelter with nothing but busted 8-bit Nintendos, could create something this fucked up and beautiful.
If you’re not having flashbacks of Contra and Castlevania while listening to this, you were born too damn late. There’s something immensely satisfying about hearing the sounds of your wasted youth reinterpreted through ProTools and hipster ears.