by Josh Vollmer
Anamanaguchi is a chiptune band based out of New York. The chiptune genre is music that features the prominent use of hacked video game systems, especially the Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Anamanaguchi supplements the melodies they program into their various components with typical rock band instrumentation (guitar, drums, etc.), and the result is somewhere between punk, techno, and an old school Mega Man score.
The group consists of guitarists Peter Berkman and Ary Warnaar, bassist James DeVito and drummer Luke Silas. Having previously self-released two EPs, Power Supply and Dawn Metropolis (whose track “Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues” is currently used as the theme to popular podcast The Nerdist), the band is probably best known for its work on the score to the game Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. This project saw the band splitting its songwriting duties by necessity, in order to get the required 44 tracks completed on time. It seems to have worked for the group, involving everyone in the songwriting process sparked a frenzy of creative output. The band used this to their advantage to release several singles over the last couple of years as they continue to ride a creative high water mark, a ride which eventually culminated into a new album released on their own dream.hax label, entitled Endless Fantasy.
Actually it might be more accurate to say that Anamanaguchi’s fans released Endless Fantasy. Anamanaguchi went to Kickstarter to fund its 22-track magnum opus. Over 7000 people funded the band’s project, donating over $270,000 (well surpassing the $50,000 goal the group set), making it the second most successful music related Kickstarter to date. The first thing they did with the surplus cash? Send a piece of pizza into space for the title track’s music video. This kind of irreverence and humor permeates the band’s work, so much so that it’s quite easy to pick up on the lightheartedness of it all, despite the band’s mostly instrumental output. Check out the video to the album’s lead single “Meow” if you have doubts.
In fact, Endless Fantasy marks the band’s first real foray into vocal tracks. “Japan Air” is the first one you’ll notice on the new record. The breathy, digitized vocals of guest singer m33sh make her sound like a J-pop anime diva, and the frenetically paced backing track sounds like something from a rave in the mushroom kingdom. “Prom Night,” another of the vocal tracks, shows a slightly different side of the band as they use disco beats and slick pop songwriting to create something that sounds like it’s from the 80s, 90s and 00s.. All at the same time.
The other 19 tracks, from the titular opener to the emoji titled closer “(T-T)b” play like the soundtrack to some discarded racing game project, or the 8-bit version of an At The Drive-In or Andrew W.K. album. The breakneck pacing accommodates everything from dance friendly club style tracks to more experimental soundscapes, as Anamanaguchi delivers the sonic equivalent of Nintendo flavored bubblegum for your ear holes. At about an hour and ten minutes, Endless Fantasy is over twice as long as anything else the band has released outside of Scott Pilgrim, and is well worth the $13.99 price point. Special order it at your local Slackers today!
While the overwhelming Nintendo-iness of the sound palette may be off putting to some, the more musically adventurous will be rewarded with a unique and solid set of fantastic melodies. Recommended if you like old school videogame soundtracks, dance music and bubblegum.