Quite a unique release, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it was put out by American Patchwork. Label founder Momus is the crowned prince of kooky casio pop, and his subjects here offer just as much oddball electro tomfoolery, if not more.
Some people love those video game songs. They’re so catchy and repetitive they get stuck in your brain forever (that is, until you release the demon tunes a la the Mini Bosses and the Advantage). Others, while not particularly mindful of the melody, just plain like to listen to dings, beeps, and doots. The Super Madrigal Brothers are for the latter audience, pouring out cold, mechanical tones of video games from the 8-bit era.
However, you are not listening to the soundtrack of Zelda, you are listening to music from the Renaissance era, long forgotten compositions from long dead guys with names like Giovanni Francesco Anerio and Alexandre Agricola. And there’s the catch…er, kitsch. SMB mesh together golden coin chings, power-up bloops, and “game over” keyboard groans, not for mosaic pop value as Cornelius does, and not to create some Nintendo novelty album (it’s been done). Instead the Brothers use video game music simply as the tools, and the music takes a life of it’s own outside the button-smashing and addictive game playing.
This album has the potential to be thoroughly enjoyed, but unfortunately, the listener has to do some work. One obvious task would be to track down some recordings of the music as it was originally meant to be performed. When I have enough time to spend at Borders, I….might do just that. Yet another notable facet of Shakestation is that it’s really two albums in one. Every song is played twice, once in the catchy Atari version, then again right after in the ‘melted and mangled’ version. I’d suggest programming the disc to play every other song (twice) if you want something more fluid and organized coming out of your speakers. Add this release to the ‘won’t listen to it often but will put it on for every one I know just so they can experience the weirdness themselves’ pile.
-Mark H. 8/22/05