Some things are untouchable. Eight-bit video-game music from the mid- to late Eighties is assuredly not one of them. If you grew up playing the Nintendo Entertainment System, you know why: The music was rad, and thus so is any attempt at reviving its charm, on principle alone. Nintendo composers’ deft blend of classical structure, pop hooks, and early-computer-age MIDI whimsicality made for countless unforgettable soundtracks. Go ahead, hum the Super Mario Bros. tune. Now the underwater level. And now hum any song from Halo.
Unlike The Advantage, The Minibosses, and The NESkimos, all of whom made their mark covering Nintendo songs, New York City’s Anamanaguchi plays original tunes in the key of NES. You’ll recognize the familiar blips and twitches and faux strings and charging bass lines, but none of the melodies. At the four-piece band’s service is a hacked 1985 Nintendo console, which allows it to summon those buttery-smooth synth notes and modulated keyboards that sound like guitars. This mimicry is augmented by live drums, bass, and rhythm guitar, achieving a pleasing sonic balance.
But what about the songs? The band’s latest 7-inch offers two samples. “Airbrushed,” the single, has all the drama and energy of a side-scrolling actioner. Not a boss level, but close. It’s a real work of art. “Penpal,” the B-side, is a bit less evocative — maybe suited for a puzzle game. Its quick pace and punk edge suggest that time just might be running out. If the Konami code means anything to you, keep an eye out for more. (self-released)