On paper, you might assume an album structured from old Nintendo game sounds and 1990’s-era VSTs would be cheeky chiptunes- but this Durán Vázquez album is nothing of the sort. ‘Hikikomori’ is social reclusion and while the atmosphere here is insular, and isolated, this isn’t the sound of somebody playing computer games. This is tense drone soundscape work- beatless, hollow, resonant, drawn-out synthetic tones with washes and twinkles.
The work has two sides, LP-style. On the first side, there are five tracks, four of which share the same name, “Solus Ipse”. The first of these has a glass-like wailing tones at the top end are so harsh that they are sometimes painful, telling you this work won’t function as an ambient chillout affair, the second introduces gradually crescendoing notes of tension and confusion. The third is more mellow, with distant string-like ebbs and occasional fragile percussive sounds. Brief interlude “Koroshiya” brings a hint of ethnic flute tonality, before the final “Solus Ipse” revisits the earlier disquiet.
The second side is a single 26-minute work, “Segunda Natureza (trebón, paxaros, electrostática)”, where the retro-chiptune sounds are really heard. This is mostly a more playful piece, still essentially a drone base but lighter, with arpeggio patterns, 8-bit-style percussive moments and occasional single-step bass notes akin to having somebody in the next room playing a classic NES. Moods do shift throughout, with some sections more sombre and the latter sections more sparse, but this piece manages to feel both more unique and more inventive.
It’s an album of two halves in which the second half is more recommendable than the first, but overall it’s a noteworthy take on the solitary drone soundscape form.