Written By: C A S I N O
Published: May 22nd, 2022
My doctor says that I need to stop getting so bothered by the little things. He says it is bad for my health, but all I feel when looking at the cover of Sev’s latest album Zero-G is FURY. The cover depicts the instantly recognizable Blue Falcon F-Zero Machine, presumably piloted by legendary racer/bounty hunter Captain Falcon, but flying through space! F-Zeros were not meant to operate in the cold vacuum of space and low gravity environments, which is why Captain Falcon uses his Falcon Flyer Space Cruiser to navigate the stars! Everyone knows that! Such a lack of respect for a universally beloved franchise is tough to forgive, but I will admit that the music within the album in question may allow Sev a pass, but only just barely!
Album Art By Segaoctopus
Zero-G was released late April on the ever-reputable Pacific Plaza Records, with the artist stating that this was his most challenging project to date in his six years of making music. The main inspiration for the concept of this album likely will not surprise you. Sev credits the well-known vaporwave producer Equip and specifically, his CURSBREAKER X album.
“The idea of making an OST for a game that doesn’t exist was so interesting to me. The authenticity to the style he was aiming for and the incredible world-building and musical storytelling he was able to accomplish immediately inspired me to undertake Zero-G.”
Vaporwave and video games go together like me and Chipotle so I was eager to give this album a listen. The tracks are named things like “Title_Screen.wav” and “Combat Tutorial,” which I am a big fan of, not only because they go with the theme of course, but because it gives a plain description of what it is you -ought- to be feeling when listening to the track and what the creator had in mind when producing it.
So naturally the first track on the album, entitled “START UP” is a charming little tune, but only 15 seconds in length. It can be forgiven for this though, as all you have done so far is turn on your game console. You have not actually begun to play the game. Be patient.
The first taste of the actual “game” itself is in “Title_Screen.wav,” which paints the picture of a futuristic starfighter action game. The track has a slow start, as one can imagine the title of the game slowly coming into view before the song really takes off with some synthy goodness and a bass line that serves to up the groove factor. It does a great job at setting the tone for the rest of the album and establishes the first brush strokes in the video game that you should be picturing in your mind as the rest of the album plays.
But slow the hell down Space Cowboy, you aren’t ready for takeoff just yet. “Worldmap” is next and is one of the slower tracks on the album. The tune is a calming one, but is made unique by its use of various sound effects that continue to play into the album’s theming. Retro blips and confirmation sounds signal that the player of this game is likely scrolling through menus, possibly looking for where they can invert the analog stick.
“Homeworld Departure” is the fourth track on the album and it signals that it is time to blast off, with the help of Soul▲Craft, who has a guest spot on the song. The song is more upbeat and faster than the ones that came before and allows Sev’s roots as a trap artist to shine through. The song makes sure to set the right tone though. You are taking off and blasting through space, but the enemy has yet to reveal themselves and as such, you do not get a feeling of high-intensity combat with this one.
“MissingNo. #1 [Forest Planet]” is a style of vaporwave that I have really begun to enjoy recently thanks to an album I had reviewed previously. It’s a track that is undoubtedly futuristic in tone but heavily leans into nature and the natural world. It hits the breaks on the trap-style percussion and tones down the synths a tad, allowing instruments like the wood block to give the track a much more down-to-Earth sound. This in addition to the sounds of birds chipping and flowing water makes this track stand out in a special way even if the synth is still front and center.
Much like previews before a movie, the tutorial is the best part of a video game, and track six on this album, “Combat Tutorial,” is a banger and the track where the entire album really starts to get going. This, along with the following two tracks, “MissingNo. #2 [City Planet – ft Chrom ’47]” and “Escort Mission” are where Sev’s skills as a producer shine. Percussion, synth, and 8-bit chiptune all come together to create three great tracks which nail the retro game tone the album is going for.
“MissingNo. #3 [Ice Planet]” starts out as a relatively chill affair (heh) but in a good way, sounding exactly like how ice would sound if you know what I mean. (Note: My editor wanted me to explain how exactly ice sounds, but we all know what I mean right? Right. Don’t be such a dick Gban.) The track doesn’t stay that way for long though, as it breaks off into a trap beat that would feel right at home on a Blank Banshee album, but doesn’t get too carried away so as to not break the mood of the piece.
Hey, a title track on a vaporwave album! Pretty novel! “Zero-G” is good, but it is not great. It is heavy on the synth and an easy enough listen, but I cannot help but feel that this was a track for Sev to show off something that is uniquely his sound, and what we get instead is a relatively tame synthwave song. It does accomplish what it sets out to do and continues to build upon this retro virtual world of galactic starfighters, but still winds up feeling like a missed opportunity.
A quick breather with “Prelude.” The calm before the storm, until at last, the climax in “Boss Battle [ft. Prismer].” This is the heaviest, heart-poundingest track on the album, and as well it should be. It comes out swinging, but still leaves room for things to escalate. Furthermore, Sev includes plenty of switch-ups allowing other instruments to take the lead at different times, masterfully switching between retro chiptune and synth that is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. Sadly, there is a slight problem in that the song ends rather abruptly. Furthermore, as slamming as this track is, it feels like it belongs in the cocaine and dream-fueled world of Kirby rather than something like a Star Fox or Metroid game. With that said though, the track is one of the stars of the album and a great listen.
A winner is you on the last track of the album, “Mission Complete.” One final breather and a congratulations, the first half of the song paints a picture of you landing back at home base and receiving a medal for your valor. The second half, though, is led by a repetitive baseline that I sort of see as the credits rolling. It’s a somewhat less active song than the other tracks on the album, but does serve its purpose as a good closer. It ends on an almost sinister note though as if the camera zooms in on the corpse of the defeated boss and you swear you see it twitch. The End?
Zero-G was an ultra-fun listen and the highest compliment that I can give is that it most definitely accomplishes its goal in painting the picture of a retro starfighter that you can be fooled into thinking actually existed. On top of that, the tracks are wonderfully and neatly composed with only a few minor complaints in regards to risks not taken. The question is, does it excuse the insult on the cover as mentioned in the first paragraph? The answer is a resounding maybe…
Get The Album!