4mat is a genius.
Just check out "Surrender", his sophomore chip music album. Listening to this work of art for the first time, I was blessed with the single most powerful experience I've ever had with an 8-bit album. Throughout the eleven magnificent tracks of the record, you'll discover that this humble genre can become something simply masterful in the right hands. Matthew Simmonds, commonly known under his artist handle 4mat, knows exactly what he's doing here in the fullest sense of the phrase, and provides lo-fi electronica fans with an exquisite form of musical bliss to "Surrender" to.
The album opens with the beautifully-titled "La Pluie Tombe Dans Mon Coeur" (French for "Rain Falls in My Heart"), which introduces the record on a uniquely symphonic note, with ethereal saw waves playing in harmony with subtle, yet effective, orchestration in the background. From there we are led directly into "Montreux"--a brilliantly danceable tune with heavy drum beats and a riveting bassline that sounds best when played loudly.
"Porcelaine", track four, is another winner with its beautiful melody and harmonic work, while "Surrender", the title track, left me thoroughly impressed with its mesmerizing intro and wondrous main theme that serves the title well. In addition to his thoughtful melodies, Simmonds has always striven for a remarkably high level of polish and coherence with his work, and "Surrender" is no exception. Tracks lead intro subsequent tracks quite cleverly, such as with the mellow "Starfields".
"Chipmusic Is Dead" should be regarded as one of the finest chiptunes ever composed. The bold, yet somewhat true, title serves to enhance the tune's beautiful recurring theme, which is played loud, low, high, and soft at different intervals, to great effect. After the heavy beats of the first eight tracks, Simmonds tones the album down to a mellow level with tracks like the fittingly-titled "Pretty Prairie", which includes a well-chosen sample of birds chirping. The record closes off with "Vilette", a short track that, while not 4mat's best, does include some further polish and high production values to enjoy.
Overall, "Surrender" is an excellent album that is not to be missed by the true chip music fan. The production values are high, the mastering is expertly handled, and the polish is extraordinary. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as you can--you may find yourself pleasantly dumbfounded by just what your hear in the next half-hour.
SCORE: 9.4 out of 10 - "Outstanding"
[4mat's "Surrender" can be purchased from BandCamp here: http://4mat.bandcamp.com/album/surrender]