Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
One of my favorite musical “genres” in recent months has been video game soundtracks. A far cry from cheesy 8-bit synthesizer tones and faux instrumentation, today’s game soundtracks can stand on their own merits as works of art. Previously, I wrote about C418’s charming Minecraft soundtrack. This time, I’m going to focus on Lifeformed’s Fastfall, a soundtrack for an indie video game titled Dustforce. Though squarely falling into the “electronic” category, there’s a surprising amount of variety in Lifeformed’s work. There’s the charming, Joy Electric-esque synth-pop of “Elvish Piper Academy”, the title of which is very accurate in describing the song’s sounds and atmosphere. “Pillars of Pepper” goes a bit more ambient, with its billowing clouds of beats and eerie, shivering synthesizers. Meanwhile, “Frozen Hot Sauce”, “Upside Down Stalagmite”, and “Light Pollution” are certain to appeal to fans of Röyksopp, Saint Etienne, and other eclectic electro-pop acts. Finally, “A Safe Place to Sleep” drifts by in an appropriately dream-like state with its soft, blurred tones.
C-jeff’s Preschtale isn’t a video game soundtrack, but there’s something game-esque about it, and not just because it contains some 8-bit-sounding bleeps and bloops. There’s something epic and even majestic about its retro-electronic soundscapes, which have their foundation in chiptune but also incorporate psychedelia, progressive rock, and even metal. (Imagine a heavier, more rocking version of label-mate Jay Tholen‘s brand of chiptune, and you’re partly there.) What’s more, there’s a thematic flow throughout the album, such that one might even call it a “concept album” (which certainly fits the sleeve art depicting what I assume to be a stranded astronaut warrior surveying an alien planet). As a result, listening to Preschtale feels like progressing through the stages of a game, with each song describing a different stage and its wonders and dangers. Even if you’re not a gamer, it’s entirely possible to put on some headphones and rock out to Preschtale. From the massive synth/keytar solos to the equally massive guitar solos — just try not to break out the air guitar during “Preschtale, Part 2” — there’s nothing small about C-jeff’s musical ambitions here.
Preschtale can be purchased from C-jeff’s Bandcamp page.