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An 8-Bit Attack: 8 Bit Weapon’s Bits With Byte (Review)

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Los Angeles-based 8 Bit Weapon have been at this for a while. The happily married duo, Seth and Michelle Sternberger, got started in 1999 by remixing their favorite Commodore 64 tunes before moving on to other classic gaming consoles. They’ve built a name for themselves over the years with said remixes, a couple game soundtracks, and a ton of original albums, the latest of which we’re checking out here.

Bits with Byte goes in a new direction for the group, relying more on heavier electronic sounds. Does the experiment pay off?

Find out after the jump.

The digital album is actually split into two sections. The first nine tracks are new compositions comprising the Bits With Byte album, while the latter nine are remixes of past works and demo version of previous tracks heard on Bits With Byte.

As I mentioned, this is a new direction for the group with familiar 8-bit sounds tackling heavy electronic themes. There’s lots of pounding laser-like percussion, guttural bass synths, and spacey accents, and less emphasis on melody.

That’s not to say that there aren’t memorable melodies on Bits With Byte, however, as the title track, “Bits with Byte” comes as a poppy dance tune. Later, “Drive Grinder” provides a super fun and groovy break from the more serious soundscapes featured elsewhere on the album.

Tracks like “Galactic Invasion” and “We Fight for the Users,” on the other hand, go more in a club-like electronica dirction, focusing more on percussion and bass. “The Art of Video Games Anthem” is a fist-pumping dance floor tune with an octave-jumping bass line and a moody melody, while “Escape from Xenon,” my personal favorite, is tense and emphasizes its pumping percussion section. “The album closes out on a good note with “Goodbye Cochise,” which is short and reflective with a descending crystal-like melody against a backdrop of gurgling bass and percussion. In all, I enjoyed the new compositions and direction provided here. I’d say the only exception would be “Apple Core II” which works in a grungy bass that sounds a bit dissonant (perhaps intentionally), but ends up grating at least on my nerves.

It’s then on to the second half of the album featuring remixes, alternative versions, and demo versions. I think these are better thought of as a bonus as opposed to the main meat of Bits With Byte, as my favorite track of the bunch, the epic drum ‘n’ bass remix titled “Chip on Your Shoulder (Sanxion7 Remix)” has been previously released, and others really aren’t drastically different from their original counterparts. “Closer 2.0” and “Micro Boogie 2.0” fall into this category, slightly updating the respective sounds of the tracks (which is okay, as both are great, with “Micro Boogie” being particularly fun). The three demo version tracks are also close to their originals, sounding like the raw output from the composition source before effects, mixing, and mastering and arent overly exciting.

Two exceptions are “Closer (8 Bit Bandit Remix),” a six minute long remix that slowly builds into a spacey breakdown during the latter half. The track’s short vocal phrase can come off as repetitive over the course of six minutes , but at least it’s catchy and reworked in a number of ways here. The final track, “Vic XX” is another dancey electronic tune using the Vic 20 sound source that is a lot of fun.

In all, I have to say that I enjoy the Bits with Byte experiment. The duo has done a great job crafting a series of dark and foreboding tracks with heavy electronic sounds. I would say that Bits With Byes does lack a certain textural quality, as these still feel like “songs” at their core, and there isn’t much cohesion between tracks, but fans should be pleased, and there’s plenty value here for the $4.99 digital download via Bandcamp and other outlets. If anything, I’m looking forward to 8 Bit Weapon developing this sound further and creating a true listening experience as opposed to a collection of songs with similar instrumentation.

Check out the 8 Bit Weapon Bandcamp page to pick the album up and let us know what you think of the group and their approach to Bits with Bytes.

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