I first stumbled upon Bitman last year at Beat:Cancer Festival 1.0 in London. I never really thought much of chip-tune style music up until that point, but what I heard absolutely blew me away, and I loved every second of it. It was energetic, high-octane fun from start to finish. As soon as the set was over, I bought the current album at the time, The Dark Byte, and found myself hooked. Fast forward to July of this year, and he released the third album of his current trilogy, The Dark Byte Rises (see what he did there?)

Opener, and title track, “The Dark Byte Rises”, starts with an upbeat sound, as a catchy drumbeat kicks in, complimented by dramatic piano. As the track continues, it progressively becomes more and more electronic, speeding up the pace into an almost drum and bass style. There’s also elements of dubstep that creep in to help fill it all out. It’s an excellent way to kick-off the album, and sets the listener up for what’s to come. “Happy Accident” serves as a interlude, with a typical chip-tune style, mixed with echoey synth melodies. This bleeds seamlessly into “Two Thousand and Hateteen”. The start of the song samples news reports about racist abuse after the result of the Brexit referendum, backed with warning sirens. I think the stance and message behind this one are pretty clear. The track has a good mix of ambience in it’s background, with a more aggressive assault of electro in the foreground, as a cathcy hook helps to mould it all together. There’s a fantastic drop at the end, giving it a massive finish (I wish would’ve lasted about 20 seconds longer though.) The comically named “I Trapped My Balls in A C64” is yet another interlude that starts with some dialogue, before bursting in with a sudden wave of sound, which reflects the title of the track. It’s quite apt! “Bucket of Fuck” can only be described as catchy as fuck, with it’s addictive hooks and mesmerizing rhythmic bass. Everything is blended together perfectly here, making it the most danceable track of the record. I could see this going down extremely well in a live setting! “Last Fight” has harsh cuts of electro, making for a bulky sea of sounds. This is backed with what I can only describe as electronic Pungi. It’s an extremely odd mashing of styles, but it just somehow seems to work, and it gives the song a certain charm to it. Just to confuse people, the next track is titled “Pashed Motato”. A medieval style melody quickly transitions into layers upon layers of electronic soundscapes, and continuously flicks between the two styles. The beat is pretty high-octane, and the repeated vocoded voice of ‘Everybody loved mashed potato’ (or is that ‘pashed motato’?) will get stuck in your head. Distorted vocal sampling is used to good effect in “Thank You”, which helps to create an unusual melody. This speeds up into a very lively, upbeat sounding track. A pounding breakdown part way through helps to add a sense of tranformation. Also, is it just me, or are there Metal Gear Solid sound effects used at the end of this one? “Rock N Roll Worm Rider” feels different to any other track on the record. It’s very rockabilly influenced, with low quality sampling to give it a classic feel. This is contrasted by electro sounds, which builds up into fast paced chaos. “Reluctant” is pretty much a cover/remix of Charbel Moreno’s “Live Again”. It pretty much samples a good portion of the track, but moulds it in such a way that it becomes a brand new beast. It has an interesting club-like electro twist to it, and at times is very hard-hitting. “Survival Of The Thickest” doesn’t hesitate to get started, kicking in with a harsh pounding beat, and aggressively distorted vocals. Space-like synthscapes help to add diversity to the track, ultimately building up to an intense pace. It almost sounds like a noise track by the end. “Put It Down” mixes in club aesthetics, blended with a catchy drum and bass hook, and some nice guitar work. Inevitably, this leads to a fantastic guitar solo, and a cavalcade of sounds to back it up. Orchestral style strings are thrown in for good measure, before unrelenting layers of electro burst in. “Hard Light Flow” is pretty uplifting, having a feel-good vibe to it. Even so, the bass does feel heavy at times, but the light melodies keep the uplifting mood going. “Destination” starts off feeling reflective in tone, but quickly switches to a bouncy, danceable track. It definitely ends the album on a high note.

The Dark Byte Rises is an infectiously fun album, and is extremely easy to get hooked on. The energy and lively nature of the music is just as prominent as it is with Bitman’s live shows, having a presence that is hard to ignore. If I’m honest, I found it difficult to review, as the tracks went through so many different evolutions, that it made it difficult to pin them to a specific genre or sound. That is in no way a bad thing, as the way genres have been melded here are to absolute professionalism, that brings them into their own. The whole album feels like a journey through a crazy, psychedelic videogame, and it’s glorious! On that note, I’m sure there’s plenty of old-school gaming references I missed whilst listening, and being a gamer, I should have probably picked up on them. But then, that just shows that the quality and production of the music is so high, that these could easily be missed. I guess that makes it enjoyable on many different levels! If there’s only one complaint I could make, it would be that certain sections could have perhaps been extended, as there were some excellent melodies and breakdowns that deserved more air time. Although that’s only a minor nitpick, and perhaps doesn’t match the chaotic style and pacing that Bitman goes for.

Final Verdict: An extremely fun and addictive album that is easy to get hooked on. Utilising the chip-tune style as the main basis, Bitman has mashed tons of genres together to create a glorious, unpredicatable monster that sounds like nothing else.

Tracklist:

  1. The Dark Byte Rises
  2. Happy Accident
  3. Two Thousand and Hateteen
  4. I Trapped My Balls In A C64
  5. Bucket of Fuck
  6. Last Fight
  7. Pashed Motato
  8. Thank You
  9. Rock N Roll Worm Rider
  10. Reluctant
  11. Survival Of The Thickest
  12. Put It Down
  13. Hard Light Flow
  14. Destination
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