Anamanaguchi, ‘Endless Fantasy’ – Album Review
A band described as “chiptune” or “8-bit” is liable to lose potential listeners not qualified to handle such vocabulary, and Anamanaguchi’s biggest hurdle is, essentially, opportunity. Even if you get past a name that reads “you’ll never properly pronounce me,” research into their genre leads to an technological explanation of chiptune that’s not easy to grasp without a strong computer or music background. But, for most listeners, simply knowing that sound chips from old Nintendo and Gameboy consoles are employed is enough to explain the soundscape that frames ‘Endless Fantasy.’
Still, Anamanaguchi are likely to be labeled “video game music.” That’s the result of the foursome’s equipment (though they mix in drums, guitar, bass and occasional singing) and previous work recording the score for the ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’ video game. The latter is the highest of all the hurdles, because beyond certain MLB editions from the mid-2000′s, the Rock Band/Guitar Hero franchises and Tony Hawk Pro Skater, most video games don’t feature music that would be sought or appreciated by non-fans of the game.
But, as it relates to the actual experience of listening to ‘Endless Fantasy,’ all of this is a bit misleading. Crystal Castles, another band that at one time had a toe in the 8-bit world, is not nearly as apt a point of comparison as are the Go! Team or Fang Island, whose debut albums share the exuberance of this record. Neither of those discs are in the same sonic family, but the fifth-gear, Red Bull-fueled ecstatic joy for which they’re loved permeates Ananmanaguchi’s latest.
At 22-tracks and 76-minutes long, ‘Endless Fantasy’ is a lot to take in at once, but the group does manage enough variation within their songs to keep the extended runtime from drifting into redundancy. The opening title-track and advance single ‘Meow’ showcase strong instrumental hooks at rapid-fire pacing, creating the kind of music you’d imagine a music nerd spinning at the gym. Highly active and engaging music with creative sonics doesn’t tend to be easily dismissible, and Anamanaguchi play these songs with sweat-dripping intensity that is always respectable, even when overwhelming the senses.
But it’s songs like ‘Prom Night’ and ‘Japan Air’ that take Anamanaguchi’s sound and make it round, with pop vocals at times proving the project dynamic but not overshadowing the typically instrumental majority. Rather, the vocals give Anamanaguchi open doors for which to test, push, and expand their range.
Word is the band just raised more than $50,000 on Kickstarter for the promotion and support of this album. That’s a lot of change for fans to shell out, and it proves there’s a strong network of people that believe Anamanaguchi is more than a gimmick or niche project. ‘Endless Fantasy’ justifies their faith, and if given a proper chance, it could earn these boys a whole lot more attention.