July 17, 2007Glenn Turner

Klangstabil - Sprite Storage Format Cover

Artist: Klangstabil
Album: Sprite Storage Format
Track: Row Stripping (download - 13.1MB)
Purchase: iTunes | eMusic

While Klangstabil wasn't the first band to make & distribute Game Boy-created music, they were the first I ever heard of to do so! Sprite Storage Format was released on rhythm-noise label ant-zen in February 2000, and certainly turned quite a few of my friends' heads, but by the time word of the release trickled down to me, the LP was already unavailable. Deleted, in ant-zen-speak. So I just forgot about it, at least, until I started up this column.

Sprite Storage Format is quite pure in its execution. There are no accompanying tracks, instruments or inserts; all sounds were recorded via DAT in real-time from a Game Boy (via the somewhat-newly created Nanoloop program), but they did apply some additional effects processing (again, in real-time) to the audio. Consequently, a good deal of the tracks don't sound like your standard Game Boy-produced affairs, and overall the album's sound is much crunchier and comes off more organic than canned. Frankly, if you played the EP for me I'd have a hard time recognizing the sound's roots, which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. But one thing is obvious: Klangstabil weren't milking the Game Boy sound for its nostalgic value.

While the sounds are more imaginative, the structure of the songs themselves don't do much for me. The bulk of the album's tracks come across as banal noise noodling, aimless plodding that tries to evolve the tones than build an actual composition. The track '|Row| --Hi---' is especially guilty of this, as it's mostly comprised of the same atonal series of blips, and barely grows at all during the track's five minute running length. It's needlessly shrill, tedious, dull and, apart from the handheld novelty, hardly worth sitting through.

That's not to say the EP is completely bereft of quality tracks. 'Row Stripping', while basic, has a hooky rhythm and, as the song progresses, evolves a nice balance of textures and layering; noisy cacophonies that find their own sense of time and place in the listener's ears. It finds its own groove, which ultimately elevates it above the rest of the tracks on the album.

Even though 'Row Stripping' is worth listening to, it's hard to recommend Sprite Storage Format to even the most eager chiptune fans. As a concept it certainly was ahead of its time, but it's not the most engaging work available. Of course, it's all rather a moot point since it isn't exactly easy to come by. However, if you are interested in a digital copy, the entire album is available for download from eMusic or iTunes. And if you choose to go the extra mile and hunt down one of the 511 LP copies, well, I'm sure you'll love the gorgeous cover art.

Lastly, it's worth noting that, while Sprite Storage Format came out prior to their full-length Game Boy-created album Gioco Bambino, Gioco Bambino was actually created first. Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to obtain a copy of this album so, for the purposes of this week, I'm essentially neglecting it. If you like what you hear of Sprite Storage Format though, I recommend you hunt it down. And, with any luck, I'll be able to cover Gioco Bambino in an upcoming article.

Every Tuesday I take a look at a piece of music that's derived at least portions of its sound from video games! If you'd like to suggest a chiptune, bitpop track, or any video game-inspired music selection, please leave a comment or contact me at gturner at thenewgamer dot com!

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