Bit Shifter – Closed System Blues

4 out of 5

Label: Data Casualty 

Produced by: Joshua C. Davis

From the start of Bit Shifter’s Bit Shifting, he’s been able to differentiate himself from many of his chiptune peers: though limited to the sonic palette of Gameboy blips and boops, Bit’s work stands out due to the depths and layering of his compositions, which are so forward leaning within the genre as to nearly break out of the “video game music” tag, while also absolutely remaining true to that.

With his 2018 effort, Closed System Blues, the juggling act is even more impressive, inviting in heftier emotions and, also, grimier breakbeats that further the understanding that Bit is making songs, and not just fun, bleepy jamz.  Which are here also – and fun, bleepy jamz can be a derned fine thing! – but it’s appreciated how the impact of the music can grow when once is willing to push beyond that, and find new ways of applying the same sounds.  Closed System Blues is thus one of the first chiptune albums to which I’ve been exposed that makes a play for “legitimacy” – in the sense that you could slip it in with some non-chiptune stuff on someone else’s playlist and catch them getting into it – without making the leap to, like, including vocals, or guitars, and etcetera.

That said, even with all of this innovation, chiptune is chiptune, and it starts to wear thin over the course of an album.  Bit Shifter chases this off as much as possible by switching up moods and pace, and even giving us a fitting concluding track that harkens back to RPG swirls of soothing notes, but repetition nonetheless sneaks in there towards the 11th hour.   …Which only takes about 30 minutes to get to, mind you, so it’s not like this wholly ruins the experience or anything (and that’s more mileage than I can often get out of chiptune music in general).