Team Doyobi
Choose Your Own Adventure

By David Gunn

 
Choose Your Own Adventure? Maybe. But only if your adventure of choice has a title like Astrosmash, Cosmic Avenger or Zaxxon... because if isn't broke and dated, Team Doyobi don't want to play with it. Eschewing the sophistication of Logic and all such Apple Mac-ery, these kids are busy making their music from the old skeletons of 1980s machines. The battered souls of Ataris and Commodore 64s pouring out all their songs of 8-bit reverie and neglect. Let all 20-something males wipe a tear from their eye.

Given their origins, you could be forgiven for assuming that Choose Your Own Adventure would be one dimensional, all blocky colours and unchanging robo-rhythms. But this isn't the case – and beyond anything else, the fact that cuts of such interest and sophistication were beaten out of old '80s computers is pretty impressive. And rather than just arcade games, this release makes me think of some big low-res Tron playground, where all the Frankenstein machines come out to dance. Well, their cruel parents make them come – they try their best but they don't quite make friends, they say strange things and don't know how to play. Like on Radial Fold, where a precocious young gamester rocks up with a disco rhythm he thinks the others will love but it just makes the rest confused. Then some poor sod with strange parents tries to help by piping up with a monkish dirge he thinks everyone sings at home (no-one else does). But a few minutes later it all turns out dandy when this pied stutterfunk shimmies in with a flourish they all dig and the playground kicks off in big style electro party.

So Team Doyobi have their jazz about this album being an adventure involving princesses, battles and all sorts, but to me it sounds more like an Atari version of Stand By Me – with this bunch of misfit kid-codes being forced to camp out overnight and going through various episodes of fun and terror. To start out with, its pretty dandy – sure, some rhythms go off to their own corner to play, but in general it's a happy mess of noises and analogue melodies enjoying themselves. But by the time Square It comes around, things are a bit different. Evening is well on its way, and the pixel-sky is getting darker. There are still kids playing but it's so murky and bit-glitched out there you can't hear much thru the fog. It's a scary time for young transformers.

Actually, it's this middle bit of the album when things get really interesting. The early pieces start you smiling, with funked-out confusions of beat, bit and melody all careering off each other in violent sparks, but tracks like Square It and Weaken Not are where the album gets its depth. To continue the obligatory console analogy, it's as if the album gradually goes back in time, using more and more basic machinery, showing us earlier and cruder visual representations as it progresses, ending up with these huge blocks of granular sound through which the old images try and make their more intricate ways. It comes off almost like Fennesz, all whitesound frags and melodies whisping just beyond sight, and in the main it is judged just right – the early tracks have already taught you how to deal with this shit, and you can feel yourself reconstituting the melodies from the residue, sticking the old arcade jigsaws back together in new patterns of your own making. Actually, that's what the cover art looks like too. Maybe this is the adventure...

That said, the album isn't an unqualified success. For this listener at least, the final tracks are a bit of a let down. After recalibrating my senses like that, I kinda want the closing minutes to do something wonderful and strange, to do something with this sea-change of my senses. Instead, it reverts back to the greater solidity of the opening numbers – entirely respectable, but a missed opportunity nonetheless. Overall though, this is an album of quality and considerable enjoyment. And it is electronica in an old-school, largely forgotten sense. It's analogue and proud, dissonant, messy and abrasive – and well worth the entrance price. Like Boards Of Canada seen through x-ray specs. Like Aphex Twin translated into morse code and fed blue smarties. So bugger choosing your own adventure – its too much effort in these dogdays. Just grab your dayglo ticket and let the Doyobi kids take you home.
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!