Around September of last year, I applied to write for NewRetroWave. Our fearless leader sent me a link to an album called The Arcade Dream by an artist called Shirobon. I was blown away. Roughly one year later, here I am, listening to Shirobon’s newest effort, Infinity. Not only am I astounded again, but I am also intrigued. Shirobon’s been at it since at least 2007; now he seems to be kicking into a whole new gear.
This is not to say that all (or even most) retrowave/retrosynth music sounds the same, but there is a loose sort of template. There are certain things one expects. A certain cross-section of the sound spectrum, a particular theme or tone. I won’t suggest that Shirobon has turned this idea on its head, but he’s certainly given it a vigorous shake and a strong cup of coffee before introducing it to some new techniques in his sound-dojo. If you are listening right now, what you are hearing is a simple yet brilliant fusion of chip music, retro synths, and vicious dance-style beats. I’ve heard attempts at this before, and none of them were even good enough to remember clearly. Infinity leaves these early cave-paintings in the dust and takes you on a ride in Shirobon’s starship.
The majority of the tracks on Infinity are catchy, high-tempo music. Any listener will immediately notice that something’s significantly different from your average retrowave album. “Are You Ready” and “Meteor” lay it all out there for you, letting you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. You won’t mind. “Pump It” reminds me of those vicious late-80s-to-mid-90s dance/hip-hop cuts, infused with some new life and muscle. “Chiptuna” seems to be popular amongst other listeners who’ve left comments on the Bandcamp page… I can’t disagree that it’s a fun track. Lots of playful modulation and a thumping beat throughout. “Little Calculations” is a good change-up, a little slower and with some subdued bass and pizzicato to cool you off. There’s also a neat collaboration with chiptune artist ProtoDome… the track’s title is a bunch of Unicode symbols, but it’s very cool, and it makes me think of a really break-neck, intense level of Sonic The Hedgehog. It’s got a lot of good 8/16 bit noise in there, as well as that electric organ doing those orchestra hit-style chords. “Shibuya” is a decent track; I went into it assuming it’d just be repetitive, and it IS repetitive, but it’s not terrible. I will say this, though: that “wee-wee-weaw” pitch-shifty sound gets annoying. You get some pretty good vocals on “This Love,” along with some great music to dance with your honey to. Infinity wraps up with “Reflections,” a wistful sort of tune that evokes images of video game endings. Sometimes it’s sloppy and ham-handed to end an album with a soft, slow track, but I feel like this was a good call as far as Infinity is concerned.
I had been casually scanning around for an album to review, just to switch it up a little. I’m very glad to have found Infinity, where we see Shirobon’s evolution and innovation continue. It is my sincere hope that we continue to hear more from Shirobon; this makes two albums of his that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to and reviewing, and it’s thrilling to think that he may be working on more music this very moment. Ever since starting here as a writer, I’ve felt like a kid in a candy store surrounded by all these gifted musicians. Shirobon shines bright among them. I give Infinity 8/10 stars. This album is both reliably good AND a bit innovative. I suggest you give it a listen; you will not regret it.