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The Consoles Are Alive: Watch Out for Snakes’ UPGRADE - Music Review

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Watch out for Snakes - Album Cover

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"Sometimes your weakness... becomes your greatest strength.

An accident left you hospitalized and alone. Zero chance of survival. An ideal candidate for an experimental cybernetic implant surgery. But there were unforeseen... complications.

Now, you’ll need to harness your newfound UPGRADE to battle the mysterious shadow corporation pursuing you.

It won’t be easy. Standing between you and freedom is an army of company agents and cybernetic nightmares. You’ll need to transform using technology to beat the odds.

But beware – even as you re-make your fate, you un-make yourself.

Nothing lasts forever."


 

Watch out for Snakes - Upgrade album Cover

With those words, Atlanta’s Watch Out for Snakes invites us to listen to the unexpectedly CINEMATIC world of the motherboard.  Producer Matt Baum creates the setting and the story and it is up to us to survive.  These songs move beyond the 8-bit bleep bloop you might be expecting.  They are MOODY and ENERGETIC; masterful in their ability to create  a yearning and burning atmosphere.   They are also damn fun.  All of this makes this listen an intense and often inspired ride through circuitry where video games like Contra and Blaster Master became the one reality; all joined together by the music. 

"Upgrade is a solid release that will make you want to guzzle cheap beer, play NES, and dance, dance, dance."


And you won’t mind either.  The consoles are ALIVE and, with these NINE tracks, they seem hell-bent to teach us a lesson about not tangling cords and just how to effectively blow into game cartridges that won’t load properly.  If you know what I am referring to, then this album is for the cool in you.  It will leave your head ringing and your mouth smiling.

This album is rich in themes and ready to rock.When it comes to creativity, Watch Out for Snakes, complete with keytar in hand, knows just what to do.  Trust in these sounds, my friends, and ride the waveform.  You won’t be disappointed. 

If “Intro” doesn’t have you on the edge of your seat wondering what intense soundscape is crawling your way from the television screen, then I can’t (and probably won’t) save you for yourself.  This is John Carpenter horror by way of Nintendo and it works so incredibly well that you WILL be headbanging about 25 seconds into “Torn”, the second song on the release.  Those PSG sound chips will quickly have you in puddle of your own sweat. 

Music as intense as this has but one volume and that is LOUD.  So, play this Upgrade as it was meant to be heard. 

That means that once the crackling tones of “Congestion” give way to a Knight Rider-esque bouncy theme, you best be ready to go deaf.  Crank the knob to 11, Mofos.  There are so many layers in this near 6-minute masterpiece of 8-bit emotion that one could listen to it for days.  This track, feeling all sorts of EDM, is destined for playlist greatness.

Following that is “Heartbeat”, a song where the intent plows inward and we have a slow number that is all about settling into a groove.  Your memories will flood in this one.  From the hours playing The Legend of Zelda and Metroid to all the High School dates you screwed up on as your confidence sank.  Had this song been around, you would have done things differently.  Those square wave harmonics are all about lifting you up and building your muscles.

Watch out for Snakes - Upgrade album Cover

But just wait until the haunting drumming and mood stabilizing SONICS of “Interlude” come blazing in.  This brief mesmerizing moment is held in check until the ferocity of “The Cut” makes itself known.  Jagged. Crushing.  Exact.  There’s no escaping the lasers shooting out of this song.  Oh, you can try to outrun it but I already know what is going to happen.  Touch that repeat button and dig in.  There’s no denying its power.

Think you know the 8-Bit highway, son?  If you haven’t stumbled upon Watch Out for Snakes yet, then you don’t know Jack Shit.  And Jack just left town.  The one-two punch of the crushing “Left Behind” followed by “Encounter” will have you loading custom firmware into everything you touch.  This is a haunting final arc on an album and, if you allow it to pierce your skin, it will leave you breathless, sweaty, and wanting more.

Thankfully, we get that final upbeat and satisfying kick to the seat of the pants with the gorgeous “End/Credits”, a song that feels so perfect for this time and place that it practically jumps into our very soul.  Inspire me.  Do it.  And, yes, that’s exactly what happens.  I am inspired.  Be warned.

Upgrade is a solid release that will make you want to guzzle cheap beer, play NES, and dance, dance, dance.

Enjoy the electronic view, my friends, as we head toward the synthwave summit.  Just be sure to Watch Out for Snakes.

Watch out for Snakes - Upgrade album Cover


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