Anamanaguchi - Dawn Metropolis (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Dawn Metropolis (2009)

The Normative Music Company

In a fit of nostalgia, I recently downloaded a ROM of X-Men 2: Clone Wars. Originally for the Sega Genesis, in some ways it was harder than current-gen video games, if only for its lack of continues or ability to score extra lives. But 14 years after its release, I finally brought the Phallanx to their knees, mostly with just Wolverine, although Cyclops and Nightcrawler helped. In addition to reveling in my ability to kick the shit out of Magneto, Apocalypse and the Brood, I was struck by the soundtrack. In spite of its limited range of notes, the game featured some strong compositions, with the opening title sequence and the driving techno of the Phallanx levels standing out in particular. I re-learned something that my nine-year-old self already knew: video games are awesome. Which is something Anamanaguchi already knew too.

New York's Anamanaguchi specializes in chiptune, or electronic indie rock that sounds like an 8-bit video game soundtrack. In terms of literal sound, think of any Nintendo game from the late `80s/early `90s with a dash of post-rock. But in terms of energy, catchiness and general fun, these guys fit in with the likes of Andrew W.K. and the Aquabats circa Charge!!. On Dawn Metropolis, a seven-song, 26-minute instrumental testament to the power of rock and/or NES, Anamanaguchi shines.

Now, to be fair, the band's tonal palate is severely limited because of its adherence to old-school sounds. Aside from some of the guitar work, this sounds like an old 8-bit cartridge. Which in turn means that for some, Dawn Metropolis might get a little repetitive near the end. But if you listen to the record's subtleties, a real treasure/princess/good album awaits.

Dawn Metropolis knocks out its two most immediate numbers right away with "Blackout City" and "Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues." These cuts make for fast-paced, fun, ideal driving music. Just like the video games of the past, these tunes will incite frenetic side-scrolling. The title track repeats the same quick ‘n' catchy trick, but it works, so there's no point in complaining.

Ananamanaguchi switches up its style a little on "Danger Mountain," which opens with what sounds like pixilated explosions and guns. Basically, it sounds like a boss battle. Where the band really extends itself is on the climactic final track, "Mermaid." This post-rock ditty goes through a wide range of ideas during its eight-minute running time, from its twinkling intro to its ominous verse, the song undulates between demonic prog and danceable techno.

While the band certainly has dork nostalgia appeal, Anamanaguchi should appeal to a wide range of music fans in spite of their admittedly niche approach. There are only so many chords to write with, and that goes double for chiptune, but Dawn Metropolis defies novelty by being a straight-up awesome rock record. How far the band and the style can go is debatable; for now, though, Dawn Metropolis is a strong document, a fine blend of electronic and punk sensibilities.