Chip Music, Reviews

NES Classics Revived In Style: Shnabubula’s NES Jams (Review)

April 1, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook NES Classics Revived In Style: Shnabubula’s NES Jams (Review)on Twitter

Many know the name Shnabubula. His virtuosic piano skills coupled with his talent for chip music have been explored in the past in releases such as Free Play and Game Genie, respectively. Now the two come together in NES Jams. This album’s story picks up immediately where Game Genie’s leaves off. A young boy, Tommy, has just defeated his Game Genie, and in its place is a mysterious NES cartridge. Upon placing it in his NES, something wondrous occurs; the message “PREPARE TO JAM” appears and Tommy approaches his brother’s keyboard. Suddenly, the game and his fingers begin to play music together! Now, this is just a brief summation of the album’s story; the real beauty is the album itself.

Join us on an aural tour through the album’s 11 tracks after the jump.

“Underwater” from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game kicks off the album. The soothing arrangement does well to capture the aquatic feel of the stage the source plays in, and the 8-bit accompaniment lends to the watery feel while the piano works flawlessly with it; the two mix fantastically throughout the rest of the album. Next up is “Temple” from Zelda II where Shnabubula takes the source and makes it his own in what quickly becomes a fun and fast-paced take on the classic. There’s also a great showcase of his piano talent near the end. The atmosphere is tense in the next track, “Alien Lair” from Contra, and it remains that way throughout. The last minute or so has some pretty insane piano with some equally furious 8-bit arpeggios that only deepen the atmosphere.

A calm spot follows in the form of “Night Sea” from the notoriously difficult Little Nemo: The Dream Master, but it doesn’t last long. As the track progresses, it gains the signature Shnabubula insanity with rapid piano. “Dwelling of Doom” from Castlevania II proves that though it may be a horrible night to have a curse, it’s a wonderful night to listen to the music. This arrangement exudes a wondrously funky vibe and some lightning fast piano playing about two-thirds of the way through. The next track, “Kung Fu Alley” completely lacks piano, as it is an original NES-format composition by Shnabubula that breaks up the first and second halves of the album. The track really captures the feel of fighting in various locales, with a section that sounds like an epic battle on steep cliffs.

“Title” from Double Dragon heralds the return to Shnabubula’s arrangements, and to piano as well. This was the first song Shnabubula released as a teaser on his YouTube channel, and features a nice breakdown about halfway through, rife with emotion and beauty while maintaining the fast-paced tempo of the track. “Gemini Man” from Megaman 3 captures the flair of the originaland uses it to his advantage, arranging the track with even more spiciness via the 8-bit pitch bends and some wild piano sections. Another Ninja Turtles track follows, this time “Stage 1” from TMNT2; it starts off fast and furious and never lets up. Tidbits that echo the old cartoon’s theme song, namely the “HEROES IN A HALF-SHELL! TURTLE POWER!” section, repeat throughout the track, moving the breakneck speed along naturally to the next section.

“Area A” from the game Shatterhand proceeds in much the same way as most the previous tracks: it starts out slow, then quickly becomes rather hectic, alternating between the piano and the 8-bit rhythms. The energy of this track really sets the stage for the final track on the album, “Wood Man” from Megaman 2; though it starts out slow, the track picks up with frenzied piano and rapid 8-bit beats. It definitely exudes a highly energetic feel, and it’s a fitting end to a marvelous album which could easily be Shnabubula’s best. In fact, Metroid Metal described this album as, “Face melting in its finest form,” which is high praise from one of our favorite acts out there.

Those who were keeping up with the semi-frequent news on the album may have heard the prerelease listening party on March 15, which was held on Noise Channel Radio. The album was released on both Bandcamp and Ubiktune during the listening party, and currently holds the #5 spot on Bandcamp’s Best Sellers. It’s available for pay-what-you-want, but Shnabubula definitely deserves something for this fantastic effort.

What’s your favorite track, and what classic NES tracks would love to see get the Shnabubula touch?

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