In an ever-expanding world of creation, new releases are born into the world each day. As more music is produced, the task of keeping new musical releases fresh and interesting becomes more complicated and tiresome. The laborious task of avoiding overlap in structure, style, and sound is just as convoluted—if not more—than the nature of musical composition itself.
Dan Behrens, more commonly known under the guise of Danimal Cannon, isn’t necessarily breaking new grounds with his music, but is taking an opportunity to explore territories that few dare to tread. Having been part of the video game music scene for years, his involvement with this lauded, but often cloistered, sect of musicianship has added a certain set of skills to his personal arsenal that make him a force to be reckoned with.
With his most recent work, Lunaria, we have a record composed entirely on a Nintendo Game Boy. Yes, the very same Game Boy released in 1989. He discusses the composition process of the lead single, “Behemoth,” on Metal Injection in brief.
It’s just a Game Boy running LSDJ and a guitar in my hand. I’ll work out rhythms and chord progressions on my guitar and then translate them to an appropriate form on the Game Boy. Sometimes I’ll write without the guitar because it causes me to make different musical choices.
Through this process, Behrens fervently allows his musical chops to shine through, using rarely-traversed avenues of composition to provide us a clever buffet with Lunaria. Stylistic changes abound, ranging from dexterous progressive music, hard-hitting industrial beats, to the full-on embrasure of years upon years of game soundtracks, Lunaria has it all presented in an appealing and affordable package.
To say there’s a “bad” track on the album would be doing a great disservice to the whole. From beginning to end, Lunaria is a smorgasbord of captivating musical prowess and Behrens takes hold of us. From the get-go, “Axis'” beeps and boops coupled with its aggressive and tastefully-implemented guitar parts send you to another dimension of listening. This mid-paced track is an excellent example of what’s to come, setting a precedent for the artful riffings and pleasantly nostalgic noises that will fill your ears over the course of 11 tracks (simply discounting the piano version of “Axis” at the end of the album).
Immediately after, Behrens sends us for a loop, sending things in a different direction with the title track, “Lunaria.” Implementing vocals from the very talented Emily Yancey, her voice soars high above the thumping guitars and spacey chip track. The only argument that can be levied against this track and the later track Yancey appears on would be that her voice is perhaps too clean and feels incongruent with the very nature of the crunchy feeling that both the Game Boy and guitar provide. It’s a similar issue that I felt with some of Anneke van Giersbergen‘s work with Devin Townsend on Addicted in 2009. It creates a sort of inorganic—almost robotic—dissonance.
Ironically, the third track, “Long Live the New Fresh,” features the Miku Stomp pedal. Here, our leading lady Vocaloid sounds right at home in this electronic landscape, the guitar producing the carefully intonated voice of Japan’s main digital waifu, Hatsune Miku.
The interesting changes keep coming throughout Lunaria, however, as we continue on to tracks like “Collision Event,” “Behemoth,” “Red Planet,” and beyond. We’re even treated to Behrens’ best Trent Reznor impression on the Nine Inch Nails-inspired “Surveillance,” showing off yet another influence that makes Lunaria so dynamic and desirable.
This review might get a little long if we break it down track-by-track, but the long and short of it is that Danimal Cannon’s Lunaria is one of the most interesting albums to come around in a long time. It’s not quite rock music, it’s not quite chiptune, but it’s definitely both at the same time. It’s strange, it’s different, and, above all, it’s pretty damn good. You would be doing yourself a disservice in overlooking this record for any reason.