Chipzel ‎– Super Hexagon EP

5 out of 5

Label: iam8bit

Produced by: Niamh Houston (?)

Just the right, bite-sized amount for some rave-up, chiptune jamz.

I first dipped in to label iam8bit’s output via some Grant Kirkhope releases they’d put out, and then was instantly drawn to their design ethic and, at the time, the types of games on which they’d focus. Super Hexagon was not a game I’d played, and chiptune music was not something I was familiar with at the time, but the look of the release – shaped like a hexagon, natch – and its slick packaging were a draw, and Chipzel’s flurried BPMs and bleep-blop tunes pretty much sounded exactly like I would’ve imagined something called “chiptune” sounding. The tracks here are fast and furious, and Chipzel – aka Niamh Houston – throws in breakdowns on each track so that it’s not just 8-bit club beats. The result, on the A-side, is something that’s immediately recognizable as video gamey and thus equally familiar and catchy, and then amped up for the type of twitch gameplay that Super Hexagon provides – i.e. your head will bob and your foot will tap and other parts of your body, if so inclined, will start to move.

The B-side’s tracks are appreciably separated, because they’re tonally different: some fuzzed-out, beatless effects on Focusedest, and then Focus Finale, which sounds like a slowed down and reversed version of the types of tracks featured on the other side. Considered as a coda, these tracks are a nice cooldown after you’ve played the A-side on repeat a handful of times.

I might generally criticize the designers for not labeling the vinyl sides in some fashion (and the runout isn’t immediately helpful), but since there’s only five tracks total, it’s easy enough to use the grooves to tell which side is which, and in this case, I’ll allow that the flat color of the wax was a better design choice. So overall, the fun of the music plus the damned creative look of the thing makes it a nice piece to own.