Haven’t had as much time lately as I’d like to for reviews, but I’ve still got the time to squeeze in one and hope for more tomorrow. This offering comes from a very brave soul who writes in his review request that he has “been reading some of the brutal reviews on your BlogSpot. Very nice. Critical in all the right ways.” I have to give credit to him for being able to willingly put himself in the hot spot already knowing what falls into and out of our reviewer’s favor. So does his brash daring come foolishly or does this one man army behind a ‘2.2ghz beatbox of doom’ have something to prove?
My first critique here is that Mr. Gun, and perhaps Dramacore as a whole, needs a better download site. I say this because after five retries and my nearly giving up, it still took a couple hours to get the download package. (I will admit that Dramacore’s website while extremely minimal has an interesting set of ethics concerning music and as such I’ve bookmarked their site for later perusal.) The zip file comes with a lovely little text file which I have a feeling was typed up more for our benefit as it doesn’t specify credits so much as track times, album length, and points out the mp3 encoding rate. It’s not anything that a typical listener would be particularly interested in, but a good show nonetheless. Alongside this text file are a couple of art files for the album. They’re both slightly low-res for making hard copies, but the art itself is decent. It’s perhaps a little under-produced, but still is aesthetically pleasing.
What first strikes me as interesting about this EP is how short it is. Outside of death metal, I listen to a lot of long opuses in multiple genres of music, so it’s kind of shocking to be hearing songs that are under three minutes in length. This may seem a bit shallow, but I think in Gun’s case, it may hurt him. It’s nice that he can just jump in and get to the point so to speak, but once a song like Manglecore captures you, there’s not enough time to really absorb it and it feels like it has more territory that could be explored before its abrupt ending. Regardless though, the compositions themselves are worthwhile. There are some tricks that are not so much overused as they are just a bit old-hat. (By this point, aren’t we all getting sick of hearing 8-bit sounds that don’t actually come from a true 8-bit device?) The songs are still tastefully put together though, and can be likened to a digital version of Atari Teenage Riot without vocals while harkening to classic acid-house tracks (Hoover synth anybody?) All in all, it’s a good thing, but it’s easy to find yourself just generally longing for more.
It pulls some nice punches here and there that kind of throw you off, but production-wise, it is a bit evident that this is all the work of a single computer. When listening to modern electronic music of the previous decade or so, one thing that you have to wonder is… where’s the bass!? Dance music in particular has suffered a progressive thinning out of basslines while more emphasis is put on making the kick drum dominate the low end instead of learning proper production and making the two elements play well together. Softsynths seem to have catered to this problem rather than try and remedy it in that they sound so thin and do no justice whatsoever for the bass. So naturally when checking out EQ curves on this album, the low end kind of dissipates. Where this really damages musical integrity is also in that you’re also now sacrificing the colors of each potential hardware elements’ color in favor of just using your computer’s one and only converter. It seems like a moot point, but even in the level of something that is supposed to be as pure as sampling, a hardware sampler’s dedicated converter is inherently more organic sounding (which in turn lead to the Akai vs. E-Mu battle of yore where the Akai had more ‘punch’ and the E-Mu carried more of an analog-like warmth.) I bring this up because of how much it also relates to the Nintendo. The Nintendo was a digital chip but had a wild analog warmth to it which many will be quick to credit as being due to the chip being eight-bit, but the truth is that the color of the Nintendo comes out of its dedicated converter translating digital audio to the analog domain for your television. Hence, as much as everybody hates to admit it, no digital emulation of the Nintendo has ever sounded quite as inspiring as the original. An album such as what Gun has came up, with it’s reliance on eight-bit sounds with would have greatly benefited from using a real Nintendo and that brilliant cartridge that Wayfar technologies has been putting out for some time now for controlling it. In spite of that, the album is mixed well, at least.
Artistic Merit: 7/10
I have to give Gun credit in that CPUnk does try something slightly different. It’s basically building off of the work of Alec Empire, but with a bit of a twist. It never really brings in anything that is in general new, but the combination is still unique.
As much as I like the songs, I have to admit that they don’t flow together very well. CPUnk is more like a combination of good singles due to how varied each song is from the one before it.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Overall, it’s not the greatest album ever made and could have benefited a lot from hardware processing, but that’s not to say that it’s necessarily bad. I wish the songs were longer and that a little time was taken away from the laptop to put some more work on the details, but CPUnk has a good framework going on. There’s lots of good ideas here and it’s a fun listening. …it’s just a little short is all.