Game Music Saturdays: desk – mega

desk (no capital D), as he is known on the Internet, is a U.K. fighting game expert. He seems to be able to break games, like Capcom’s Tekken X Street Fighter, with the great of ease, finding bugs and glitches (some game-breaking ones, in fact) that not even professional QA departments can find. Observe:

Even so, he’s got his own blog that details the process by which he did these combos (highly impractical or interesting in some rather bizarre ways) and how he discovers them. Honestly, it’s rather fascinating to watch someone who has such an in-depth knowledge of how these games work. I don’t know what he does in real life or anything; I’m only familiar with the Internet persona, but the fighting game community (the FGC) has embraced his videos with open arms.

In addition to playing arcade-style game like this, exploiting the game and creating the coolest combos possible, desk also creates his own music. Playing with the arcade joystick, as well as playing bass guitar, apparently complement each other well. He’s been in a number of bands (not well known, obviously) including Calciusrepton (a two man bass/drums band), Project Dolphin (Japanese video game inspired jazz fusion – seriously, I love it), and also creates his own music through what sounds like a few different kinds of chiptune-soundalike synthesizers. Maybe they’re the real thing, but they sound slightly different from chiptune that purports to be from a certain kind of video game system. Whether they were created by a need to have music for his combo videos on Youtube or otherwise, they’re obviously interesting and worth covering. Hence, the EP (or extended play, not really a full album) that we’re discussing today.

mega, for me, is really awesome. I wish desk would release a full album of this kind of music. I’m pretty sure it’s Megadrive/Genesis chiptune, if I’m not mistaken (I’m sure someone could correct me), and that sound processor has always had a unique feel in contrast to, say, the dual soundboard of the Super Nintendo. It’s different from what I know well, but in this case different is good! Since we’ve only got four songs total, I suppose I can cover this track by track.

Given desk’s background in music, you’d expect something laid back and forceful, with a little backbeat on the side. poleovermania starts out with a relative stable beat, which is then overlayed with various sections that sound like a bass guitar, or the best approximation that chiptunes can create of a bass and rhythm guitar. I like the relaxed pace; in a lot of cases, chiptune artists are really electronica, trying to create dance music within the constraints of particular instruments, but this sounds much more like a unique throwback that takes equal portions Genesis game and jazz fusion mixture.

Actually, the “bass”, as it were, comes all over these tracks, especially in あの人 (sorry, I don’t know what this means, and I’m not weeaboo enough to find out on my own. That’s what the track is called). The track ramps up over nearly 25 seconds, and then ramps up with a constant array of different sounds, each seemingly competing for dominance. When I say there’s a difference between bass and drums, there is on desk’s tracks, and I like that you can differentiate. It makes repeat listens all the more enjoyable with all the layering going on. The bass triumphs as the song comes to a close.

On 豪鬼は5/4が好きです, yet another unpronounceable name for anyone not familiar with Japanese (or Google Translate, anyway). This one strikes a nice balance between the first and second tracks, giving us the BPM of poleovermania while giving us the complications of あの人. Of course, we get a nice little interlude to break up the action, and it has an epic quality to it I can’t quite put my finger on. Listen to it yourself and see what you think. I think the 5/4 in the title has something to do with the key signature, but what do I know? The breakdown at the end with the various flourishes just completes the song.

the dead walk (未完), on the other hand, seems to remind me of yogurtbox’s recent release Tree of Knowledge, although desk’s jazz fusion roots begin to show through here, with a variety of different sounds and playful attitude integrate throughout. There’s a lot of key changes in this one, and a lot of variety – an abrupt ending finishes the record.

I’m always amazed that some chiptune can capture video games so well, and others can’t, even using the same exact instrumentation. Jazz, with its improvisational touches, might just be the most effective for conveying it because it can contain different musical ideas in the same piece of music. Now, of course, chiptune can’t be all that varied since it has to be programmed on a machine first, but desk captures that variety better than many artists can, seemingly effortlessly. That’s why this four song EP never gets bogged down in repetitive dance beats or staid progressions, and why I like desk’s music, solo or with a band.

I suppose this EP represents that classic divide between dynamic and formal music. Jazz has always had a dynamism and free-flowing spirit, while “art music”, so called, displays the workings of a finely tuned machine. But, contrary to some, I think there’s opportunity for the planned and lived working of both. In the same way, a lived and formal theology both work together in a person’s life. Whereas some things, for me,play out as situations in real life to which one has to adjust and adapt, others I would never back down on believing (hey, you know, the Resurrection, right?). As Thomas Aquinas might say, Scripture contains an inner dynamism that differentiates from all other “dead” books, for Hebrew 4:12 says

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

There’s room for it all; the formal, supposedly staid chiptune form, and the dynamic, improvisianal elements. And desk does both pretty well, in my opinion.

Check desk’s album out, or some of his other stuff, here!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.