MAGFest 9 came with a lot of surprises. Among them, one of the most pleasant was the early CD release of The OneUps’ new EP, “Intergalactic Redux.”
The album was written and recorded in the past few months, and while it’s certainly a new direction for the band, in my mind it also feels like a natural progression of the jazzy, dance-able sound they’ve pushed for in the last few years.
Since the album contains six tracks, after the jump I’ll be tearing through each funky arrangement to help give you a feel for it. Of course, you can listen along to the tracks while we write about it by visiting the album page on bandcamp.
The OneUps have taken on Castlevania in previous albums (Vol.2 had some great stuff on it, for example). But it’s never sounded like this. Intentional revision of chord progression, unexpected breaks, re-structuring the rhythm of the melody… this is real work. The performance is strong, and it sounds even better on the album than what I heard live. For such a short period of time to do the EP, the recording quality is great. And I love the track title: “Curse of the Funk (This Place Is Dead Anyway),” from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
The second track is the Contra track, entitled “Bill and Lance, Soldier Trance (Lower Me Into the Steel).” The tempo is intentionally slowed, and this allows for wild syncopation and other deviations that fit in what was once a very tight, rigid piece. As Mustin said, these arrangements aren’t about the standard jazz “A B” form where A is the main melody and B is the time to throw down tons of improvised solos. Very rarely does something resembling a “solo” pop on the album, particularly on this Contra track. It’s strung out, it’s funky alright, but it’s also on-point. It makes me want to see some sheet music to see everything that was done. And may I say, when they get to the final stage/boss music, it’s an incredible sound. A slow burn, but definitely a building, powerful crescendo, and then resolving on the title screen jingle. Very classy.
Super Metroid on track 3, this one is ultra funky. Track title is “Space Warrior Sound Machine.” You can totally dance to this one, and the most amazing thing about that is that for the entirety of the track, you’re working with that same keyboard/bass build, based on the Super Metroid opening and end credits diminished progression. The band works with and atop this pattern through much of the arrangement, but with that solid backbone, they go all kinds of different places. I love the “Item Room ~ End Credits” transition in the final minute. These ideas regarding the structure of the track are things I haven’t seen much in VGM arrangement, and I’m glad The OneUps are promoting this manner of arrangement.
“Mountain Fortress Delta VII” is the name of their The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past track. This one was a huge surprise for me at the concert, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t know how to really take it in. A few listens to the album, and I was able to really dig into what was going on. I love the heavy keyboard solo part (one of the few true “solos”) during the break in the second minute. After said solo, the melody is given to a low-octave keyboard synth… it’s that creepy “dying-gnome” sound, one of my favorites. And the drums? They are spot-on for this track. I love the fills and the breaks, which are found all over the track. The guitar stays in upper registers to complement that low keyboard stuff. The guitar plays funky riff parts. I think that’s about the tenth time I said a word whose stem is “funk.” Expect more as we move forward.
Tetris – “Space Bloq Soviet Fun Time Puzzle Song (I Must Break Them)” … I think you know what to expect here. But then, it might not be what you’re expecting. Applying this genre of music to Korobeiniki is, in my mind, a strange option. My favorite parts are those where the melody is completely lost and we begin to dive into a sort of jam band mentality. But those moments are brief; as I’ve said before, this is about structured change, not on-the-fly improv. It’s solid. It hits you like a truck.
A funk truck.
If Tetris was the least well-suited for this genre, the most well-suited is the Sega Genesis cult classic Toejam & Earl. And they have a specific message for you: “Ain’t No Love Like Lewanda’s” … yeah. This is super-duper-insanely-funky. At this point, the members of The OneUps are just reveling in the joys of what they’ve put together, and it’s a great way to go out. As a stand-alone track, it’s also quite good. I’m into it.
So cheers to Tim, William, Jared, and Mustin. As mentioned earlier in the article, you can pick up the album through bandcamp. You can stream for free, pay for a digital version, or even get the CD version (catalog # OUS-009)! That’s right; according to their own statement: “We heard that some Earth denizens still use CDs. So we decided to print CDs for you.” Thanks! I still love CDs!
The OneUps have discovered The Funk. And as you may well know, The Funk is a living creature that has indeed traveled the galaxies. If they continue to release music in this vein, I hope they continue to let the style grow. More funky game music, OH YEAH!Tags: Funk, Funky, Intergalactic Redux, Mustin, The OneUps, This Place Is Dead Anyway, Toejam & Earl