I’ve long been a fan of chiptuners 8 Bit Weapon for one simple reason: the duo, Seth and Michelle Sternberger, have all but perfected the brand of lo-fi electro-pop one typically associates with the genre.
From the three pulse wave generators of the oft-overlooked Commodore VIC-20 to the more commonly employed sounds of that portable titan of ‘tune the Nintendo Game Boy, 8BW have been making big noise using intentionally tiny palettes since 1999. Still, when I caught wind of their latest project, the recently released Disassembly Language: Ambient Music for Deprogramming Vol. 1, I was a little skeptical.
For a band that’s all about late-night retro dance parties and custom soundtracks for larger than life special events, an album that intentionally steps away from frenetic sawtooth waves and driving beats is quite a departure. And yet, that’s exactly what Disassembly Language is–it’s chill music of the highest order.
Clocking in at just over an hour long and featuring a tidy four-track selection, the latest from 8 Bit Weapon was an artistic risk, for sure, but the Sternbergers managed to come out of it victorious. From the slow, glowing fade-in of “Phase I Lexical Analysis” to the otherworldly warbles of closer “Phase IV Release,” Disassembly Language alternately ebbs and flows, refreshing and relaxing the listener like no other 8BW release before.
While the deep space groove of the almost John Carpenter-esque “Phase II Debugger” is likely a personal highlight, the entire album achieves magnificent, sweeping melodies that, despite my initial resistance, really did serve to help me unwind after a long day at the office. Taken on their own, the four “phases” of Disassembly Language are discreet musical adventures, ranging from 13 to nearly 32 minutes in length, but together (in natural play order) they are a broader cohesive soundscape that can actively engage or serve as unobtrusive background music.
A collection that’s designedly ambient and downright experimental–the duo tout that the album was “co-written by a computer” as some of the notes were randomly selected– Disassembly Language: Ambient Music for Deprogramming Vol. 1 is far from your standard chiptune fare. It pushes listeners and the band-favorite C64 SID chip to new heights, before both arrive at the ultimate staticky (and satisfying) resolution.
Review material provided by: 8 Bit Weapon