I was born November 6, 1987. The Original NES was something like a toaster when I was young. It was the standard issue appliance for any suburban household. Then around my fifth or sixth birthday, things started changing. The mosaic sprites that ran across the screen became more contoured. The music grew into itself. It no longer existed as a placeholder for “real” music, implicitly asking players to ignore the poor quality and suspend their disbelief; after all, isn’t the plumber with fireballs impressive enough? It began to incorporate instruments other than a synthesizer. Within the next generation, music was being composed for a symphony orchestra, recorded in a studio, and ready to be played back at CD quality, all for a 13-year-old boy who spends a little bit too much time in his basement.
Nonetheless, the music of NES did at least have thematic elements: dark dungeons held long echoes and eerie ghost calls in their rhythm; boss fights had a faster tempo than the rest of the soundtrack. I may have taken those elements for granted when I was three years old, but now Yip-Yip has re-immersed me into music of Nintendo’s past with their new album, Two Kings Of The Same Kingdom, and have made the thematic merits of Nintendo’s synth-pulse-pop stand out.
Its not so surprising, I suppose, because now this music is being packaged as something to listen to, not something to accept as part of technical and practical limitations of an ’80s video game. I’m also no longer concerned about getting my man in red overalls to the top of the flagpole. Now I can catch the tune to which all the pre-programmed baddies march across the screen, eventually off a ledge and into their death. I watch with my ears the mechanics of a video-game like it were the inside of a clock, listening tick-tock, hearing the inner workings move the machine. I am analyzing something glanced over in my past as if I were writing a memoir. It has that same alienating element to it, separating a memory, a life, never intended for study and doing just that. It’s like looking up the “Human” page on Wikipedia.
By using Nintendo elements in their music though, Yip-Yip creates, for a listener my age, a good contrasting background. It is easy for me to catch on the Nintendo stuff, which allows for Yip-Yip’s own methods and retoolings stand out even better. In their own work, Yip-Yip is quick to move past melodies they’ve covered, infuse them with additional instrumentation, swifter pacing, and create something new. These bridges between tunes aren’t always the same, not just in terms of instrumentation or layering, but the rhythm of each bridge as it takes on something all its own. Some songs thrive on this inventiveness, never seeming to stay put, but always morphing the music to fit new molds, which are then thrown away to make something new under the cast. It is a generative, mutating music. It is biological music, despite its obvious robotics. Transforming music might perhaps include all the necessary connotations, but that dives into a whole ‘nother nostalgia I’m too young to remember. Most prominently featured though, is the element of play in the music. Like a video game, nothing holds extreme gravity. This album starts and ends quickly, inspires a couple of toe taps, and it’s game over in 25 minutes. There isn’t any begrudging this though. I eject the CD like turning off a power button and move on with the day. I have fun.
Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
Arab on Radar – Yahweh or the Highway
Add N to (X) – On the Wires of Our Nerves