divmod - pretty warp machine
Released off label 2022
This review was commissioned through Ko-fi. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
divmod is the chiptune / electronic moniker of a music producer from Vienna, Austria. Under the names of Miles Matrix and Future Nightmares he has dived into the likes of synthwave and ambient in the past. However, his new project seeks to answer a question that no one has likely asked before: What if industrial legends such as NIN, Skinny Puppy, FLA, etc. existed in the world of Super Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom? He took to studying the Gameboy and its sounds, warping the device to his own personal musical needs. The result is the parody-titled album “pretty warp machine”. What I got from “pretty warp machine” is a fairly charming 8bit and chiptune album. However, that charismatic 90s sounds only carries the album so far before it becomes stale.
The album begins with the title track ‘pretty warp machine’. The grim sound that comes off the song certainly reminds me of the first time I visited Lavender Town when I played Pokemon Yellow when I was a wee lad. It’s a very minimal song, as one could expect, but after listening to it for about a minute I had no desire to keep listening. There was nothing addictive about it, nothing that made me fall absolutely in love with it. I moved on from that track and found myself enjoying what I heard in ‘einsturzende luigi’s mansion’ a bit more, thanks in part to the EBM bassline that was placed within it. However, again, I found myself bored by the six-minute and four-second run-time.
What’s missing most withing divmod’s music, however, is a fulfilling sense that most industrial or synthwave music brings. When I sit down to listen to industrial music, I’m looking for those backing synths, crushed and distorted or not, that emanate emotion whether that be anger, despair, loneliness, etc. While I find what divmod is doing to be (and I repeat myself) charming, it is not and ideal format. To me, the sounds of a Gameboy are unique and have a place as a sample or a part in other forms of music. Take, for example, what producer Lukhash has been ushering out on his YouTube channel and other social media places. He jams with Gameboy and Commodore64 sounds but adds a whole lot more to it in order to make enticing beats. The minimal idea found on “pretty warp machine” just isn’t album worthy material. Each song leads me to the same conclusion over and over again – it’s good for the first minute, but then I don’t care for it anymore.
Now, this isn’t to say that chiptune and 8bit music on its own can’t be good. Taking a look back to the Pokemon Yellow soundtrack, as it was honestly a huge part of my childhood, almost all the songs on that OST convey the proper message to the player. The music that plays when you’re in a battle, for example, gives a sense of urgency and fright. When I heard, for example, ‘juke joint peach’ on “pretty warp machine”, I get the sense that this should be an EBM dance song. However, the minimalism behind the song just doesn’t make me get into a stompy mood – it makes me chuckle to myself for a moment before I want to move on.
What divmod has done with “pretty warp machine” is create an interesting experiment translating industrial music through a Gameboy into chiptune / 8bit sounds. I say interesting, though, and not good as I can’t wholly recommend it as a full listen. It’s worth a few seconds of your time but anything more than that and the seams of nostalgia will bitterly wear off before you’re ready to hit that stop button. I’d like to see divmod use these Gameboy sounds in a song that combines more than just that sound palette – as I think that would be pretty neat. He certainly has a knack for it. That being said, “pretty warp machine” just doesn’t cut it for me. Five out of ten.May 02 2022
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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