Unlike most other electronic genres, chiptune always has a cognitive connection to its medium of inspiration that can make or break your level of enjoyment. While listening to any chiptune album there is the nagging question: “Could this had been the soundtrack to a game when I was a kid?” The answer for George & Jonathan III is a resounding yes. George & Jonathon have captured the spirit of 16-bit classics.

George & Jonathan III utilizes influence and techniques from several different electronic genres such as drum and bass, dubstep, and some trance, melded with funk, soul, and R&B. The album makes for quite the interesting listen that way. George & Jonathon’s sound is something decidedly SEGA Genesis—anyone who has played classic video games will find that sound is all too familiar. It is easy to imagine songs like “Everyday Problems” playing instead of the original music while making a speed run through levels in Sonic the Hedgehog. The replication of sound is expert in its execution. The layering of notes and sequencing create a distinctly retro voyage. When the song “Rock” gets going, it becomes evident why it has that title. The same could be said for most of the songs on the ten-track album.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, occasionally you hear odd run-ins with sound crowding. On “A Brief Moment of Clarity,” the song ebbs and flows between chippy love song and sound effect demo reel. While this may be part of the overall theme of the song, it also happens on “Canopy” and “Rock.” It’s not a complete turn off, but it is distracting enough at times.

George & Jonathan III is a playlist of love songs. Each high note standing in for emotional lyrics and affectionate tones, replicates some of the most evocative songs in recent memory. Think an entire album in the vein of “Digital Love” by Daft Punk. From top to bottom, this album lets you know this is about the after-party, not the rager beforehand. This is an album made to be listened to with someone else or with them on your mind.

Imagine the chiptune equivalent of an acoustic album and you’ll have an idea of what George & Jonathan III is. It is a focused album that showcases some of the range the genre has; a genre that could easily be boxed in by its own reliance on nostalgia but illustrates a broader reach when in the right hands. George & Jonathan know what they’re doing and on this outing, offer a nice flipside to chiptune partiers Anamanaguchi. I’m just glad I don’t have to blow into a cartridge to hear it.

Originally published (05/25/2014)


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