8 Bit Weapon – Mean Time

8 Bit Weapon - Mean TimeBilled as a selection of tracks left out in the cold from one project or another, 8 Bit Weapon’s latest CD – lovingly packaged, as always, in an authentic floppy disk sleeve – is a mix of material from different “eras” of their history. Released at Classic Gaming Expo 2007, Mean Time is perhaps an indication of how busy 8 Bit Weapon has been with commissions for original material from Disney, among others.

The laid-back ’80s-style instrumental “Times Changing” kicks things off, while “Chronomancer” is much more in line with 8 Bit Weapon’s first album of game music remixes, as is “Flying Spaghetti Monster” (no doubt an ode to those with noodly appendages everywhere). The newest material, as well as the highlight of Mean Time by miles, is “Micro Boogie”, with its vocoder-ized lyrics making it an insanely catchy follow-up to Vaporware Soundtracks‘ “One Last Mission”. Seriously, just try to get this song out of your head. It ain’t easy.

“64 Gigabit Mario Epic” is a curiously titled instrumental with orchestral samples aplenty; I’ve got a hunch that this may be more Seth solo than 8 Bit Weapon, because it just doesn’t sound like it sprang from a SID chip. (But hey, I could be dead wrong there.) “Die Kintergrunde”, a collaboration with Thomas Margolf (also known as the German micromusic act FirestARTer), combines both the retro and modern approaches interestingly, and is a strong runner-up for the catchiest track on the whole CD.

Following that is a couple of tracks that I remember from Seth’s solo project, Unfortunate Brain Chemistry. It’s just possible that the CD that those tracks come from has faded into relative obscurity for casual 8BW fans, so it’s interesting to hear them here. Though one track is labeled as a “SID Mix”, I really couldn’t detect that much of a difference from the Unfortunate Brain Chemistry version.

3 out of 4“Future Paths” closes things off with a track that once again sounds a little bit more like Seth solo than 8 Bit Weapon, but that’s not a bad thing. Mean Time may not be the most cohesive album in the world (I say album, but running-time-wise it’s more of an EP), but with a spread of material over more than five years, it makes up for it with the Weapon’s uncanny sense of a good, catchy song – and it’ll do the trick nicely in tiding us over for the next CD of all-new material.

Order this CD

  1. Changing Times (3:34)
  2. Chronomancer (1:50)
  3. Flying Spaghetti Monster (1:50)
  4. Micro Boogie (3:47)
  5. 64 Gigabit Mario Epic (3:14)
  6. Die Kintergrunde featuring FirestARTer (4:12)
  7. Robot Kindergarten (2:28)
  8. Femme Machine (SID Mix) (5:10)
  9. Future Paths (2:55)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 29:00

8-Bit Weapon – The Vaporware Soundtracks

The Vaporware SoundtracksA completely different animal from 2003’s Confidential, Vaporware Soundtracks is the sound of a whole new, completely reloaded 8-Bit Weapon. Rather than remixing classic Commodore 64 game music, 8-Bit Weapon – now consisting of Seth Sternberger and drummer Stacey Superstix – is doing some infectiously catchy original numbers. The odd pairing of “micromusic,” using Commodore computers and a Game Boy Color, with live drumming gives some of this CD’s tracks a fresh surge of power – in fact, I found that on some of the tracks where there were no live drums, the pace almost seems to sag.

Unusual instrumental pairings alone don’t make a good album, though – a bunch of good songress do, and this album definitely has ’em. Seth does vocoder-processed vocals on “Arcade” and “One Last Mission”, the latter being the jewel of the whole collection. Played frequently on stage at Classic Gaming Expo 2005, “One Last Mission” is a masterful throwback to the sort of dirge-like electro-pop that nobody’s done this well since Gary Numan was still on the map. Its lyrics are also a perfect calling card for 8-Bit Weapon, a story of losing (and trying to redeem) love, described in terms of an epic gaming session. Stacey gets a moment in the spotlight as well, delivering breathless vocals with just a hint of Lene Lovich on the twitchy “Panty Raid”.

