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Robotropilis by Algoorithm

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Track listing

The debut album for Algoorithm, with eight unique Nanoloop dance tracks and one remix. Best heard after a long romp through a dungeon where all you had was a torch spell, some healing herbs, uncertain feeling of when you’ll find the exit… or on the dance floor.

This album is a journey through many different genres, moods and styles of music, represented electronically. It draws a little from everything I’ve ever listened to – from 90′s Sega Genesis videogame soundtracks, to heavy metal, to reggae, to classical. (Quoted from the album description.)

While we can, Party
A nigh-industrial-strength-bass opener, which simple, still gets you excited. Though the beats are basic, you can hear them coming from all 4 Gameboy audio channels. The break at 0:50 is a great tease to a slightly faster noise-track, but by 1:42 when the tempo changes again (and there should have been another pause for that), the beats return to their original pace. It felt like I overstayed my welcome at a character-select screen, but not bad for an opener.

(Enter) Robotropolis
Not much of a transition, but you get a nice, quick Eastern-techno theme to open this album’s eponymous track. While the longest track on the album, with its fair share of ups and downs, it isn’t the most impressive track. It does set the tone for everything else. Early on, you can hear a crescendo swelling in the background that breaks into a rhythm of strings that echo and harmonizes with the main beat. It’s pretty nice, but like the previous track, breaks down and loops to an earlier sequence for twenty seconds; you probably wouldn’t notice if you heard it during a show. The sudden drop and rebuild around 2:00 was neat, but I really liked the sudden loss of mellow bass. If this emptiness was extended, it would give more suspense and expectation to the latter portion of the track. As it is, when you hear the neat echo at 3:03, you’ll be too relaxed out to realize it was used at 0:48. Similarly, at 3:47, when Algoorithm ramps up the higher frequencies, you expect a big end after a build-up — or at least a shift to the next track. Not another minute of mellow bass and beats.

Crowded Market
Delving deeper into town and the theme, here’s a more upbeat track that deftly switches between a zither, snare-drum, cornet, and a mandolin. Easily the most impressive opening as Algoorithm shifts various instruments in and out more rapidly between the four DMG channels making for a faster-paced listen. The only qualm about this track is, like the others, it lasts a minute too long (almost exactly here) and thus loses a good opportunity to transition to the next locale.

Sapphire Island
Jumping onto Sapphire Island, the pace goes back to the mellow feel we had when entering the album, though this has a Jamaican tropics feel to it. A nice, if abrupt, change of pace that works on both the dance floor or your headset. The track is so soothing, you probably won’t know just how long you’ve been here. It is a little odd that, just before the 2-minute mark, the high-pitched melody almost can’t escape the bass beats. Other than that, the “conversation” between the low-pitched and high-pitched melodies is quite stretched out, and in such a subdued pacing, making for the best assembled track with a beginning, middle, and ending.

The Long Tunnel
The transition is rather sudden from the tropical melody to an underground beat with wicked echo. A nice switch-up in the first minute, and then the real melody starts 20 second later that keeps this from becoming a pure beats-track. I don’t like how the track essentially restarts at 1:55; because you can start from the 2-minute mark and hear the same sequence, the track sounds over-long. That said, the ending pulse-wave as we go from trepidation to action is probably the best transition so far.

Strife Machine
Another great opening, and this one is actually helped by the ending of the Long Tunnel. The climax at 0:56 gives you a sense of excitement and foreboding. And though the rest of the track loops the opening, the lasting reverberation adds a new feel of danger. Again, at the 2-minute mark, you notice the repeating, almost stalling. The fade-out for the last 30 seconds also leaves something to be desired. After the beats stop, before the volume starts to die, something build up, like a sudden transition to the Digital Moon. Instead, it’s just a quiet fade.

Digital Moon
Taking a bit from the previous two tracks, you get a fast-paced, wild background beat, but also a slow and methodical reed/brass melody. Sounding as odd as if the Profound Darkness suddenly challenged Street Fighter III, the tune is still impressive. It could end perfectly at 2:55, but Algoorithm loops it for another minute before suddenly killing it.  My biggest qualm is that this suddenly appears after Strife Machine (the climax) and before City Square (the ending). It bears similarity to Strife that it could have been placed before, not after. That would have given the fade from Strife to City into City Square a more natural feel.

City Square
Here we are, at the end of the quest. Time for something to hear that recaps the party’s journey as the credits roll. The tune does fit this description aptly and is very low-key for the first minute before Algoorithm ramps up the ambient noise building up to… well, more of the same actually. The twist is that this is the shortest track (tied with the opening), but deserved to be lengthened out. Especially as a “Dragon Warrior ending” track (which gathers the game’s NPCs at the end). The track remains a nice listen; it’s not a dance track, but a calm “remix of a rural town.” I still think the track should have ended up with something spectacular, especially with all those teasing swelling chords.

Ice Cap Zone (Sonic 3)
A nice bonus track unrelated to the rest of the album, Algoorhithm shows off a remix of “Ice Cap Zone 2″ from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Lacking the PCM noises (and stereo chirps and wipes) of the original, it’s a pretty slick streamlined version. There’s an extra echo which makes for a smooth, slow, almost ethereal listen (the opposite of the faster-paced original). The decision to bust out a beat-and-drums solo at 2:04 was pretty awesome homage.

The Footer (because hanging the Cat in the Hat on my wall apparently doesn’t make me a Doctor)

For a first time outing, Algoorithm has an impressive array of individual tracks. There are no weird stereo tricks, or fancy dual-DMG 8-channel juggling, but a serviceable series of tracks for late-night shows. However, while the collection makes sense as a whole, the tracks don’t segue well at all. It also doesn’t help that most feel stretched out for live-parties rather than streamlined for straight playthroughs. The album is still worth a listen if you take breaks between “chapters” or throw it in a playlist on shuffle.

You can listen to the album yourself at CDbaby.