The rest of the album is largely instrumental, though again the percussion gives it a certain “oomph” – when it’s there. Some of the instrumentals come entirely out of the computer with no acoustic backup, and while many of them are lively and fast-paced, they just seem to lack the impact of those tracks with real stick work.

rating: 3 out of 4The new lineup of 8-Bit Weapon has a lot going for it – a great sound that’s not like anything else I’ve heard recently, and some great songs to go with it. If anything, they might want to concentrate on songs that utilize both of their talents, and, it must be said, they’re at their best when playing live. The moment they can capture that same energy in the studio, 8-Bit Weapon will officially be locked, loaded, and maybe just dangerous enough to take on the mainstream.

Order this CD

  1. GameBoy Rocker (2:53)
  2. Sk8 Bit (4:03)
  3. Arcade (4:13)
  4. Bombs Away! (3:26)
  5. Panty Raid (3:54)
  6. Bit ‘n Run (3:49)
  7. Samurai Princess (3:48)
  8. Breathe Sleep Dream (3:58)
  9. Action Kitty In Space (4:32)
  10. Nature Music (2:54)
  11. Funk Data (5:41)
  12. One Last Mission (6:59)
  13. Satellite (2:20)
  14. Bit Breaks (demo) (4:21)
  15. Sk8 Bit (demo) (3:59)
  16. Hidden Track (4:55)

Released by: 8-Bit Weapon
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 65:45

8-Bit Weapon – Confidential

8-Bit Weapon - ConfidentialIt’s not too often that I’m going to waltz in here and brag about the packaging of a CD, since it’s so frequently tangential to the contents of said CD, but given this disc’s retro-video game theme, it has the coolest possible case: the disc is black on both sides, and comes in a soft-lined floppy disk sleeve cut open at the top. The floppy sleeve comes in the traditional paper envelope, and by God, it looks like a 5 1/4″ floppy.

Now let’s talk about what happens when you actually play it. The entire CD consists of remixed tunes straight out of a Commodore 64 SID chip. For those who haven’t thought about it in quite a while, the SID chip was the secret behind the C64’s unique musical abilities, and the songs heard here are all from games that made the best use of the SID back in the 80s heyday of that computer. Seth Sternberger adds his own unique touch, usually a somewhat more robust beat than the SID could’ve produced by itself, and the result is as catchy as it is unique. Remixing video game music may not be anything new, to be sure, but this is a case where the artist doing the remixing makes it his own.

rating: 4 out of 4The third and fourth tracks are easily my favorites on here, but it’s all good and highly recommended. As of the time of this review, the 8-Bit Weapon CD is available in a special deal with Sternberger’s solo CD Unfortunate Brain Chemistry. And if you ever get the chance to see him play live at Classic Gaming Expo or some other venue, Seth puts on quite a colorful show.

Order this CD

  1. Times of Lore intro (remix) (0:54)
  2. Neuromancer Ending (Warhol Edit) 2.0 (1:46)
  3. MULE (Bitblaster mix) (2:20)
  4. Inspector Gadget (GoGo MIX) (0:58)
  5. Crazy Comets (Orbital Decay Mix) 2.0 (4:45)
  6. Chimera (Miles mix) (3:53)
  7. Spy vs Spy II (Drunk n basement mix) 2.0 (2:55)
  8. Bards Tale II – Sanctuary Score (Ybarras Mystic mix) (1:45)
  9. Defender of the Crown Theme (down 4 da Crown mix) (1:01)
  10. Movie Monsters Game (disco terror mix) (2:08)
  11. I.G.U.S.T.R.A. (full bit mix) (3:43)
  12. Commodore C 64 (bit blitz mix) (3:00)
  13. Boulderdash Theme (Dirty bass mix) (0:47)
  14. Acidgroove (Orchestral mix) (4:35)
  15. Agas Sram (Alien Vinyl mix) (3:06)
  16. Mars Saga (MrJetlands slow jam mix) (2:02)
  17. Defender of the Crown Romance (on the downlow mix) (1:15)
  18. Times of Lore Title (Epic Hendrix Mix) (7:49)

Released by: Brainscream
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 48:42